Eugene Downing - on Gerry Doran and Kevin Blake

Eugene sent this letter to Gerry Abrahams, daughter of Gerry Doran. She has given permssion for the letter to be reprinted here, thanks to her.

Lower Lockstown
Co Wicklow
26. Feb 2002

Dear Geraldine Abrahams

The newsletter which I received recently from the IBMT and in which your name is mentioned as the editor reminded me of a decision I had taken last December when I read your beautifully written article about your father, Gerry Doran, in the Irish Times. I decided to write to you about an incident which occurred in Dublin in the early thirties in which Gerry was involved. But like a lot of my decisions lately, nothing has happened. Sheer inertia. Although it was the only time I met him (I didn’t go to Spain until 1938) I remember him very vividly as a person.

In the early thirties at the conclusion of a public meeting held under the auspices of the Republican Congress in Cathal Brugha Street Gerry, Kevin Blake and myself were attacked by a well-know group of Dublin hooligans well-known under the title of the Animal Gang. They were very prominent in attacks on anyone who was considered to be leftwing – which included even the most respectable liberals. Their favourite weapons were knuckledusters and razors. They took their politics from the pulpit so protestors against any kind of injustice were Reds. (As it happens I was the only one of the three who was a member of the CPI. Gerry and Kevin were members of the Republican Congress.)

It was a running battle along O’Connell Street to the O’Connell Monument and eventually we reached the Corinthian Cinema (long since gone) round the corner. Here a Garda intervened and while we were explaining the situation to him one of the gang struck Gerry a vicious blow in the side of the neck with a half-brick which he held in his hand, and made off. At this point the Garda decided to take us to Store Street Station to protect us from further violence.

After a short period in the station we were told that the coast was clear and we were free to leave. Gerard was advised by the Garda to go to hospital and have his neck examined. He was inclined to be dismissive of the idea but Kevin and myself persuaded him and accompanied him to Jervis Street Hospital – also lang since gone. When he had been attended to we went our separate ways. I never met Gerry after that incident but always remembered it.

Kevin Blake, with Gerry, was in the first organised group of Irishmen to go to Spain with Frank Ryan in December 1936. He received special recognition from the Spanish Government for his distinguished service as reported in the Irish Press on the 6.10.37. He is now one of the forgotten ones.

I hope your eye won’t be too offended by this badly- typed letter.

With best wishes

Eugene Downing.

More material by/about Eugene is also available on this site:

An interview with him by myself and J Quinn - More here....

There are 4 obituaries available about him: One by Manus O'Riordan, another appeared on the Indymedia site.: a third in Saothar and one in the Irish Times

In addition to this letter, Eugene has written several few other pieces.Here are some that are now online on this site.

A [funny] article about Eugene's street politics in the mid 1930's - Street Journalism.

A letter to the Irish Times about Mattie Ryan, Pandit Nehru and a shooting exhibition.

The Plaque on the Wall, a report of a visit back to the hospital in Spain.

Letters from Josefina [about his time in hospital and letters between him and Josefina, one of the nurses.]

An interesting piece from Saothar, on Moscow's International Lenin School, attended by Bill McGregor, an IB volunteer.

A funny piece about a brief period when Eugene was in charge.

The IB and the Ebro.

The Siege of Connolly House. An interesting piece about a siege of the place the CP offices.

A letter to the Irish Times about the catholic church's refusal to allow a funeral service for IB volunteer Tony Fox.

Would anyone who knows of further articles by Eugene please get in touch. Ciaran Crossey

Belfast, 6th August 2003.