Bob Doyle

Brigadista who fought Franco dies aged 92

Klara Kubiak, in the Irish edition of the Daily Mail, January 24, 2009

AT 92, he could have been permitted the luxury of taking things a little easier. Instead, Bob Doyle was as passionate as the young man who signed up as a Brigadista to fight Franco, and was still travelling across Europe to inspire a younger generation to fight for social justice.

Perhaps Doyle, who died in a London hospital on Thursday, was always destined to be a rebel, be-ing born in the heart of Dublin in 1916. The Dubliner was one of a band of 200 Irishmen who fought against fascism in the 1930s. He was the last surviving Irish member of the 15th International Brigade and spent al-most a year in a concentration camp in Burgos, Spain, after being captured.

One of five children, he was born in North King Street on February 12, 1916. He became politically active in the early 1930s and joined the IRA after being beaten up in street fights with the Blueshirts.

In 1937, he volunteered for the International Brigade - partly inspired by the fact that his former flat-mate, Kit Conway, had been killed in action on Doyle's 21st birthday while fighting Franco's troops. After ini-tially being expelled from Spain, he made his way back by crossing the Pyrenees. He fought at Belchite and, in March 1938, was taken prisoner by Italian fascist troops on the Aragon front.

During his 11 months in custody, he was tortured by Spanish fascist guards and even interrogated by the Gestapo - as well as once being taken to be shot.

He was eventually released as part of a prisoner exchange programme and enlisted with the British Merchant Navy for the duration of the Second World War. After the war, he moved to London and remained a dedicated member of the Communist Party of Britain.

He regularly returned to Ireland and remained on friendly terms with the Irish Communist Party. Party members paid tribute, saying, 'He remained a committed anti-fascist, peace activist and a communist to the end. We salute his memory.'

In 1996, Mr Doyle was awarded honorary citizenship of Spain. His autobiography, Brigadista - an Irishman's fight against fascism, was published in 2006.

Last night, International Brigade Memorial Trust executive member Manus O'Riordan, whose late fa-ther Michael also fought Franco, said: 'Bob Doyle was indeed a lifelong rebel without a pause. He was a fighting campaigner to the very end of his life.'

Mr Doyle is survived by his two sons Julian and Robert. His Spanish wife, Lola, passed away a number of years ago.

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