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4 French Refugees who stayed in Rishton during the War.

The clerk of the council reported on the progress of the evacuation scheme at an extraordinary meeting held on the 3rd September 1939. There were 482 unaccompanied school children and 390 other persons were billeted in the district. A total of over 800 bodies before the War had even got going! The Sanitary inspector was made supervisor for the premises where evacuees were being received. He was to visit and inspect all the premises were the evacuees were received, and if necessary he should enlist the help of the Manchester School Teachers in the work.

Harper Mount School

One of these evacuees was Vernon Root, an 11 year old from Alfred Street School, now known as Harpur Mount Primary School.

11 Year old Vernon Root

Although a couple of days late arriving to Rishton after the rest of his school had arrived, Vernons father brought him to Rishton via train, and duly asked for directions to the Council Offices, which were being used as the official location for all the evacuees to be allocated their accommodation.

Vernon arrived with just a clean shirt and his gas mask. Mr. Roebuck, who was the station master at this time, is listed in the 1935 Barrett's directory, available on this site, had been promised a refugee, but had not received one, told Vernon's father to tell the council this, and to bring the boy back to stay with his family.

Paul Wilkinson and Vernon Root

This duly happened, and such is the influence of Rishton, Vernon was taught by Mr Roebucks 17 year old son how to part his hair for the first time, using soap for gel, something he remembers for the rest of his life. Cyril was also responsible for teaching Vernon chess, and weaned him comics such as Adventure, Wizard, Rover, and Hotspur, all popular comics at the outbreak of the war, and showed him Magnet featuring Greyfriars school with Billy Bunter etc.

The young man attended Saint Peter and Saint Pauls Junior School on Harwood Road, now demolished, and one wonders if Mr Roebuck was a seafaring man, as young Vernon wasn't allowed to pass the front of the Rishton Arms, so it was Port out, Starboard home, while walking to school. The public house was deemed to too low a class for young men to pass by the front door.

Same as most schools around this era, One entrance to the school was for girls, and the opposite end for boys, so it was nothing new when Vernon attended Harwood Road junior school till 1944. The school was still a divided school during the war, not ending for many years later.

Vernon stayed at the station for a while before moving to a second home on Cliffe street.

31 and 33 Cliffe Street in September 2009

Here he stayed with Mr and Mrs Fish at number 31 or 33 (1935 Barretts lists Mr Fish at number 33, while 1947s directory shows them at 31) . Mr George Fish was a retired goods yard foreman, who was re-engaged at the outbreak of the war. Vernon clearly remembers the tippler toilet at the end of the yard, with what he remembers being a 50 foot drop it! After this, another home wasn't right and Vernon arrived back in Manchester just in time for the Manchester Blitz.

Cyril Hinde also arrived in Rishton around this time from the same school.

Cyril stayed with Joseph Mercer at number 5 Clifton Street. (1947 Barretts Directory) He was the Blackburn Area Miners President at this time, and a very young Cyril was taken to the mine to have lunch with the miners!

Note: In 1935 Joseph Mercer was listed as a collier at 53 Talbot Street, but unconfirmed if this is the same one.

Cyril attended the 100th Anniversary of Harpur Mount school in 2005.

Of his time at Harpur Mount he recalls:

"It was by all accounts a very strict teaching regime with the strap & cane used regularly. Apparently there was one boy a favourite of the teacher who was always sent to get the punishment strap or cane and apparently he was always despised by the rest of the class.

One of the retired teachers, who was one of the strictest, from Alfred Street, who lived in Alkrington used to come round regularly for a whisky & coffee on a Sunday Afternoon. I forget his name now myself - something like Wilkinson I think. He died about 15 years ago (1994)."

A Young Cyril Hynde

Frank MacFarlane is yet another evacuee from the same school to Rishton. Aged just 8 when arriving in 1939, Frank first stayed in Rishton before travelling to Blackpool, returning to Manchester in 1942 when the Manchester bombings were perceived to have finished!!!

Frank, his brother, and sister all returned to pass exams, Frank leaving Harper Street school at the age of 14, like all boys did then, to work. For years after, every time he passed his headmistresses house, he would always refer to her as Miss Wykes, always maintaining the respect between pupil and teacher.

Gordon Leek was another evacuee to Rishton. Gordon was in the town from 1940 to 1944, and attended Saint Peter and Pauls Junior School on Harwood Road. There, his headmaster was Mr. Knowlson. Mr. Knowlson not only held class with Gordon's class, but also the top class of the school.

There is a national website available for refugees from the 2nd World War is available at


Gordon Leek (via email)

Vernon Root

Cyril Hinde (via email)

Frank MacFarlane (via email and phone)