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Darwen's Link to Anne Frank

It started with a book  I was reading. In it was a photograph of an elderly man playing the piano and the caption said, "Grandfather Rudolf at the piano in a pub in Darwin (sic), Lancashire 1943".

The book was, 'The Promise' by Eva Schloss and Barbara Powers. The book tells Eva's story and how she survived Auschwitz. Along with another book, Eva's Story by Eva Schloss and Evelyn Kent I have been able to piece 

Rudolf's story together and along the way discovered a link to Anne Frank.

Rudolf and Helene Markovits lived a comfortable life in Vienna, Austria with their two daughters, Elfriede (known as Fritzi) and Sylvi. They were an ordinary Jewish family who eventually had to leave Austria when life became too difficult and harsh for Jews. Fritzi and her husband, Erich, moved to Holland with their children Heinz and Eva (of Eva's Story). In 1938 Sylvi and her husband Otto Grunwald moved to Darwen, Lancashire. Otto was an expert in a new process called Bakelite and persuaded the Government he could be of some use in the development of a new product called Perspex. Consequently he settled in Darwen and subsequently changed the family name to Greenwood.

In 1939 Otto and Sylvi were able to send for Rudolf and Helene. The whole family settled in Earnsdale Avenue. I believe that Helene was a dressmaker, Sylvi possibly ran a snack bar, Rudolf played the piano and Otto continued his work in plastics.

Meanwhile in Holland Eva's family didn't fare as well. The family lived in Amsterdam and were contempories of Anne Frank and her family. Like the Frank family, Eva also had to go into hiding to escape Nazi arrest. Also like the Franks, they were discovered and in May 1944 ended up in Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. In her book Eva tells of the horrors she and her mother suffered. But they did survive and made their way back to Amsterdam to await news of Erich and Heinz. Otto Frank did the same and small groups of Jewish survivors waited together for news. As we know, Otto was the only survivor of his family. Eva's father and brother failed to survive.

In Eva's book she talks of visiting Rudolf and Helene in England. A friend of mine who lived opposite the Greenwoods in Earnsdale Avenue remembers the day they moved in and also remembers Fritzi's visit.

Back in Amsterdam Otto Frank and Fritzi, Eva's mother, become close and in 1953 they married. They spent the rest of their lives telling the world the story of Anne Frank and her diary.

Eva married and settled in North London, but didn't tell her family her story until 1986.

So there we have it - Rudolf and Helene Markovits' son-in-law was Otto Frank and so they were, posthumously, step-Grandparents to Anne Frank.

Rudolf and Helen are buried in the Eastern Cemetry in Darwen. I have been informed that the family possibly left Darwen after Helene's death in 1963, but I don't know much more. Otto and Sylvi's sons, Tom and Jimmy have both died but Tom did have children, Caroline and Johnny.

I have located Rudolf's and Helene's grave and paid my respects to them.

What started with a photo ended up being a fascinating story and a snapshot of bygone times.

                                              Helen Thomas April 2012


Pte Alex Done: The first soldier

buried in Darwen Cemetery

THERE are almost a hundred war graves in the two
Darwen cemeteries, most of them marking the last resting place of members of the armed forces who died during or soon after the Great War.

Of course, hundreds of Darwen soldiers, sailors and airmen died in that conflict, the first in which combatants were killed on an industrial scale. 
Most are buried where they fell, in corners of foreign fields. Nearly all the ones interred at Darwen died back home from their wounds, disease or sickness.

The first burial here took place just four months after Britain mobilised on August 4, 1914. Private Alexander Done, who lived in Lord Street and who had married Sarah Turner that June in Railway Road Methodist Church, was a reservist and joined his regiment, the Loyal North Lancashires, at Preston the morning following mobilisation.
For the Full Story click on this link
Click on the below link to see the Plan of Private Alex Done in Section 2
Plan of A Done Grave Section 2

Harold Heys: October 2011.
A longer feature on Alex Done, written by Harold, is in the November issue of Lancashire Magazine.

A true champion of Darwen

Unveiling: Sunday, October 9 at 2pm

Darwen emerged slowly from a scattering of smallholdings and farms to became a village and then a thriving town. A lot of good men - and women - gave their time and their money over the years towards keeping it firmly on the map as an industrious and thriving community.

One man more than most - Eccles Shorrock, who built the magnificent India Mill and its world-famous chimney.

Shorrock, who live for most of his life at Low Hill, Bury Fold, was a great benefactor to the town. He was to the fore when Darwen was crippled by the cotton famine 150 years ago, but his efforts eventually led to bankruptcy and a breakdown and he spent his last few years in an asylum in Edinburgh. He died in 1889 and his loss was described in the "Darwen News" as "a merciful release."

Eccles Shorrock was buried in the family vault in Darwen's old cemetery, close to the mound on which the Non-conformist chapel once stood. But such was the stigma that mental illness once had the grave of one of the great Darweners was not marked with even a modest headstone.

