Death of last local Spanish Civil War survivor

Enniscorthy Echo, 15th Feb 2007

A MESSAGE of condolence from the Spanish Embassy in Ireland, and the presence at the funeral ceremonies of Irish United Nations peacekeepers were small reminders of one man’s involvement in an international conflict in a far-off land seventy years ago.

Ned Murphy, of Ballydaw , Marshalstown, who died last week, was part of one of the most unique group of Irish men in its history.

A man of high principles, he was also a man who knew no fear, and was the last survivor in this area of the country of the Irishmen who fought in the Spanish Civil War in the mid1930s.

His story, still almost unbelievable yet absolutely true, was that of idealistic young men from the heart of a still relatively rural Ireland in the 1930s who, for one reason or another, made their way to Spain.

Hundreds as few as eighteen from Co. Wexford fought on both sides in the war between two ideologies. In Ned’s case, as a member of the Blueshirts who joined up with the Franco forces as part of General Eoin O’Duffy’s brigade.

The events of those turbulent times in world history are long gone, but, some seventy years later, were evoked at Ned’s burial in a quiet country churchyard last Thursday afternoon.

The Spanish Government formally sent an official message of sympathy to the Murphy family on their loss, while among the mourners at the funeral were Tom Whelan, Rosslare (ViceChairman) and Ed. P. Doyle, Piercestown (PRO) of Post 3 (Wexford) of the United Nations’ veterans body UNVET.

Even in young years, Neddy Murphy was a singleminded individual very much interested in the politics of the day. He was aged only 24 and living in the highlycharged and highlypoliticised atmosphere of the day.

When Ned left home for Spain in November 1936, he did not even tell his mother, a widow with six other children. The Irish contingent sailed from Galway and, after a nightmare journey, landed on Spain’s coast that Christmas.

As with all such conflicts, the Spanish Civil War was a brutal experience. Ned Murphy rarely spoke afterwards about his experiences.

The stories which were elicited from him hinted at the horror, with death having been a constantly close companion in the terrible condition in the trenches, in which ‘the rats would talk to you.’

In an interview in ‘The Echo’ with journalist the late Billy Quirke in the 1980s, Ned Murphy candidly admitted ‘never having been fired up by strong religious fervour’ and that his involvement ‘certainly wasn’t for the money.’ More here ...

He explained, ‘’I suppose we had to have a sense of adventure and that is in many young men. It was an opportunity to see another land. I was an admirer of O’Duffy and when he put out the call for volunteers, I answered it.”

Ned Murphy was born in 1912, the second youngest and last survivor of the family of the late Pat and Annie (née Dunne), Clonjordan , Ballindaggin.

He was predeceased by his wife Chrissie (née O’Connor, Duffry Gate, Enniscorthy) by sixteen years, and also by a daughter Bridget. He worked on the land as a farm labourer during his younger years, and later spreading lime and driving for Mylie Roches, Milehouse.

Always passionately interested in politics, he was a well-known Fine Gael activist, particularly at local or general election time. At the time of his death, he was President of his local Party branch. Seriously ailing for only about a year, he passed away last Tuesday in St. John’s Hospital, in his 95th year.

The esteem in which the Murphy family, and in particular their father, was held in the community at large was reflected by the exceptionally large turnouts at the funeral ceremonies.

The remains were removed from the Murphy home to St. Joseph’s Church in Marshalstown, where Requiem Mass was celebrated by Fr. Danny McDonald PP, Marshalstown, assisted by Fr. Paddy Cushen and Fr. Noel Hartley, both former parish priests in the area.

Ned is survived by three sons, Paddy and Neddy, both Ballydaw, and Johnny, Ballinakill, Ballycarney, and by eleven daughters Nancy and Eileen, both Dublin, Stella, St. John’s, Enniscorthy, Christine (‘Ena’), Kay and Theresa, all in London, Maria, Dublin, Maggie, Fr. Murphy Park, Enniscorthy, Betty, Ballymurn, Joan, Caim, and Noleen, Enniscorthy. His passing is also mourned by sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and other relatives and friends. —R.I.P.

Other articles

An article on his 94th birthday, from the Gorey Echo, Wednesday June 28th 2006 is also available here and it leads onto a radio programme.