Caradoc Road, Aberystwyth: Dr Hermann Ethé Targeted By The Mob
A brilliant linguist, fluent in a variety of European and Eastern language, Dr Hermann Ethé was a far from typical resident of Aberystwyth. When he first arrived in the town in 1875 the college was only very small, and the populace far from cosmopolitan in outlook. To the pious, teetotal townspeople it could not be quite overlooked that this German enjoyed drinking beer, even on a Sunday, and especially enjoyed dancing.
Although widely respected amongst scholars and students, when war was declared Hermann Ethe, along with other Germans living and working in the town, inevitably fell under suspicion. After all, he had never ever applied for British Citizenship; worse, in August 1914 he was actually in Germany, enjoying his annual holiday.
By October of that year, with reports of atrocities in Belgium, anti-German sentiments were running high. On Wednesday 14th October, Dr Ethé and his English-born wife returned to the town with the consent of authorities, resulting in the college becomming slightly anxious. The principal of the college, together with the registrar, the librarian, and a student representative went down to the railway station to greet him, and to secure ‘safe passage’. A small crowd of protesters booed.
The next day, however, something far more sinister occurred. Type-written slips were passed from hand to hand reading: “As a protest against the return of Dr Ethé from Germany to teach in our Welsh national intistution we intend to form a procession of workmen and others at one o’clock near Shiloh Chapel”. By the appointed hour, a crowd of some 2,000 people had appeared at Shiloh, and were addressed by two respected town councillors: T.J. Samuel, a local solicitor who would go on to become mayor, and Dr T.D.Harries, a GP and former mayor. These gentlemen urged the mob to march on Dr Ethé’s house, and give him twenty-four hours’ notice to clear out, or else force him out.
Led by Enoch Davies, a commercial traveller, the crowd then marched up the hill towards Caradoc Road and forced open a window of Dr Ethe’s house, and – the professor being out of the house - harangued the professor’s wife. Despite her pleas that her husband had been granted a British Passport, and that she had a brother fighting the Germans, the crowd wasn’t satisfied. Dr and Mrs Ethé must get out, or they would tear down the house stone by stone.
Dr Ethé left that very night, never to return. After staying with his wife’s family in Reading the couple moved to Clifton, near Bristol. The College did all in their power to support Hermann Ethe, but they were powerless to resist vindictive calls to stop the lecturer’s pension (even one of his former students turned on him), and this respected scholar died in 1917, broken and in poverty.
Location: Caradoc Road, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2LB
Available since: Mon 4 Aug 2014
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WW1 at Home: a growing collection of stories about life on the WW1 Home Front