TV expert casts fresh light on Holocaust heroine's long lost ring

Antiques Roadshow
Jewellery expert John Benjamin provides analysis to Deirdre McDowell and Jane McIvor.

Intriguing new details about a long lost ring that belonged to a brave Scot who died in Auschwitz will be revealed on the Antiques Roadshow tomorrow.

Jane Haining’s jewellery is being analysed by expert John Benjamin for a special episode of the BBC One programme to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

He will share with her two proud nieces, Deirdre McDowell and Jane McIvor, his professional opinion that casts fresh light on the origins of the gold and red garnet stone ring.

It was recently returned to the Kirk offices in Edinburgh by a relative of one of Miss Haining's former work colleagues in Paisley

The two women will discuss with Mr Benjamin the extraordinary story of how the missionary was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 for protecting Jewish girls at the Kirk-run Scottish Mission School in Budapest, Hungary.

The former boarding house matron’s handwritten will, a copy of the last letter she wrote while imprisoned in the concentration camp and photographs will also feature on the programme, which is on at 7.30pm.

Experts, for the first time in the show's 40 year history, will not provide valuations to artefacts on the basis the stories behind them make them priceless.

Taking part in the Antiques Roadshow was a deeply emotional experience for the two sisters from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, whose late mother Agnes O’Brien was the Christian martyr's half-sister.

They grew up hearing stories about their courageous and inspirational aunt who repeatedly refused orders from the Church to return home after the Second World War broke out because “her” girls needed her in days of “darkness".

Jane Haining
Jane Haining

For four long years Miss Haining, who grew up in Dunscore near Dumfries, protected the pupils from the increasing danger of Nazi occupation until she was betrayed by the school cook’s son-in-law whom she caught stealing scarce food.

She was arrested by the Gestapo in April 1944 and former pupil Agnes Rostas recently revealed that her haunting last words to sobbing children were “Don’t worry, I’ll be back by lunch”.

Miss Haining - prisoner 79467 - never returned to the Scottish Mission, where she worked between 1932-44, and died in the notorious camp in Nazi-occupied Poland three months later at the age of 47.

The fluent Hungarian and German speaker was said to have passed away due to "cachexia following intestinal catarrh".

The programme was filmed at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and features testimonies that uncover untold stories and belongings from over 100 British Holocaust survivors and camp liberators.

Jane Haining's ring
Jane Haining's ring

Mrs McDowell said: “It is emotional and truly wonderful that the BBC is making this special programme which provides us with the opportunity to tell Jane’s amazing story.

“She was such a courageous woman, very determined, considerate and kind.

“She followed the Christian example by looking after and caring for vulnerable children.

“Our family is honoured and humbled by Jane’s actions.

“Her story is an example to us all and must continue to be told to benefit the next generation because the world should never forget the Holocaust.

Jane Haining's ring

Reflecting on the occasion, Mrs McIvor added: “It was a very moving day and a great honour to be here amongst people who have tremendous stories of courage and resilience.

“Jane was an amazing woman and did such tremendous work at the Scottish Mission in Budapest.

“She lived a life of faith and was a loving person who put everyone else first.

“I was named after Jane Haining so I consider her a guide and mentor.

“If we can do anything, in any small measure, that Jane did our world would be a different and much better place.”

John Benjamin
John Benjamin reflects on a Haining family portrait

Miss Haining, who is likely to have perished in the gas chambers, was posthumously named as Righteous Among the Nations in Jerusalem's sacred Yad Vashem in 1997 and awarded a Hero of the Holocaust medal by the UK Government in 2010.

The programme, presented by Fiona Bruce, has been made in partnership with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation.

Rev Ian Alexander, Secretary of the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland, said “Jane Haining’s story is one of heroism and personal sacrifice.

“She was a woman who was simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary.”

A new Heritage Centre will be opened at Dunscore Church later this year and will celebrate the life of Miss Haining, who was born at nearby Lochanhead farm in 1897.

It will be part-funded by £106,400 in grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland which will also be used to restore and refurbish the A-listed building, which dates from 1823.

Fiona Bruce
L-R - Jane McIvor, Fiona Bruce and Deirdre McDowell