James Hyndman - Glasgow-Strabane volunteer

As children most of us would have enjoyed it when our Mother took out the box of family photographs. A simple pleasure now, but to me in the 1950’s, the photos of my Dad in his fireman’s uniform or Uncle Sandie in his RAF uniform, pictures of Sandie’s family on the beach in South Africa on Christmas day, was exciting stuff.

One particular photo of a young man and woman has left it’s footprint and always remained with me. The young woman I believe, was my Aunt Francis(Boggs) and the young man my Mother’s cousin, James Hyndman. The story my mother told, was that the young man’s family had moved to Scotland and he used to holiday with her family in Strabane,. Later he had gone to Spain with the International Brigades and had been killed defending a bridge. As I grew older my own political views and understanding of the Spanish Civil War developed and my thoughts on the photo where usually a mixture of sadness and pride, both that a young man should die so young and that a cousin of my Mother’s had participated in what is recognised as one of the greatest acts of idealism and self sacrifice of the 20th century, the creation of the International Brigades to defend democracy in Spain.

Two events coincided that encouraged me to research Jame’s story, I had started to compile my family tree and noticed that my Mum’s aunt Matilda had married a Robert Hyndman from Ardstraw. Then when surfing the internet for articles on the Spanish Civil War I came across a report of a speech by Juan María Gómez Ortiz, member of A.D.A.B.I.C. (Associació d’Amics de les Brigades Internacionals a Catalunya) to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the farewell for the International Brigades ( Barcelona, 28th October, 2000). In it he mentioned “the young Scotsman Jimmy Hyndman” as being among the first of ‘the fallen’. Of course it set me to wondering was that ‘young Jimmy Hyndman’ the same person as the young man in the photo.

Searching the Scottish records enabled me to prove James connection to Robert and Matilda and I was then fortunate to contact Jim Carmody of the International Brigade Memorial Trust in London. Jim himself is from Belfast and has a particular interest in Irish volunteers in the Brigades. He was extremely helpful and knowledgeable and provided me with the records of James’ service in the International Brigades.

James’ parents where Robert Hyndman from Meghay Ardstraw and Matilda Boggs from Legfordrum. They where married in Newtownstewart Parish Church on the 30th July 1896. Matilda came from a large family, six brothers and seven sisters. Her parents where John Boggs from Legfordrum and Martha Quin from Urney. I don’t have as much information on Robert’s family as yet, but his father was David Hyndman from Ardstraw and his mother Susan Dean. There might still be a number of James first cousins living in the Strabane area, although Freddie Boggs of Lower Main St is the only one I know off.

Robert and Matilda must have moved to Glasgow sometime between 1896 and 1899 as James’s brother John Boggs Hyndman was born on the 31/12/1899, the family was then residing at 8 Fleming St Govan. Freddie Boggs remembers staying with the family at Fleming St when he went over to the ‘Old Firm’ matches. In the 1901 Census the family are still at Fleming St and there are now three children, Robert, John and sister Susan. Robert the father is employed as a Engineering Labourer in the ship yard.

James was born on the 4th September 1911 at 175 Queen St Govan. Robert died in 1927 and the family is shown as residing at 183 Queen St Govan. James would then have been 16 years old, at that time of his father’s death, a time when Glasgow was the centre of radical working class politics in Britain but also a hotbed of sectarianism. That James to his credit managed to rise above the prejudices of the sectarian politics rife in Glasgow is evident. He was a prominent member of the Young Communist League and active in organising the 1936 Hunger march to London , according to his mother he had then already decided to go to Spain to fight Fascism, because he said it was ‘his duty to do so’. (Irish Press’2/2/1937)

James had visited Russia and Germany and spoke both languages, he is known to have left Glasgow with the Hunger March and was in London in 1936, a photo of him in front of the Hunger March banner is reproduced here from ‘ The Challenge’, the young Communist League newspaper .

At this time various groups opposed to Fascism had set up routes into Spain by sea and over the Pyrennees for the volunteers , it’s not known which route James took but by early December 1936 he had arrived in Spain, one of the first to go there from Britain.

At Madriqueras / Albacete he joined the 145 strong No.1 Company (British, Irish, Dutch and Cypriot volunteers) attached to the XIV International Brigade. On the 24/12 /1936 the Company was sent from Albacete to the Cordoba Front to try to stop the nationalist offensive towards Lopera. The Company suffered heavy losses in killed and wounded, James was with the poet John Cornford when he was killed, on the attached document Cornford’s name is spelt wrongly. James was then a Group Leader / Machine Gunner in the machine gun section of the company. On 10/1/1937 the remainder of the company was transferred up to the Madrid front

On the 12/1/1937 at Las Rozas James and two comrades where killed trying to repel a nationalist attack. They where struck by an artillery shell. His comrades where James Kermode from Airdrie / Glasgow and George Palmer from Andover, Hants.

It would be interesting to know and understand the forces and immediate influences that radicalised and shaped James political beliefs and led him to Spain. If anyone has any knowledge of James, his family in Ireland or Scotland, correspondence etc. I would be very grateful if they would get in touch with me.

Thomas Barr

134 Belldoo, Strabane

Co. Tyrone.



The information regarding James service in Spain was compiled for me by Jim Carmody of the International Brigades Memorial Trust from information held in the Karl Marx library in London.