In Search of Michael Lehane
This document presents a compilation of 8 inter-connected documents giving the first substantial biography of Mick Lehane, giving details of his experiences in Spain and how these details were unraveled. Manus is the author of a number of works on the Spanish Civil War, see our production of his pamphlets, Irish and Jewish Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War and the biography of Frank Edwards.
Thanks in advance to Manus and just to remind everyone, copyright belongs to Manus. Any commercial use is banned and any academic use should ensure that the author is properly acknowledged. Please also acknowledge our site.
Ciaran Crossey, 17th November 2001, updated May 23rd 2007See a photo of his plaque on the Memorial Map
Irish Anti-Fascist and war hero of Spain and Norway.
Manus O'Riordan, 1996, revised and updated January 2000
If you take the road from Killarney to Macroom and turn off at Poll Gorm Bridge towards Kenmare, you will come to a crossroads just three miles short of the village of Kilgarvan. Known as Droichead Ui Mhora, or Morley’s Bridge, it marks the turn where you can make an alternative journey across the Doire na Sagart mountains to the West Cork Gaeltacht of Cuil Aodha. It was here on May 7, 1989 that my father, International Brigade veteran Michael O’Riordan, unveiled a plaque which was erected by the Republican Graves Association of Killarney "in memory of Michael Lehane, a member of the International Spanish Brigade, who gave his young life at sea that the underprivileged of all nations would enjoy a happy and prosperous existence."
But who was Michael Lehane?
In true Kerry Republican tradition, the inscription is as much intriguing as it is informative, shedding light on but one aspect of his heroic life and none whatsoever on the context or even date of his death.
Michael Lehane was born at Morley’s Bridge on September 27, 1908. If he was fated to die at sea, it was the land that he loved. He accordingly entered Darrara Agricultural College, near the West Cork town of Clonakilty, at the age of 19. Economic circumstances were, however, to force him to abandon any hope of a future in farming, leave his native Kerry and move to Dublin to work as a builder’s labourer.
It was while residing in digs at O’Neill’s Hotel, 119 Capel Street, that the late Patrick Campbell from Donegal’s Cruacha Gorma mountains first got to know Lehane in 1936, both as a fellow-lodger and a fellow building-worker
No one could meet a more trustworthy friend. We became like brothers. One never wanted as long as Michael had a share. A socialist heart and soul, he could not bear to see anyone in need. He was a great workman at any kind of work, a man who loved work and a well-educated fellow who took a keen interest in social politics.
No matter how close their friendship, Lehane nonetheless provided Campbell with no inkling whatsoever as to the reasons for his departure from the scene later that year. Michael Lehane’s military identification book for Spain lists his date of entry into the International Brigades as December 14, 1936. He was, accordingly, among the very first participants in the Irish Unit formed by Frank Ryan to defend the Spanish Republic against both the domestic fascist revolt and the foreign fascist invasion. Lehane received his baptism of fire in the horrors of war that very month on the Cordoba front where the Irish Unit first went into action on Christmas Eve and where nine of them were to meet their deaths.
By the New Year thousands of German and Italian fascist troops were massed around Madrid and members of the Irish Unit were among the International Brigadiers evacuated from the Cordoba front over a period of two days in order to repel the threat to the capital.
Michael Lehane accordingly went on to fight in the Battle of Las Rozas de Madrid in January 1937 where Dinny Coady, the son of a 1913 striker from Dublin’s Corporation Street, was killed.
Michael Lehane returned on leave to Ireland and resumed his digs in O’Neill’s Hotel. Patrick Campbell recalled:
Michael was working with builders like myself until the strike came (in April 1937). The big builders’ strike put an end to all building work and brought it all to a standstill. Our income was seven shillings a week from the (United) Builders’ Labourers’ Trade Union, East Essex Street, near SS. Michael and John’s Church. It was commonly known as the ‘Hocksey’s’ Union. The heads of the Hocksey’s were Joe Leavey and Darkie Brennan of Cuffe Street and Nibbles Byrne, known as the ‘Cod Major’ with his heavy moustache, from Harold’s Cross. No one in the union was ever sure when he would be paid his seven shillings and during the strike we had many funny experiences. One Sunday morning most of its members decided they had about enough. When they called to the ‘Goose Club’, as it was called, there was no ‘cash’ in the kitty so all formed-up and marched to Cuffe Street and got Darkie and Joe out of their beds. All the members were angry men and the clenched fist sign was shown to the executive in unmistakable fashion. The seven shillings a man was found somewhere and from that on the (Irish) Transport and General Workers Unions took all of us over. I am still a member of that union (in 1983). From the Transport Union we received twenty-two shillings a week and that was my income for the following five months.... (until) by the second week in October the builders’ strike had reached an end after six months.
