Some interesting nuggets

What I have pulled together here are a number of short extracts from various books, papers, etc. which reflect on some detail of Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War. C Crossey 15th April 20000

Readers are reminded that all the copyright of this material rests with the authors, so any quotation from them must be fully acknowledged and properly cited. The publishers of this site have approached the publishers and are grateful for their advice. CC 15.4.00

1.notes by Louis MacNeice
2. Notes on censorship and the Catholic Church
3. Notes about the early politics of an O'Duffy supporter, Fr. O'Daly
4. Notes on life in Cork in 1936.

The Strings are False: An unfinished biography

by L MacNeice;  Faber and Faber, London, 1965 p161 

The Hammer and Sickle was scrawled over Spain that Easter [1936] the walls were still plastered with posters from the recent elections, ingenious cartoons showing the top-hatted banker in rout or political prisoners peering out from behind a grill in the gapping mouth of the capitalist. p162 We returned to Gibraltar by way of Algeciras and there we heard shouting. Mob of clenched fists outside the great west door of a church. We waited a long time and the door opened, a young man drove out in a sports car. The crowd howled, threw a few stones very wide, then gardarened into the church. Anthony and I went off for a drink, when we returned we looked into the church and the walls were dripping with fresh red slogans, with hammers and sickles; high-up over the altar stood a man in an empty niche...who was trying to fix a red flag. But he was short of nails, the flag would not stay put. 

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Cork and the Spanish Civil War

Extract from: Song for a Poor Boy. A Cork childhood, by Patrick Galvin Published by Raven Arts, Dublin, 1990. ISBN 1851860800 
Galvin was born in Cork in 1927, the author of 5 collections of poetry and several plays. 

When the Spanish Civil war broke out, Mr. Goldman stood at the corner of Washington Street and protested against the Fascists. My mother supported him and, in the evenings, she painted slogans on our tenement wall urging the natives of Cork to aid the republicans and join the International Brigades.

My father thought differently. He said the Republicans were burning the church in Spain and he didn’t want to see anything like that happening in Cork. But he refused to join the Blueshirts, who were marching through the city wearing holy medals, and appealing to the people to join them in their Great Crusade against the Bolsheviks. 

At a huge rally in the city, Monsignor Sexton said that 24 Sisters of the poor had been crucified in Barcelona, and when two men asked him for proof, they were thrown into the river Lee and had to be rescued by the Salvation Army. 

The Salvation Army said that it was their Christian duty to rescue people from the river Lee and offered to make tea for everybody, if only they’d be sensible and go home. But the crowd didn’t go home. They knelt in the streets and prayed for General Franco. 

At the corner of Washington Street, Mr. Goldman still stood and protested loudly. My mother brought him a bowl of soup from the Penny Dinner house in Hanover Street, but he refused to eat it. He said he was starving for Spain. She offered to mend a hole in his jacket - but he said he was quite capable of doing it himself - though he never did. 

He looked weary and old, as if he’d seen it all before and there was little he could do now to prevent it happening again. I wondered where he’d grown-up and about his family background. He never mentioned it. 

In the evenings, I sat at his feet and listened to him read. And during the day I attended school and listened to Brother Reynolds talking about Spain. Brother Reynolds knew everything about Spain. He’d read it in the newspapers. 

He said that Spain was a Catholic country and the Communists were out to destroy it. He said the Communists were everywhere. But if they were so, so was General Franco. 

His photograph appeared in every newspaper. His eyes peered at you out of every shop window. And his spirit haunted the classroom where Brother Reynolds was telling us that what was happening in Spain today could be happening in Ireland tomorrow. 

Atrocities were being committed out there. Children were being burned alive by the Reds, and their ashes scattered on pig farms in Galicia. Priests were being hanged. Bishops were being shot through the eyes. Nuns were being raped. And when my friend, Connors, asked him what rape meant, he split him over the head with a metal ruler and told him to wash his mouth out with salt and then drench himself in holy water. He asked us to pray. 

We should pray for General Franco. We should pray for the Moors who were fighting now to save Christianity, we should pray for the Blueshirts and join them today and be remembered forever in the Great Book of Names that was now being prepared in Heaven by Blessed Michael and his angels.

My friend Connors threw up - and others joined the Blueshirts. They danced and they marched and they wore uniforms and looked like Boy Scouts. But when Brother Reynolds saw them he said they were like little angels who would one day grow up to be big angles and they would fly off to Spain and help General Franco to kill the Reds. 

He appealed for money to buy guns. He placed a collection box at the school gate and said that anyone who failed to contribute would burn in Hell for all Eternity. They would be tortured by demons. 

