Only For Three Months (Solo Por Tres Meses)

Music: J. Tejedor / Words: P. McNamara

This is a song inspired by the story of Rob's father, Fausto, who was evacuated as a child from Bilbao in 1937 when the city was surrounded and blockaded by Franco's fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Fausto was 9 years old at the time and travelled with his older brother Teo, aged 11. They were amongst 4,000 children brought to the UK to escape the bombs and the fighting. After much shameful prevarication by a British Government keen to appease the burgeoning fascist powers in Europe, an evacuation of children was eventually undertaken following increased pressure from British socialists and others after the criminal carpet bombing of Guernica by the German Condor Legion. Parents were not allowed to travel with their children and the parting must have been unbearable. In order to console their children, mothers told them it was "only for three months" - "solo por tres meses".

After Bilbao fell to Franco, most of the children were repatriated. However, around 400 remained in the UK, largely because the authorities could find no trace of any living relatives. This was because they were no longer alive, had escaped to other parts of Republican Spain or were refugees in France. Fausto was among the group that remained in the UK. He didn't see his own parents until the end of the Second World War - nearly 10 years after he had left Bilbao. Fausto’s parents had suffered many trials and tribulations in Spain and North Africa before finally arriving in the UK in 1946. His mother hardly recognised him and, indeed, some of the other children who were re-united with their parents had even forgotten their mother tongue and could no longer communicate with their parents in Spanish. Those that remained in the UK over this time did, in the words of the song, "make their way".

This song is dedicated to the memory of Rob's father, Fausto García. Paul wrote the words using information supplied by Rob, and from Adrian Bell’s book “Only for Three Months”. The music is taken from the tune 'Cimiano' written by Javier Tejedor from the Tejedor album 'Musica na Maleta'. Javier has very kindly given us permission to use the tune here. We hope the song goes some small way to recording what must have been a truly heartbreaking parting.

It was nineteen thirty seven, upon the twenty first of May
That we boarded the Habana, and from home we sailed away,
Solo por tres meses, we heard our mothers say
And to England we were taken
And it’s there, for many years we were destined to stay

How well do I remember, those childhood days before the war
They were filled with peaceful pleasures, we thought they’d last forever more
But Mola’s troops pressed harder, and loud the guns did roar
And in silence we retreated
Into the city, where we crowded on every floor

Proud Bilbao was surrounded, blockaded from the sea
And with air raid sirens howling, to the refuge we would flee
As desperation mounted, rumours came to be
That a ship would sail for England
And through the night, our mothers queued to set us free

At the station we assembled, and with tears said our goodbyes
(And) the rain it was our comfort for the bombers they could not fly
And Franco’s ships stayed silent, when Fearless they did espy
And to the stormy Bay of Biscay
Basque children, in their thousands sailed by

When we landed at Southampton, the Sally Army band did play
Our ‘exilio Ingles’, it began that very day
But when we heard that Bilbao had fallen, tears we could not stay
Forlorn and broken hearted,
It was clear, that in England we’d make our way.

It was nineteen thirty seven, upon the twenty first of May
That we boarded the Habana, and from home we sailed away,
Solo por tres meses, we heard our mothers say
And to England we were taken
And it’s there, for many years we were destined to stay

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