Blue plaques for Emperor Haile Selassie unveiled in Somerset

25 Sep 2019

Two blue plaques in honour of Emperor Haile Selassie’s life in Bath and visits to Weston-Super-Mare were unveiled on 22nd September by the Emperor’s grandson, Prince Michael Mekonnen. Other dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Bath, Councillor Gerry Curran, were also in attendance.

Prince Mekonnen with the Lord Mayor of Bath, Councillor Gerry Curran ©Rob Mitchell

The plaques were unveiled on the Tropicana building in Weston-Super-Mare and at Fairfield House in Bath.

During the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the Emperor and his family lived in exile in Fairfield House in Bath from 1936 to 1940.

 Haile Selassie with the Mayor of Bath in October 1954

During his time living in Bath Emperor Haile Selassie received a warm welcome from local residents, and this generosity was reciprocated when he gave Fairfield House to the city as a gift to be used for elders of the city.

The gift of the Emperor is still alive today, with Fairfield used as a day-care centre by Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens Association (BEMSCA).

Fairfield House, Bath
Blue plaque placed at Fairfield House. ©Rob Mitchell

The Emperor also regularly visited Weston-Super- Mare, where he enjoyed swimming in the open-air pool. Although invited to, he never jumped the queue and would happily chat with other visitors. It was rumoured that he was even contemplating buying a house in Weston.

Blue plaque at the Tropicana pools below. ©Rob Mitchell

Malcolm Nicholson, Weston-Super-Mare Town Clerk, said: “We are honoured to have this association of our town with the royal family of Ethiopia, and grateful to Dr Sobers and the trustees of Fairfield House for linking up with Weston Town Council to recall this important time in history.”

Dr Shawn Sobers, Trustee of Fairfield House CIC, said, “This is a significant day for both Bath and Weston-Super-Mare, and a long overdue acknowledgement that an important world leader made the West Country his home.  We are looking to continue this partnership with Weston, and other sites in the UK that the Emperor had connections with.”

The plaque at Fairfield House has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in partnership with the University of the West of England.

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