Thankfully, these days that stigma is being swept away and caring communities and families and the NHS do their best to help people with mental problems.

Monday, October 10 marks World Mental Health Day and on the previous afternoon the Friends of Darwen Cemetery will unveil a headstone to mark the contribution that Eccles Shorrock made to the town and especially his legacy of India Mill whose elegant chimney can be seen through the cemetery trees away to the north.

India_Mill_smoke_LBIndia Mill have made a donation to the headstone and Blackburn with Darwen Council's mental health department have made a similar donation from the 

funds they have set aside for World Mental Health Day.

It was at noon on a cold and windswept Tuesday in early October 1889 that Eccles Shorrock was laid to rest. The funeral was strictly private but hundreds of local folk lined the route to Darwen Cemetery from Low Hill and thronged the cemetery entrance.

There was a hearse, two carriages with his widow and eight children, and two private carriages of their friends the Huntingtons. Four of the Shorrock servants acted as bearers and the interment followed a short service in the nearby Nonconformist Chapel.

On Sunday, October 9 at 2pm the chairman of the Friends, Coun. John East, will introduce proceedings and Tony Foster and I will talk briefly about the life and death of Eccles Shorrock and the history of the family vault. The Rev Geoff Tolley will dedicate the headstone and the Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen. Coun Karimeh Foster will unveil it.

HAROLD HEYS September 2011

Mr Joseph Turner

Joseph Turner was born in Manchester on 15.5.1855. 

His obituary in the Goole Times states that he came from a family whose members had been involved in paper-making for many generations, and indeed, the 1841 lists his grandfather, also Joseph, working as a paper-maker at Stretford, as is his father John on the 1851 census.

For the full story click on this link
                                                                         Tony Foster  April 2011

Greater Love Hath No Man ...

It was just a few days before Christmas, 1917, when three local lads decided on an afternoon walk on to the moors to the south -west of Darwen after Sunday School at St Barnabas'. 

It was both adventurous and dangerous for they set off in the face of the first flurries and swirls of the most severe blizzard the town had seen for years.

All three were found dead in the snow drifts during the next few days of frantic searching by police and volunteers.

It was a tragic story made even more poignant by the revelation of a selfless act of courage by 16 year-old Ralph Bolton...

For the full story click on this link

                                                               Harold Heys 
                                                                April 2011

The Place Family

The first section to be worked on by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery in their first year (2010) was Section C. One of the graves in Section C is that of Edith Bury (nee Place), her husband Edward Bury and one of their daughters Sarah Elizabeth. 

Edith was the Great Grandmother of one of our members Ann Stokes and Edith
died on the 16th May 1907.

For the full story click on this link

                                                                  © Ann Stokes

                                                                   March 2011

A man who devoted his life

to God and his parish

If you didn't know, you would never guess at the humble beginnings of the
Catholic Church in Darwen. It was long before the building of St Joseph's and
St Edward's. It was on the steep hill at Red Earth in a building which is now ...the Black Horse pub.


For the full story click on this link


 Fr Desiderius Vandenweghe Grave

                                                  Harold Hayes
March 2011

The lady vanishes


Do you believe in ghosts or in the supernatural? It's not a question I like to ask of anyone; I like to steer well away from the topic. But as I was talking to cemetery supervisor Billy Briggs the other morning about clearing some paths.

For the full story click on this image        


Billy Briggs
                                                               Harold Heys March, 2011

Unveiling of the Great War Cross

NEXT time you walk or drive into the cemetery, have a closer look at the Cross
of Sacrifice which is just inside the grounds behind the north lodge and close
to the short stone wall that marks the first boundary of the cemetery.
It's very impressive.

For the full story click on this link

                                                  HAROLD HEYS
 March 2011

The Rev. Philip Graham 

BEFORE Darwen Cemetery opened in 1861 it was usual for parishioners to be buried in church grounds. But after that date the municipal cemetery became the last resting place of choice for just about everyone.
Churchyards throughout the country were getting full up and the health hazards from many of the old graveyards were becoming a problem. New town cemeteries were badly needed and they were being opened throughout the country in the mid 1800s.                     

In  Darwen there was, however, one notable exception to the new standard. When the Rev. Philip Graham died in the spring of 1887 he was buried not in the municipal cemetery but in his own churchyard. And there he lay for nearly 80 years.

For the full story click on this link

February 2011


William Dewhurst
More than 1,000 people died when the German submarine U-20 torpedoed the Lusitania off the south coast of Ireland on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. Close on 200 of them were American citizens and this was one of the reasons why the USA came into the war the following year.
One of those who died was a young Darwen lad, 21-year-old William Dewhurst who had spent the previous two years with relatives in Fall River, Massachusetts, a major cotton manufacturing centre which had attracted a lot of textile workers from East Lancashire. Before then he had been a weaver at Bowling Green Mill.
           For the full story click on this link
                                                                  By Harold Heys
                                                                   February 2011

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