When I told my mother about Brother Reynolds, she said he was a born eegit [a fool]. But Mr. Goldman said he was only one of many. The country was full of them. My father said nothing, but when he saw the collection box at the school gate on his way to Mass, he kept his hand in his pocket. 

One evening as I sat with Mr. Goldman, listening to him read, someone threw a brick through the window. The scattered glass cascaded across the room and Mr. Goldman flung his coat over my head. We sat in the dark and waited for a second brick. But there was only one - and it was followed by a man’s voice shouting “Dirty Jew. You murdered Christ.” 

The following day, Mr. Goldman returned to the corner of Washington Street. He continued to protest. 

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The attitude of the leadership of the Catholic Church and Spain. Interesting for the censorship of the media. CC, 15.4.00 

John Charles McQuaid Ruler of Catholic Ireland   by John Cooney, O'Brien Press, Dublin, 1999. ISBN 0862785944 p90-92 

No further information has so far emerged as to whether McQuaid tried to persuade de Valera to end Ireland's non-intervention policy during the Spanish Civil War. However, on August 27, 1936, Hugh Allen of the Catholic Truth Society wrote to McQuaid suggesting that 'the conduct' of The Irish Times in regard to the War between General Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces and the Republican militias provided an opportunity for the Catholic Headmasters' Association to put that newspaper out of bounds for members of the Association, as far as school advertisements were concerned. (Lioniel Fleming, Head or Harp). Specifically, Allen asked McQuaid to damage The Irish Times financially by organising an advertising boycott among the headmasters and sisters of the secondary schools. 

Allen was referring to reports by Lionel Fleming, who had been given £50 by the editor, Robert M Smyllie, to combine a holiday in Spain with 'coming down on the republican side'. (Irish Independent, August 16, 1936.) Unlike the pro-Franco reports in the Irish Independent, which characterised the fighting as 'a battle between Christianity and Communism in which there can only be one victor.' (McQuaid illuminated his attitude to the SCW when referring, during the Italian crisis of 1948. To his anti-Communist perspective.) Fleming’s coverage had infuriated Catholic Ireland, not just Allen and McQuaid. Though de Valera’s government was a signatory to the Non-Intervention Act, pro-Franco support was being mobilised by the Irish Christian Front under the leadership of Patrick Belton, TD. Allen’s suggestion came as pro-Franco sentiment in Ireland was reaching its peak. It was a feeling shared by McQuaid, who regarded the bloody events in Barcelona and the execution of priests as opening ‘flood-tides of obscenity’ and as ‘signs that Communism was on the upsurge.’ (Allen to McQuaid, August 27, 1936, DDA Blackrock Papers) 

Allen was careful to stress that his suggestion of an advertising boycott against the Irish Times was made to McQuaid in his capacity as chairman of the Catholic Headmasters' Association, and he asked him to bring this proposal forward for discussion at the Association's next meeting. 'If all agree not to advertise in this anti-Catholic organ, the necessity of advertising in it will disappear, ' Allen said. 'Perhaps too the Association could give a lead to the nuns.' Allen added a postscript to say that this was a personal letter, and that the Catholic Truth Society was not responsible, not even remotely, for the boycott idea. (Allen to McQuaid, 5.9.36, DDA. McQuaids letter of the 3rd is missing.) 

McQuaid responded promptly and duly won his association's approval for a commercial offensive against The Irish Times. 'I knew you would do the needful,' Allen remarked. 'The explanation of the attitude of The Irish Times everybody knows,' he added. 'But none of our newspapers so far have had the courage to give the reason except the Irish representative of the Catholic Times. Bertie Smyllie is a Mason - and his actions are taken in sympathy with his Masonic brethren in Barcelona.' 

As a result of the McQuaid - Allen conspiracy, virtually all Catholic educational advertising was withdrawn by the religious-run schools. The boycott hit the newspaper’s finances so badly that Smyllie was obliged to recall Fleming. (Kevin Collins to McQuaid, August 13, 1936, DDA, Blackrock papers.) 

Generally, McQuaid had friendly relations with Smyllie, who had succeeded the anti-Catholic John Healy, who was a Freemason. Indeed, shortly before the outbreak of hostilities in Spain, an Irish Times staff member, Kevin Collins, who was organising Blackrock College Union events, had persuaded McQuaid to renew advertising for the College Annual in the paper. ‘You, or may I say we, have made a protest against a certain bigoted statement, the author of which has now been removed by death from control of the paper,’ Collins wrote to McQuaid. ‘The present editorial policy is a liberal one and has no anti-Catholic bias. Indeed, as I have said, the Irish Press is more anti-Catholic than we are in many ways.’ 

Check out Francoist Propaganda by Fr. Alexander McCabe as noted in his journal:

and the early politics of Fr Charles O'Daly - later chaplain to the Bandera.