Brittany in exile

Yann Fouéré travels through France undercover and cut off from his family.(For further details on this period, read Catrin Hughes interview with Yann Fouéré in the Y.Fouéré Archives section)

The Basque government in exile ensures that his wife receives the modest salary he was paid as secretary of the “Ligue des Amis Basques”. He contemplates going to the Basque country but is advised against it. He obtains false papers and a new identity. He waits until he receives a telegram of the safe birth of his third child, Erwan, before he leaves the country for refuge in Wales.

In Wales, Yann Fouéré, now officially known as Dr.Moger, begins a new life with the generous support of contacts from the Celtic Congress and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist Movement. They form a Welsh Breton Committee to help Breton refugees and compile a monthly press bulletin, the Breton National News Service. In September 1946, with the help of the committee,Yann Fouéré succeeds in obtaining a teaching post as French assistant at the University of Swansea. He is eventually able to renew contact with Brittany and with some of his companions who are still in Paris. Little by little they join him in Wales or pass through it en route to Ireland. He facilitates their transition to exile with the help of several Welsh families.

Members of these same Welsh families are amongst the Welsh personalities who form a delegation to visit Brittany between the 21st April and 1st May 1947 at the invitation of the French embassy in London in order to “dispel the misunderstandings in Welsh public opinion regarding the situation in Brittany”.The delegation’s report states, “It is difficult not to conclude that the simple fact of having any Breton activity of whatsoever nature had been, for the French government, a sufficient motive for persecution.”

sc00062d31.jpg 1947 Wernellyn, Wales: Yann Fouéré with the Evans family. Rhiannon is second from the left at the back, Gwynfor is 4th and Yann Fouéré is on the right at the back.

Thanks to the help of Gwynfor Evans – the President of Plaid Cymru and future M.P. – and his wife Rhiannon, the Fouéré family is finally reunited in March 1947. Yann Fouéré(alias Dr.Moger) travels to Swansea every week and returns at weekends to his wife and children who are staying with the Evans family. The French embassy in London discovers Dr Moger’s true identity. His post as French assistant at Swansea University is made unavailable to him after the summer of 1947.

The family moves to a new Catholic College in Llandeilo run by Father Malachy Lynch, an Irishman aware of the difficulties of the Breton refugees. Yann Fouéré teaches French at this College and in other Welsh educational establishments.

The family gradually returns to a relatively normal life. However, early in 1948, Yann Fouéré receives notice from the British authorities, to leave British territory. Once again he is forced into exile. He decides to join his fellow Breton refugees in Dublin. Even with the kindness and support of his many Irish friends, poverty strikes and he regularly meets with other refugees at the soup kitchen. He takes up various jobs, gives private French Classes, writes articles for various newspapers and compiles programmes about Brittany for Irish radio and continues to maintain the publication of the Breton National News Service, started in Wales.

He risks a return visit to Wales in order to visit his family in the spring of 1948. He is re-embarked on the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire boat by police escort a few days later, narrowly escaping deportation back to France thanks to the intensive political and media campaign set in motion by Gwynfor Evans and his own direct appeal to the Home Secretary. The arrest and expulsion of Yann Fouéré the Breton refugee by the British authorities arouses strong feelings in Welsh public opinion.

On his return to Ireland and with the help of Cearbhuil O’Dalaigh, President of the Red Cross and future President of Ireland, Yann Fouéré applies to the Department of Foreign Affairs for a clarification of his conditions of stay in Ireland and is later granted Irish citizenship. Thomas de Bhaldraite, who had been a member of the Breton students circle in Paris, offers the use of his house in Ranelagh during the summer months, enabling Marie-Magdaleine and the three children to join Fouéré in July 1948. Fouéré’s parents are also now able to visit their son for the first time in three years.

The Fouéré family is on the move again in the autumn: to a basement flat for the winter, and then a small terraced house for the summer, both in Bray. Yann takes on various jobs, the couple manufacture pâtés and organise the placement of young French aupair girls in families. Marie-Magdaleine finds employment as a beautician in Dublin and is offered work as a fashion model. The older children are placed in boarding school with the help of the St.Vincent de Paul Society.

In the autumn of 1949, the family moves to a larger house in Ranelagh, thus enabling the children to become day pupils. Yann and Marie-Magdaleine let out a couple of rooms to students and operate a Bed and Breakfast . A Benedictine monk from Glenstal priory, Father Columba, persuades Yann to take up a post as professor of French at Glenstal college in County Limerick, which involves yet another partial separation from the family…but not for long.

Marcel Samzun, a Breton fish and shellfish wholesaler who has been operating a business in Connemara since before the First World War, is looking for an associate who might eventually take over the business. Samzun and his brother, who are now in their sixties, purchase shellfish locally and export to the continent, dividing their time between Brittany and the West of Ireland. They have heard about the Breton refugees and contact Yann Fouéré.

He visits the Lobster Pond in Aughrusbeg, 75 miles from Galway near Cleggan, shortly after Easter of 1950 and is smitten by the breathtaking location. He accepts their proposal, in spite of his inexperience in this field, and consolidates his agreement after another visit in June.

The family leaves Dublin in September to take up a new challenge in the wilderness of Connemara. They settle into a small cottage with no elecricity or running water and with very basic facilities. When the first fishing season is over, Yann Fouéré the ex sous-préfet becomes a home-made architect with the assistance of skilled local helpers and begins building a house that will make life easier for his wife and family. A fourth child, Benig, is born in January 1952.The family moves into the new house in the summer of 1953. A telephone is connected and the business is going well. The Fouéré family’s material circumstances gradually improve and the fifth child, Olwen, is born in March 1954. The exiled militant Yann Fouéré is now thinking of returning to France to undergo a re-trial…

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