40years ago: Vietnamese Refugees in Hothfield

Photo:Vietnamese at Hothfield school November 1979

Vietnamese at Hothfield school November 1979

thanks to KM Group newspapers

Photo:Letter to Parochial Church Council members

Letter to Parochial Church Council members

thanks to Jane Oliver (this letter sent to Mrs Coles)

Can you remember them? Were you one of the refugees?

By Sid Doyle

    It was 1977 and we were on the Stanhope Housing Estate in Ashford when we first began to hear about the Boat People coming. 

    We also saw articles, probably in the Kentish Express and other local Press. 

    We went along there as a mixture of age groups of those who were likeminded and interested in helping.  Conversational English and befriending them was something we did on Sundays and then we started to invite and take them to our homes. 

    I remember one was quite fluent in English as he had been a broadcaster on BBC Radio in Hanoi I believe.  Another friend who spoke a little English was Lu Trong Duc but I think we heard he had passed away some time later. 

    When Christmas came it presented some of us the opportunity to open our homes and bring them into our own families. We just did not want them with there children have to miss out on Christmas Day!

     I am asking around to see if we have any pictures in the families, after so many years, will wait and see!

    Early in the New Year we were at some point surprised to have a formal invitation to come to Hothfield, to join in with their Chinese New Year and that was very special and emotional for many, because it must have been their first New Year away from Vietnam. 

    Both the ethnic Vietnamese and the Chinese seemed to celebrate that together - any excuse for something happy after what they had been through is fair enough so we thought. 

    Yes, we made friendships and kept in touch with some who had gone to Medway towns and further north but not sure if any are still in touch anywhere. 

    We still meet and talk to Vietnamese on our travels and not long ago in Michigan USA, we met the grandchildren of some original refugees, shared our stories of England and heard what they knew of their grandparents journeys of escape. They of course thanked us immensely for what we were able to do in a small way at Hothfield!

    Chris, this is very special what you are doing as part of the Hothfield Historical Society and we hope that we can keep in touch.

 With every good wish to you and the work there!  Syd Doyle

....................

In November 1979 a number of refugees arrived in the area from Vietnam.  These were nick-named ‘boat people’ at the time.  It seems that they were housed temporarily in the hospital (part of which is now the Lakeside retirement complex).  A letter (sadly undated) was sent by the Ashford Council for Social Responsibility to the members of the Parochial Church Council and the local vicars asking if they could spend a little time talking to the refugees to help to settle them.  The letter said that the refugees were “adequately catered for with warm clothing and furniture; their main requirement is to be befriended by local families – at first to visit them at Hothfield and gradually build up a relationship by inviting them to [your] homes or to take them on visits to places of interest in the locality, to local shops and perhaps to the market”.

The KM newspaper of November 1979 showed a picture of some Vietnamese children mixing with the usual pupils at the Hothfield school.

Does anyone have information on what happened to the refugees after their brief stay at Hothfield?  It would be great to hear from any of the Vietnamese who were here, or any stories from other residents who helped them.  Please contact:  hothfieldmemories@hotmail.com if you have your own story to share.  Many thanks, Chris Rogers, Hothfield History Society

This page was added by Chris Rogers on 28/10/2019.

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