The names and addresses of eight early speakers of Esperanto in Bedfordshire, with their registration numbers are found scattered throughout the Adresaro de Esperantistoj (collection of addresses of Esperantists) between January 1903 and January 1907. Here are the names of those pioneers.
1903: Joseph Cmolan Snape, 28 str. Peteis (?St. Peters Street), Bedford, Anglujo
1903: Rose Eva Shape, 28, str. Peteis. (?St. Peters Street), Bedford, Anglujo
1904: L. H. Huthwaite, 186, Castle road, Bedford. Anglujo.
1904: F E. Walls, 57, Spenser road, Bedford, Anglujo
1905: F-ino (=Miss) L. M. Tuke, Lingcroft, Woburn Lands R. S. O., Beds, Anglujo
1906: N. J. Legge, 40, George S., Bedford, Beds, Anglujo
1906: Rev. Arthur Cross, Stourhead Lodge, Woburn, Sands, Beds., Anglujo
1908: F-ino (=Miss) Emily O'Dell, Oakley, Beds, Anglujo
The honour of being the first Esperantists in Bedfordshire belongs to Mr and Mrs Snape. Mr Snape wrote widely in Esperanto For example, he had a translation published in the July 1908 edition of Tra La Mondo, a magazine published in Algiers.
Emily O’Dell was born in 1879 in Bromham where her father was baker and sub-postmaster. By the time of the 1911 census she was back in Bromham, described as a widow and mother’s help. Kelly’s Directory of Woburn Sands and Aspley Heath 1903 show Miss Tuke as living at Lincroft, Woburn Sands.
Clearly those interested in the language, although spread over Bedford and surrounding area, came together from time to time. According to an inside cover of The British Esperantist magazine for 1908 an Esperanto Society in Bedford had been founded in October 1904. Its secretary in 1908 is given as Miss Dudenay, Verulam, Rothsay Gardens, Bedford. The president in that year was C.I. Knight-Watson. The local press reported on their activities dfrom time to time:
BEDFORD ESPERANTO ASSOCIATION.
The annual general meeting took place on Tuesday, May 5th, at 8.30, in the Central Restaurant. C. J. Knight Watson was elected to the chair. The Treasurer’s report showed a balance of £1 15s. 11d, to bo carried over to next year. The report of the secretary (Mr Ernest Pointer) remarked on Professor Christie’s visit last November, and mentioned that the Association had grown, in consequence, from ten to twenty-six members ; also the fact that the group has completed the translation of the first of K. L. Stevenson’s “New Arabian Nights.” The group, besides being alliliatod to the British Esperanto Association, is now alliliated to the newly formed Universal Esperanto Association, whose objects are to farther all schemes for the development of the practical uses of the language, such as translation bureaus, consuls, continental and foreign tours, etc. The meeting then elected, as officers for the coming season—President, Mr Knight Watson ; Hon. Treasurer, Mr Thos. Walls; Hon. Sec. (pro tern), Ernest Pointer. A committee of five was appointed to consider names for the executive committee. A set of now rules, submitted by the Hon. Sec., were accepted with a few' small amendments. The meeting then closed. have just received a copy of the Esperanto statistics from the Central, shewing that there are now 865 Esperanto groups, extending over some 60 different countries.
(Bedfordshire Mercury, Friday 08 May 1908)
Early minute books of the Bedford Esperanto Association starting from 1907 are held in Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service.
The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War spent time in 1916 in trenches named Esperanto Terrace and Esperanto Trench. One wonders whether it was Bedfordshire men who carried the name to the war in France.