Bob Doyle's Memoirs

Memoir of the War Against Franco
The Sunday Tribune - Sunday, December 8th, 2002 -

John Burke

Even though Dubliner Bob Doyle was far from his native Wolfe Tone Street when he and 100 fellow International Brigadiers faced a firing squad in the desolate Spanish countryside in March 1938, he could have reflected that if he was about to die, at least he had packed much adventure into the previous 22 years of his life.

This week, 85-year-old Doyle, whose exploits included gun running for the IRA and street fighting as a republican youth with the Blueshirts, publishes his memoirs in Madrid, as one of only three surviving Irishmen who fought against Franco in the 1930s.

His life in Dublin, also chronicled in his memoirs, was as chaotic as his Mediterranean soldiering. Wolfe Tone Street became home for Doyle, living with his "turbulent, and at times crazy, parents." After joining the IRA as a teenager, he later shared a room in Capel Street with famous IRA man and labour activist Kit Conway. Following Conway to Spain in the mid 1930s, as Dublin became too dangerous for the increasingly recognisable IRA engineer, Doyle witnessed fierce fighting between the Spanish Republicans and Franco's army.

The price of war was high. His friend Conway was killed. In March 1938 his troop of International Brigadiers was captured by Italian fascist troops and he spent the following 11 months in a prison camp near Burgos. As foreigners, the Brigadiers were spared the firing squad, but he recalls the immediate execution of Spanish republicans captured by Franco's men.

Following his release from prison camp, Doyle went on to serve in the British merchant navy during World War II; he negotiated directly with Robert Maxwell for a 40-hour-week for print unions and campaigned in later years for the recognition of fallen brigadier colleagues.

Now widowed, and living in London with his sons, he has no regrets. "We fought for democracy and were opposed to racism and fascism. It was something that was a matter of right and wrong", he said.

Doyle's memoirs are to be published in Spanish, and an English language version is expected on the shelves soon.

Back to the Collection of speeches, articles and obituaries for Bob