Celebrating 80 years of friendship

[The Deputy Mayor played the barrel organ] 

Eight decades of international friendship between the cities of Bath and Alkmaar in the Netherlands have been celebrated in the city’s Guildhall by members and supporters of the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association (BATA), and the Rotary Club of Bath.

The link with the Dutch City began in March 1945, after a Jewish man from Alkmaar, Eli Prins, escaped to Bath, and made many friends here, including Rotarians.  As soon as the War finished, a citywide Alkmaar Appeal swung into operation, raising money and collecting clothing and cooking items to help those most affected by the German occupation.

Chris Davies, Aletta Stevens, Simon Spalding and Deputy Mayor Kumar with the historic ‘Alkmaar Appeal’ barrel organ

The campaign was publicised with a small barrel organ, which was wheeled around Bath and neighbouring towns.

Over the last eight decades, thousands of residents from Alkmaar and Bath have visited each others’ cities, with many sports clubs, musical groups, schools, and other organisations taking advantage of a warm friendship first forged out of the tragedy of war.

After Deputy Mayor of Bath, Cllr Yukteshwar Kumar welcomed guests, and author Aletta Stevens read some moving passages from her book telling the full story of how the link came about, “The Remarkable Journey of Mr Prins”.  

Author Aletta Stevens chatted to guests at the reception

Rotary President Simon Spalding, speaking to guests, said: “The spirit of Rotary which moved members to launch the Alkmaar Appeal in 1945 is alive today: I am delighted to report the Club has recently collected and donated £10,000 to the Help Ukraine Appeal.”

BATA Chairman, Chris Davies, thanked all who were helping keep this special city link alive. “When we planned this event, we never imagined we would once again be seeing the horrors of war in Europe with heart-breaking scenes of mass evacuation.  It shows how important it is to keep building friendships between people, person-to-person, across borders.”