Later that summer Campbell had been led to believe by Lehane that: During the strike he was fortunate to get work with a small private builder.
In reality, the reason for Lehane’s departure from O’Neill’s Hotel was that he had re-volunteered for Spain and, evading both the British and French authorities, had once again made the hazardous climb across the Pyrenees mountains. He was to participate in the Battle of Brunette, near the Guadarrama River and lying west of Las Rozas de Madrid. That battle lasted from July 6 to July 26, 1937. "H.K." of the International Brigade’s British Battalion provided a contemporary account of the first day of that offensive as they stormed the fascist-occupied town of Villanueva de la Canada:
Now we are on the Brunette road.... We move up the shallow ditch road, and approach the town. The Church tower is in view. Hurry on! Nearer! Nearer! Hell breaks loose. Rat, tat, tat! Shouts. Cries. Curses. The air is full of lead. Those machine-guns in the Church tower are getting us Willie Keegan gets a burst through the head. Another good lad gone. There are twenty knocked out, at the very least, by now... Good man Jones! Good man Lehane! Getting the wounded away. You have a long way to go, and to come back. But you’ve had the devil’s own luck so far.
In later years Patrick Campbell was to learn of Lehane: He had, all through the conflict, been a close friend of Frank Ryan and I have been told by one of Michael’s comrades that on one occasion he risked his own life to save Frank’s life.
With Frank Ryan back at base at Albacete, the Irish casualty rate at Brunette continued to mount. Seven of them were killed and Michael Lehane was among those wounded. On July 12 Peter O’Connor recorded in his diary: I feel very lonely now as I am the only Irish man left in the line, the rest being either wounded or killed.
On July 30, 1937 Frank Ryan wrote to Helen O’Reilly to reassure Lehane’s family as to his safety, while glossing over the fact that he had actually been wounded:
Tell Michael Lehane’s folks that he is fit as a fiddle. He’s been promising me for a week that he’ll shave. He’s a great lad. He has been through three weeks of hell and is willing to take more, even just now.
Following a period of rest, Peter O’Connor teamed up with Michael Lehane in August in a new camp at Pozorrubio on the banks of the river Jucar. O’Connor himself left Spain in September and Lehane must also have done so at about the same time.
But Lehane was as yet far from being fit as a fiddle. In January 1937 the first group of American doctors and nurses had left for Spain and a year later a booklet was published to mark their on-going contribution. It reproduced a 1937 (but otherwise undated) letter written from Dublin by a Mrs. June Richardson Lucas of San Francisco to Dr. Thomas Addis of the US Medical Bureau:
Just a line to report a meeting last night. Three men invalided home from Spain spoke before the Committee here which corresponds to ours. It was strange. In a crowded room - no one knew I was American - Paddy Duff began: ‘I am here because of the care I had in an American hospital unit’. He was very hoarse, shot through the neck. Then came Paddy McElroy, and he said the same. By that time you may imagine I was deeply moved. Michael Lehane spoke last. He does not look as though he had long to live. He told me an American surgeon had saved his life. Somehow it all became so real. I wish Michael Lehane could tell the world what he told us. Lehane’s face, his eyes shining, his belief that fascism must be fought if we are to save our democracies. And yet no bitterness. The way all the men spoke of American medical aid - the need of it the mercy of it! That was Lehane’s word. This is to tell you of the gratitude for American hospital units by men who had been saved by them.
Lehane’s commitment to life nonetheless ensured a much speedier recovery than would have seemed possible to that American witness. Patrick Campbell wrote of sharing digs with him once again until December 1937, before going on to describe how Lehane’s final period of work in Ireland subsequently materialised on a major building project organised by the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union:
The spring of 1938 was a continuous long stretch of inclement weather, so there were weeks the builders on outside work barely earned a pound a week. However little the earnings, we managed to live on it until the summer of that year when the building of the Adelphi Cinema began in Abbey Street and I got a job there with the builders Stone and Sons, Ringsend, Dublin. Earlier that year the old Plaza Building in Abbey Street had been destroyed by fire, so the site was approved for the building of the Adelphi Cinema. Our first task was to demolish the walls and the floors of the Plaza and every few feet of those floors were ‘criss-crossed’ with inch and two-inch re-in forcing bars and expanded metal. There were no air compressors and the entire six floors had to be cut down with sledgehammers and dumper. This was hard and heavy work, but as long as the few pounds came by the weekend all was well. John McGinty and Michael Lehane, whom I had left behind in O’Neill’s Hotel when I got married, had now joined me on the Adelphi Cinema building job and their company made me feel very happy. I was glad to see them get work on this fairly big job.
