Irish Medics in the SCW

(Twenty three in total)

Updated, 27th Dec. 2006

Irish Medics in the SCW: Republican

Paddy Kevin Blake, from Dublin.
Fyrth tells us that he was a member of the British Medical unit in August 1938. As a part of his activity then he went out to capture some trucks, an expedition which left him and Paddy Cochrane wounded. Read a report of that incident

Joe Boyd
In 1936 Joe was a 29 year old member of the Socialist Party of Northern Ireland when he decided that he had to go out to Spain. Because he had some experience of working in a chemists shop and he was capable of driving a lorry, Joe decided to join the medical unit formed by Sir Daniel Stephenson in Glasgow and supported by the Socialist Party. He drove an ambulance there from Oct-Nov 1936. Captured by the Fascists, he was then deported to Portugal and repatriated.

PM (Paddy) Cochrane
Arrived during Jarama as a driver for the Red Cross Unit. He volunteered for Medical Aid. With other Medical Aid drivers, he set off with 8 others, drivers and orderlies, taking four ambulances, 2 of them donated by the printing unions, across France. He arrived in Spain on February 17th 1937.

At Villarejo he spent a month picking up the wounded and sick, and on one occasion got his vehicle into enemy territory, making a quick 6 point turn as bullets hit the ambulance. At the Chinchon medical post, in a hut, he had to hold a bicycle-lamp so that a surgeon could operate, but fainted at the sight of blood and froth from the patients lungs, and was reprimanded for not holding the light still."

Tom Donovan
He was in the Thaelmann Centuria but quickly deserted from it. He moved onto Barcelona and then the Scottish Medical Unit by February 1937. It may be that he died at the Aragon battle. There is a suspicion that he was repatriated by the British Consul.

Sometimes called O'DONAVAN.

Alex Donegan
McGarry lists this Northern Irish volunteer as serving with the Scottish Medical Unit.

George Norman Drury FULLER
He arrived in Spain February 24th 1937. He was a medical student who transferred from the Medical Services to military on May 8th 1938, beng KIA in Sept. 1938. From Maidenhead, Bucks, England. Born in 1915.

Vincent John Hunt
He worked at the hospital at El Escorial with the Thaelmann Battalion. Killed when a bomb hit his ambulance. Died 10th July 1937 at Brunete.

Tom Jones
O'Riordan quotes Jim Prendergast as saying about an incident at Brunette, July 6th 1937, "Tom Jones of Wexford is there. Good man, Tom. Always dresses a man where he falls. A hero." He had been cited as in the Sanidad on Feb. 12th 1938, a medical orderly.

Dr Katherine Lynch
She was an Irish-American, very little is known about her, besides the fact that she spent some time in the 1930's living in Ireland and Paris.

Klaus quotes a letter to Tom O'BRIEN in Spain, dated 2nd August 1938. "Doctor Lynch is now at Porpignan doing some hospital work and she may be useful in getting them [cigarettes] across." Klaus later reports that she took a letter by hand from Bill Clare in Dublin for O'Brien and she appears in a photograph of the returnees delegation, December 1938, at Dun Laoghaire.


Kathleen McCogan
Kathleen McCogan was a BA graduate of Oxford who joined the London University Ambulance Unit in February 1937. That unit was allied with Quakers in Britain and America to run the Southern Hospitals in Mercia and Almeria in Southern Spain. She served in the Murcia hospital, near Malaga. Frida Stewart, daughter of the Dean of Trinity College Cambridge arrived with a young Irish woman, Kathleen McCogan, and an ambulance, donated by miners at Cambuslang.

Fred McMahon
He volunteered to go out for the SPNI with the medical unit organised from Glasgow, so he and Joe Boyd left Belfast on September 16th 1936 for Glasgow, leaving there for Spain on the 17th.

Within weeks of their arrival, Boyd and McMahon were in the thick of things. In early October they strayed into no-man's land where they were shot at by the fascists. The two of them were captured and held for 6 days before being put over the Portuguese border. It was several weeks later before they finally got out of Portugal, returning to Belfast by early December 1936.

Ewart Milne
One of the poets who went to war, Ewart Milne acted as an administrator for the Spanish Medical Aid.

Paddy (John Patrick) O'Reilly
He seems to have been a medic during the war, with at least a part of the time being an ambulance driver. He was nicknamed the "Lucky Irishman" because he had several ambulances he was in shot up or wrecked.

Hannah Ruthledge (Ruth) Ormesby
died April 1938
Fyrth tells us that in the second week of August 1937, a mobile hospital was set up at La Puebla de Hijar, near Quinto - "bleak, waterless country." One calculation, based on IBA records, estimates that she arrived in Spain in April 1937.The "English nurses... and Ruth Ormesby turned 4 wooden huts which had no electricity or water supply into a hospital." Ormesby was a Roman Catholic, who was killed while staying in the Medical Aid flat in Barcelona. She and a Spanish nurse were making tea when the primus stove exploded and the room caught fire. They tried to escape and fell from a window, Ruth to her death.

Jack White
He went out with the Spanish Medical Aid Committee and then got involved with the CNT. According to a report held in the Moscow archives, he had spent two months with the medics, where he was had responsibility for some ambulances in Barcelona, before moving over to his military role.

Irish Medics in the SCW: Nationalist

Dr. M J Freeman
While working in London he decided to join the Bandera. This doctor joined a group of 10 British based volunteers who sailed on November 21st 1936 from Liverpool

Dr Kierans
No further information has emerged, thought to have sailed in December 36.

Dr Peter O'Higgins
A medical Doctor. Sailed with O'Duffy in late November 1936.

Miss O'Donnell
O'Duffy mentions that Miss O'Donnell, "who is of Irish descent, and had been living with a family in the north of Spain for many years, also came to Caceres to assist us. Though not a qualified nurse, she gave splendid help as an interpreter between the Spanish doctors and the Irish patients."

Nurse B Mulvanney
One of only three Irish female Franco supporters located in Spain. A nurse based in Britain she is listed by Fryth. Los otros internacionales mentions that a Mulvaney was a medic in Spain. O'Duffy says that she arrived towards the end of February 1937.

Nurse MacGorisk
O'Duffy lists her as a nurse who arrived in February 1937 from Ireland. She worked in the Central Military hospital in Caceres. When the Bandera was going home there were 8 sick soldiers, so MacGorisk and Mulvanney agreed to say with them.

John Cleary
This Belfast chemist, and active republican, worked as a medical orderly in Spain.

John C Dunphy
Also a qualified chemist, he was in charge of the medical room.

Sources include

Jim Fryth The Signal was Spain Lawrence and Wishart, London 1986 [on medical aid from Britian]

H Gustav Klaus Strong words brave deeds: the poetry, life and times of Thomas O'Brien, volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. Dublin: O'Brien Press (1994)

Fearghal McGarry Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, Cork, Cork University Press, (1999)

Eoin O'Duffy Crusade in Spain, Dublin: Browne and Nolan, (1938) [nationalist leader]

Dunphy Papers - A small collection of notes by him, copies were passed onto C Crossey by his family.

Ciaran Crossey
Belfast, 5th Sept. 2003
Updated - additions of Hunt, Fuller and Jones 4th Sept. 2004
Updated - report on Blake and Cochrane 27th Dec. 2006

For the initial index of articles on lreland and the SCW