Ebro ceremony for Mick O’Riordan’s ashes

Manus O'Riordan sent this to the site, thanks. Mick's ashes are now scattered but his memory and that of all the anti-fascists will live on.


Ciaran Crossey, May 16th 2007.

On 12 May 2007 the ashes of Irish International Brigader Micheal O’Riordan [1917-2006] were scattered by his family in the river Ebro near Asco, Catalunya. This was where he had carried the flag of Catalunya across the Ebro on 25 July 1938, on behalf of the 15th International Brigade’s British Battalion, during the commencement of the final military offensive of the Spanish Republic .

All of Micheal’s family participated in this ceremony of remembrance – his son Manus, daughter Brenda, daughter-in-law Annette, son-in-law Tony; together with Micheal’s five grandchildren: Dara and Caitriona McGaley, and Jess, Neil and Luke O’Riordan. They were joined by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, Eugene McCartan, and an internationalist gathering of relatives of Irish, British and German International Brigaders, together with other friends from Britain , Germany , Ireland , Iceland and Catalunya itself.

Brenda sang the Irish-language song “An Raibh Tu Ag An gCarraig?” [Were You At The Rock?]; Manus sang his adaptation of a poem by the French Communist writer Louis Aragon, inspired by the Catalan national hymn “Santa Espina” [Holy Thorn]; all members of the O’Riordan and McGaley families sang “Viva La Quince Brigada!” [Long Live The 15th Brigade!] - the song by Christy Moore inspired by his reading of Micheal O’Riordan’s “Connolly Column”; while Catalan participants sang the national anthem of Catalunya – “Els Segadors” [The Reapers].

Micheal’s ashes were then scattered in the river Ebro , together with a red carnation tribute from each participant.

Pictured at the Ebro ceremony are: Dara and Caitriona holding the Irish tricolour; Luke and Annette holding the banner of the Connolly Column-15 Brigada Internacional, in the colours of the Spanish Republican flag; Manus and Brenda; Jess and Neil holding the Catalan Republican flag.

A song based on part of the melody of Catalunya’s national hymn, Santa Espina, with words based on the March 1940 poem of the same name by the French Communist poet Louis Aragon. Arranged and sung by Manus O’Riordan on the occasion of the scattering of the ashes of his father – Irish International Brigader Micheál O’Riordan [1917-2006] – in the river Ebro, close to Ascó, Catalunya, by all of the members of Micheál’s family, on 12 May 2007.

It was at Ascó that - in an act of internationalist solidarity - the commander of the Fifteenth International Brigade’s British Battalion, Sam Wild, had chosen the Irish Volunteer for Liberty, Micheál O’Riordan, to carry the flag of Catalunya across the river Ebro on 25 July 1938, on the commencement of the final military offensive of the Spanish Republic.


I remember a tune that we used to hear in Spain
And it made the heart beat faster and all of us knew
Each time as our blood was kindled once again
Just why Catalunya’s sky above us was so blue.

I remember a tune like the voice of open sea
Like the cry of migrant birds, that tune in silence stores
After its notes a stifled sob
Revenge of the salt seas on their conquerors.

I remember a tune that was whistled late at night
In a sunless time, an age with no wandering knight.
While children wept for bombs, huddled deep in catacombs
A noble people dreamt of the tyrant’s doom.

In that tune’s name – Santa Espina – was borne the sacred thorn
That pierced the brow of a god, as on his cross he died.
And all who heard those notes, they felt that song in the flesh
Like the wound in Jesus’ side, as his sorrows were revived.

O Catalans, you hummed that tune, but its words you did not sing.
Before Christ’s name you bowed no more and yet this I do know:
As Franco ravaged Spain, all in the name of Christ the King
Santa Espina was your hope and your month of Sundays O.

How in vain do I still seek that proud yet poignant melody
But this hard earth on which we live now has but operatic tears.
And the sound of murmuring waters has been lost to memory:
That call of stream to stream, in these unhearing years.

O Holy Thorn, Santa Espina, let me hear your notes again
Where we fought with pride, yet often cried with your defiance and your pain.
But no one is left now to intone your proud refrain.
The woods are so silent and the singers dead in Spain.

And yet I hope and do believe that such music still
Lives in the hearts of that proud people, being hummed now underground.
Yes, the dumb will yet sing, and the paralytics will
March in triumph one fine day to Catalunya’s noble sound!

And that piercing crown of blood, so full of anguish and sorrow
Will fall from the brow of the Son of Man that hour!
And man will sing proudly in that new tomorrow
Of Catalunya, Santa Espina, and the hawthorn tree in flower!
Yes, man will sing loudly in that sweet tomorrow
Of the beauty of life and the hawthorn tree in flower!

A collection of aricles, interviews and obituaries for Mick can be read here.