Bobbie's Story

Bobbie Hackworth was born in 1928 in Millisle, Co Down. Having spent a few years in Donaghadee, his family moved back to Millisle and Bobbie moved to continue his education in Millisle Primary School. See Gallery for a photo of Bobbie and Ronnie Brown.

His life would probably have been like any other wartime child, if it had not been for the arrival of some Jewish refugee children to a special farm, close to Millisle. These children had come to Northern Ireland as part of the Kindertransport, the informal name for a scheme to help Jewish children to safety from the Nazi regime in Europe.

Bobbie was in Mr Palmer’s senior class when these children arrived. Mr Palmer placed a Jewish child to sit beside a pupil from Millisle. The local children were encouraged to teach the Jewish children English and to help them settle in to life in wartime Northern Ireland. A boy called Gert Jacobowitz sat beside Bobbie and they became lifelong friends. Bobbie recalls pointing to classroom objects like a book or a pencil and teaching Gert how to say English words. He described how Gert was “mad” to learn and how the refugees picked up the language surprisingly quickly. Language classes were also organised by the local minister, Rev Kilpatrick and by a Mrs Leech, showing again how the local community were keen to help.

  • Have you visited a country where you did not speak the language?
  • Discuss the difficulties of not being able to communicate with others.
  • What can you do to help newcomers adjust to a new place?

Bobbie like many boys was keen on football. Informal matches were arranged between the local children and those who lived on the farm. Bobbie was a keen goalkeeper in many of these matches. Social outings to the local cinema were also organised, as the children became part of the local community. Despite, Bobbie remembering the children being upset at times, they settled in and the Farm became their home for the war years.

Imagine you are Bobbie Hackworth, as a boy.

  • Act out a conversation with your family where you tell them about the arrival of Gert, the Jewish refugee to your school class.

After the war, they moved away to many different parts of the world. Bobbie Hackworth kept in touch with many of these new friends. Henry Hirsch, Robert Sugar and especially, Gert Jacobowitz wrote to Bobbie for many years. He also kept in touch with Edith Kohner and her family. They were the Administrators of the Farm and they settled in Northern Ireland after the War.

See Gallery  for a photo showing Bobbie with Walter Hirsch, Edith Kohner and Edith Jacobowitz at the Millisle farm, 50 years after they had lived there as refugees. Bobbie was always keen to remember the welcome that had been given to these refugees. See the Gallery for  a photo of Bobbie at the farm gate.

Bobbie’s keen interest in history led him to be involved in telling his story to the children of Millisle Primary School and to helping Marilyn Taylor with her research for the fictional account based on the Millisle Farm. He was also involved with the Holocaust Memorial Garden project by Millisle Primary School. Sadly he died several months after the opening of the garden.

  • Watch the DVD made by Primary 5 pupils in Millisle Primary School: A Kinder Place, A Different World.

Bobbie Hackworth helped in the film.

  • How do you think the Jewish refugees affected Bobbie’s life?

Bobbie’s memories and his work in sharing them have been an important part of ensuring that the contribution made by the local community of Northern Ireland in providing a refuge for Jewish children like these, has not been forgotten. Bobbie also features in the novel Faraway Home by Marilyn Taylor, as the character of Bobbie Hackett is based on him.

  • Read Faraway Home : Marilyn Taylor Page 1301-131
  • What unusual thing do you learn about Bobbie Hackworth/ Hackett?
  • Read Page 158
  • How is Bobbie described here?
  • Which is your favourite part of the novel? Give a reason for your answer.

This is an extract from the Statement of Commitment which was drawn up by the Holocaust Memorial Day organisation. It is read at annual Holocaust Commemoration events and the children of Millisle Primary School are often asked to participate in these events.

“We value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil.” Statement of Commitment

Although he was not directly involved in rescuing victims or in risking his life, Bobbie Hackworth and others like him, played a part in helping these children with his friendship .He too shows the capacity for good in people.

Click below for Pupil activities on Faraway Home , a novel by Marilyn Taylor

GuideFarawayHome_(3).pdf

  • 50 year reunion at the farm
  • Bobbie at the farm in 1995
  • Roll book Millisle Primary school 1939
  • Ronnie Brown and Bobbie in the 1940s