A VE Day meeting

St Luke's is a multi-cultural parish. In 2007 when we held our International mass and multi-cultural day in June 2007 http://stlukesalford.org.uk/index.asp?t=history&u=E7EBEDF5-B526-479E-A209-EAE9FF753393 there were 21 nationalities represented.

We would like to hear the stories of how your family came to join us at St Luke's. We can help write the story. Email history@stlukesalford.org.uk


(By Paul Ashton)

Not all the family stories of St Luke's start in the Catholic church. This is how WWII created a new Catholic family which ultimately became part of St Luke's. John "Basil" Ashton was brought up in the Church of England and attended St Peter's Swinton. He was in the Boys Brigade and there started his interest in playing the drums On leaving school, he joined the railways as a signalman like his father before him. When war broke out, he enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers and later was transferred to the Royal Marines where his railway experience would become useful. After landing on the beaches in France following D Day (10 miles seperating them from their equipment and supplies that landed further down the beach) his unit moved up to Belgium and at some point he was again operating a signal box but now in a goods sidings in Antwerp, Belgium.

8th May 1945, VE Day, Basil found himself in Eindhoven, in fact slightly north in the village of Tongelre. Piet Bakerman owned a farm there and (at that time) had four daughters. The village had until a short time before been under the occupation of the Germans. To cut a long story short, this is how my father met my mother, Wilhelmina Bakermans and after a few years of letter writing and visits to the Netherlands, they planned to get married. Before the wedding my father had to convert to Catholicism and was instructed by Fr. Power ar St Mark's. He had already had an involvement with the church in the Netherlands. The Catholic church in the south of the Netherlands has a tradition of "Guilds" going back centuries. Its official ceremonies involve parades, ceremonial flags with spectacular flag twirling spectacles and drums. After the war, they were short of drummers and my father was enlisted to join the ranks as a drummer. The unofficial activities involved constant beer, cognac and fat cigars that would fill the room with blue smoke that rose to the ceiling and then hung down in a cloud over the entire proceedings. Another activity involved swapping the ceremonial guns and muskets for rifles and whoever was the winner of the shooting competition was "Koning", King of the Guild. More often than not, this was my grandfather, "Opa".

(The St Martinuskerk in Tongelre. The parish has existed since the 1400's. The old church was sketched by an artist living near by - Vincent Van Gogh)

The wedding was at Sint-Martinuskerk in Tolgelre and after that they settled in England, in fact initiially living with the in-laws in Swinton. When my sister, Yvonne, was born, they were still new to Swinton and knew nobody that could be godparents. Godparents from the relatives were selected but they could not travel to the Christening. Fr. Power suggested a family with four young adult children, three of whom were teachers. This was the Rabbitt family. Moira and John were asked to be proxy godparents. This was the start of a lifelong friendship and Moira and John again stood proxy as godparents when I was Christened 6 years later. By this time they had moved to their own house in Deans Rd and so now lived in the parish of St Charle's. She was a foreigner in a new country with a Dutch accent that some people thought was German and sadly there were people sometimes who were insulting and telling her to "go home". Having some new friends from the church certainly helped as well as meeting other European familes from Belgium and Poland 

Life and culture in England was very different to her previous life on the farm in the Netherlands. My mother was a very determined woman and was not content to be a housewife at home. She took two part time jobs, took driving lessons and passed her driviing test, all without my father knowing until she had succeeded. Then her part time jobs paid for us to go to Monton House school - and then later for me to go De La Salle Prep. By now she was working full time through an "employment bureau" as agencies were called at the time.

All the Catholic boxes were now being ticked. My sister went to Adelphi House and I went to De La Salle College. My father was active in the Adelphi House PTA and this is where they met more friends, some of whom were to remain friends throughout their lives.

From the mid 1970's they switched to St Luke's and so this became our family parish too.

Your family story

St Luke has an International Congregation with more than 35 nationalities. We want to hear the story of how your family came to St Lukes. 


Parish History Group

If you would like to help research the history of the Parish or have any stories or photos then please get in touch. history@ourladyofhope.org.uk or speak to Paul Ashton, Stephanie McDonough or Pat Murray

We have some specific requests for information

  • Photos of our Assistant Priests/Curates
  • Photos and stories of the Charter Players
  • Photo of James O'Garr  (1891-1979)
  • Servicemen of WWII (your parents/grandparents/great-grandparents ?)
  • Early photos of Ss Peter and Paul