Unveiling of the memorial to Kit Conway,

Address by Bob Doyle


I first met Kit Conway when I joined the IRA as a teenager in 1931, when he recruited me into the first Dublin battalion of the IRA.

He used to drill us in the fields west of Cabra, which was to prove useful later in the war in Spain. When my father threw me out of our flat he took me in. I had been put into care as a child, and farmed out by nuns to labour for farmers.

I only recently learned that Kit was an orphan and had gone through the same experience of being farmed out to work on the land. Probably this is why he sympathised with my position. He wasn't talkative; he had got a bullet through his mouth and had a very slight lisp; he was about the same height as me.

He was very active then among the older IRA members, as one of the leading veterans of the War of Independence against the Black & Tans, and also the Civil War.

He used keep a Tommy Gun under the bed, with a case of ammunition. He'd take it out and clean it; he could assemble it with his eyes closed. When the IRA split in 1934, I followed Kit Conway, Peadar O'Donnell and Frank Ryan who formed the new Republican Congress, to deal with issues like the terrible slums in which I lived in Dublin, and the complete lack of jobs. We believed in a Republicanism which would tackle the problems of poverty as well as Irish unity and independence.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Kit and other member of the Republican Congress went to Spain to support the Spanish people and their government in the International Brigades of volunteers from over 50 countries.

So I decided to go on my own. Kit had in fact been mortally wounded in the battle of Jarama on my birthday, 12th of February, while taking charge of the three companies of the British Battalion under fire. I did not learn this until much later, when I was ashore in Liverpool.

I subsequently took his place, joining the International Brigades and, thanks to his good training in the IRA, I was selected to train other volunteers.

My friend Seve (Severiano Montero), who is here today, has organised commemorations of the battle on the date of Kit's death. I have attended these commemorations on the Jarama battlefield and have been proud to honour the memory of a fellow Irishman who was my hero and my inspiration.

He was a great friend, and I was proud to follow every political decision he would take.