Solo Por Tres Meses (Only For Three Months)

Music: J. Tejedor, Arr: na-mara, Lyrics: 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 bombarded, attacked by land and blockaded from the sea by Franco’s fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. After much shameful prevarication by a British Government intent on appeasing the burgeoning Nazi and fascist powers in Europe, Fausto, aged 9, and his older brother Theo, aged 12, were amongst 4,000 children brought to the UK to escape hunger, bombing and intense fighting.

The criminal carpet bombing of Guernica by the German Condor Legion caused such outrage and concern in Britain that, following increased pressure from British socialists and others, the British government was forced to act and, at least, accept child refugees. The proviso was that no official funding would be provided; all help would have to be provided by the British public. Through their solidarity and effort, this was duly forthcoming.

This arrangement meant that parents were not allowed to travel with their children. The parting on the dockside in Bilbao on a rainy 21st May must have been unbearable and, in order to console their children, mothers understandably told them it was “solo por tres meses” – “only for three months”.

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 - either because they were no longer alive, had escaped to other parts of Republican Spain or were refugees in France. Fausto was amongst 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. His own 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 forgotten their mother tongue and could not communicate with their parents in Spanish. Those that remained did, in the words of the song, “make their way”.

This song is dedicated to the memory of Rob’s father, Fausto Garcìa. 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, on the twenty first of May
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 its there
For many years we were destined to stay

Oh it’s well do I remember, childhood days before the war
They were filled with peaceful pleasures, we thought they’d last forever more
But Mola’s troops pressed harder, loud the guns did roar
And in silence we retreated
Into the city
And 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
A ship would sail for England
And through the night
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 could not fly
And Franco’s ships stayed silent, when Fearless they did spy
And through the 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 Bilbao had fallen, our tears we could not stay
Forlorn and broken hearted,
It was sure
That in England we’d make our way.

It was nineteen thirty seven, on the twenty first of May
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 its there
For many years we were destined to stay

(Words/lyrics: © Copyright Paul McNamara, 2007. Reproduction prohibited without prior consent of the Author. Music: © Copyright Javier Tejedor ‘Marcha Nupcial’ from ‘Cimiano’ arranged by Rob Garcia, used with kind permission, 2008.)
track number: 
2