PEOPLE – BELL, Gertrude



“Gertrude Lowthian Bell at one time lived in this house. Scholar, traveller, administrator and peace maker. “A friend of the Arabs.”

A memorial plaque erected on the outer walls of Red Barns, where Miss Bell lived for so many year, and bearing this inscription, was unveiled last Saturday by her brother, Colonel Sir Maurice Bell, of Mount Grace Priory.
In spite of the wild and blustery weather a good number of people were present at the ceremony, which was presided over by the Mayor of Redcar (Councilor Wm. Morris). The tablet was erected as the town’s official tribute.

   Introducing Sir Maurice Bell to perform the unveiling ceremony, the Mayor remarked that not many words were required from him, as Sir Maurice was not a stranger to Redcar. “It must be a great pleasure for him,” added councilor Morris, “to come back’ to his old home to perform the ceremony which he is going to do this afternoon.
The Mayor made no reference to the circumstances of the occasion, but called upon Councillor Mrs. I Lonsdale, chairman of the General Purposes and Parliamentary Committee, to ask Sir Maurice to unveil the plaque.
“I am very pleased to be here,” said Mrs. Lonsdale, “not only as a public administrator but as a woman whose privilege it is to pay tribute to another woman who was on of the finest ambassadors Britain has ever sent abroad with a most difficult task of unraveling the mind of the Orient.”
Kipling had said that “East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet,” but Gerude Bell solved that problem.


   “When you find a woman traveling across the desert alone surrounded by Bedouin Arabs who not only respected but admired and loved her,” continued Mrs. Lonsdale, “There is much to be said for her. It is for this that we in Redcar are proud to proclaim that she lived amongst us, and therefore proud to be able to place this tribute which will be here for all time, that this outstanding woman lived for so many years in a place which is so dear to our hearts.
“For we know from her published letters that the place where she spent her happy girlhood was often in her thoughts, and that memories of Red Barnes and Redcar cheered her in her self-appointed exile.
“I do not forget.” she added “our association with her father, Sir Hugh, “who was a tower of strength to the country, and to-day we have the privilege of welcoming the most noble son of an esteemed father who has fully achieved all the traditions of his family. I have now grate pleasure in asking Sir Maurice to unveil th tablet to the memory of his most illustrious sister,e
Sir Maurice Bell said that he was pleased to visit the house in which he was born, in fact where all the family were born with the exception of Gertrude who came to Redcar when she was about one year old, and for 35 or 36 years Redcar was her home. He wished to express on behalf of his family and himself their appreciation in the commemoration of her memory.
“Gertrude was a very many-sided person,” he said. “She had the gift of languages, and not only the gift of languages but of words, She had very many interest.She cared for all people and all things.”
Miss Bell really began her Eastern travels, continued Sir Maurice, when she went to stay with her uncle in the East, where she learned Persian, Arabic, the desert, and archaeology. She returned, “When her country needed her, to give her knowledge of Arabic and language to the country.”
She still had work to do in Baghdad. On her last occasion in England she spoke to Sir Maurice about going back. The doctor had said there was danger in it, and her constitution was undermined through her long period in the East.
Sir Maurice told her that life was like land its only value was what the owner put into it. If she felt she ought to return he most certainly agreed with her going.
” I have never regretted what I said, much as I miss her,” added Sir Maurice. “I am perfectly certain that had she known the end she would not have acted differently.
“She liked the Arabs; she loved the country. If there was one feeling stronger than others it was that love of open country.”
Turning, Sir Maurice drew back the deep red curtain which covered the tablet, and in doing so gave Redcar a permanent memorial to one of her most distinguished townswomen.
Proposing a vote of thanks to Sir Maurice Bell, the Rev. H. D. Littler, headmaster of Coatham School, remarked that the occasion, not to say the atmosphere, was not one that called for formality. In Sir Maurice’s mind there must have risen many thought of days gone by, as he stood outside his old home and hers to unveil the tablet.
It was a happy thought that the Redcar Corporation should place the tablet on the spot. Corporations got plenty of brickbats especially in the North where people were handier with brickbats than bouquets, but only had they honoured Miss Gertrude Bell, but they had honoured themselves.
“I had not myself the privilege of her acquaintance,” continued Mr. Littler, “But my brother saw her in Mesopotamia.” The young officers revered her for her energy, perseverance, and efficiency.
Another name coupled with hers, that of Colonel Lawrence, with whom Mr. Littler was an undergraduate in the same college. They had two things in common – they were both poets, idealists or, if they preferred dreamers. The dreamers and idealist got far more done in this practical world that the so-called practical man.
“The time will come,” he added “when, as Hawarden is the residence of Gladstone, Redcar will be best known as the residence of Gertrude Bell.”
She had received that remembrance that grew not old, and all memories over the whole earth were the sepulcher and memorial of famous men and women. Not only were their names commemorated on memorials, but they had also built imperishable.


dean April 3, 2010 People & Characters