Memorable event to mark the anti-fascist war in Spain

By Mary Horton in Unity, Sept. 2006

THE International Brigade Commemoration Committee (IBCC) held a very successful event on Saturday with a meeting in Transport House followed by the unveiling of a plaque to the Brigaders and also the Belfast launch of Bob Doyle’s book.

Getting a packed house on a Saturday morning in Transport House is no mean feat, but that was the situation when people showed their interest in the second seminar organised by the Messines Association, Belfast Trades Council and the IBCC. Joe Bowers chaired the meeting and the theme of the talks was the common history that the people shared regarding the fight against fascism and the Spanish Civil War.

Jimmy McDermott a local trade unionist and historian recalled the situation those on the left faced at that time, whilst Manus O’Riordan, SIPTU Head of Research and also the Executive Member for Ireland, International Brigade Memorial Trust, spoke about a diversity of Volunteers, drawing attention to the diversity of traditions - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, atheist; as well as of political loyalties - Republican and Unionist; of those who supported the Spanish Republic.

Both contributions were welcomed and many questions were asked from the floor. Michael O’Rielly welcomed people to Transport House noting the contribution that the members of the ATGWU had made against the Franco regime. Veteran Bob Doyle joined the meeting part way through the morning.

Later in the day in the John Hewitt bar there was a packed house as John Gray introduced the book launch for Bob’s book. (Brigadista-An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism: notes and additional text by Harry Owens. Published by Curragh Press) Kevin Doherty gave the crowd a warm welcome; there was not even standing space and people spilled out onto the bright sunlit pavements listening to the speeches from the outside as well as inside. As one of the participants noted, a “Tour of Belfast” bus was going past at the time and tourists took photographs of what they must have thought was a typical Saturday afternoon scene of an over packed pub in Belfast.

John Gray gave an excellent introduction to the book and to Bob’s life. Bob gave his speech, which is reproduced in here in full Speaking quietly but determinedly he gave analysis of the fight that we have on our hand regarding capitalism. All during the day his warmth and humanism came through as many people came up to meet him and greet him.

Announcing the unveiling of the plaque Lynda Walker also welcomed the relatives of the late veterans who were present, Marie & Sean Edwards, who had travelled from Dublin, Rob Smith from Dundee, Manus, Annette, Luke and Neil O’Riordan, Cherry Duncan, Emmett O’Connor, and others - over twelve.

Reading a verse of the poem by David Marshall “In Unremembered graves they lie Untrumpeted, their songs forgotten, Our children are not taught their history,” she said that we will make sure that our children are taught their history and that this event is part of that remembering.

Reading Charlie Donnelly’s poem she noted that it was as relevant then as it is now, and that we must fight to make all this kind of inhumanity a thing of the past. Bob unveiled the plaque and was presented with artwork done by Gerry Gleason.

Song and music followed with Angela & Liam Delaney, Dee McDowell, Brian, Mary Mulrine, and Gerry Jones, and the session musicians provided brilliant music to a backdrop of roaring political chatter, not the best of order but certainly much appreciated. Joe Mulheron sang Connolly Column his song about the Spanish Civil War and the night and the music flew on into oblivion.

Reporting on his website almost immediately Ciaran Crossey noted that

Over four nights Bob spoke to packed houses from Dublin on Sept 13th, through Sligo, And Derry and onto Belfast on the 16th.

Crowds ranging from 30 in Sligo, 60 in Derry to over 200 in Belfast heard Bob link the struggle in Spain with the struggles today against globalization and the war in Iraq. Every available copy of his book was sold......There were a large number of people who left the book launch after we’d sold all our book and raced round Belfast City until all the books there had gone from Easons, Smyths and Waterstones”


It is to be hoped that the IBCC will reproduce the material from the talks in pamphlet form some time in the future. A third seminar will be held later in the year.

The Tolerance of Crows by Charles Donnolly

Death comes in quantity from solved
Problems on maps, well-ordered dispositions,
Angles of elevation and direction;

Comes innocent from tools children might
Love, retaining under pillows,
Innocently impaled on any flesh.

And with flesh falls apart the mind
That trails thought from the mind that cuts
Thought clearly for a waiting purpose.

Progress in the nerves and
Discipline’s collapse is halted.
Body awaits the tolerance of crows.

(From POEMS FROM SPAIN: British And Irish International Brigaders on the Spanish Civil War (2006) Ed Jim Jump. Published by Lawrence & Wishart, first published in Ireland Today February 1937) La lucha continúa