Michael Lehane was, however, extremely anxious to return to Spain. On this occasion he decided to inform Campbell without, however, revealing the fact that he had previously been there in 1936 and 1937. Given the Catholic Church’s vicious campaign against the Spanish Republic, Lehane’s reticence made sense. Campbell was a very devout and committed Catholic who was extremely proud of the fact that he had served as a steward at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress under the command of its Chief Marshal, General Eoin O'Duffy.
Campbell related how Lehane gradually enlightened him on the real issues, if not the precise terminology, of the War in Spain:
Eoin O’Duffy’s Blue Shirt Movement had started under his direction with the help of Mr. Cronin and some others. Having been the first Commissioner of the Garda Siochona, he had taken a major part in their training and discipline and contributed much to the smooth and noteworthy organisation of police arrangements for the Eucharistic Congress. After many collections at church gates after Sunday Masses throughout the country, O’Duffy formed an Irish contingent willing to give service to General Franco’s cause, which claimed to be on the side of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement very soon provoked Irish leftists and many workers’ organisations in Ireland whose sympathies were on the side of the Workers’ Republic. In opposition, several Republican leaders began to work in finding volunteers for the Irish branch of the International Workers’ Brigade - one of the most prominent leaders was the late Frank Ryan.
Michael and myself had many debates and conversations on the subject, and Michael had kept a close eye on the course of the Civil War from its very start. He was so convinced that the Workers’ Republic was sincerely defending the workers’ cause against Fascist influences that he decided to pack up the job on the Adelphi and volunteer his services to the International Brigade in Spain. Both John and I were sorry to see Michael leave, and we missed him very much. He wrote to us from London on his way and on several occasions while in Spain. In his letters he explained the whole situation and the manner in which German planes bombed towns, killing and destroying the population of those towns. I understand Michael was one of the last of the Irishmen in the International Brigade to leave Spain.
Eugene Downing (Eoghan 0 Duinnin) of Dublin was to serve with Michael Lehane in company no. 4 of the British Battalion of the New Army of the Ebro. In the training camp at the Catalan town of Marsh in the summer of 1938 Lehane was to make a deep impression upon him, the manner in which he handled his rifle proving him to be the most thoroughgoing of soldiers. But Lehane was no less a man possessing a sense of both history and culture - explaining to Downing how "La Nina Bonita" was the poetic name for the Spanish Republic.’
Both Michael O'Riordan and Eugene Downing, who are now the sole remaining Irish survivors of the Ebro campaign, recall how Michael Lehane served with them on a committee formed to organise a Wolfe Tone Commemoration and fiesta in June. Among the star acts were Russian dances performed by the London Jewish volunteer, Max Nash, who had formed a very close bond with Lehane, and Irish songs from Lehane himself.
As Downing observed:
It was the practice of Michael Lehane to explain the history of every song sung in Irish and provide details of every poetic image. When the fiesta was over, I doubt whether there was anyone present who did not understand who Roisin Dubh, Caitlin ni Uallach~in and the Seanbhean Bhocht were.
In a similar fashion, when the President of the Indian National Congress, Pandit Nehru, paid a solidarity visit to the International Brigade troops, Lehane engaged him in discussion on the history of the Fenian Brotherhood.
Lehane was to participate in the last great offensive of the Spanish Republic when the Ebro River was re-crossed on July 25, 1938 and the International Brigades advanced to the town of Corbera. Between Corbera and the next town of Gandesa lay Hill 481, nicknamed the "pimple", under firm fascist control. Successive attempts by the poorly armed International Brigadiers to capture that Hill were beaten back by superior, murderous firepower. Lehane’s soul mate Max Nash - as well as his fellow-Irishmen Paddy O’Sullivan of Dublin, George Gorman of Derry and Jim Straney of Belfast - were to meet their deaths on that Hill. Michael Lehane was to be wounded on July 31. He was carried to safety by Michael O'Riordan, whom Lehane cursed all the way down the Hill, as every jolting step increased the pain of his wounds. The following day, Lushness, O’Riordan was himself wounded in a further unsuccessful attempt to take that Hill.
Michael Lehane finally left Spain by train in December, accompanied by Eugene Downing who had undergone a below-the-knee amputation as a result of a foot-wound he had received on Hill 481. Shortly before reaching the French border the train full of evacuees stopped and the occupants were addressed for the last time by the International Brigades’ first Commissar, Andre Marty. They were speedily transported across France and put on the ferry for England. At the office of the Irish High Commissioner in London’s Regent Street they were sneered at by a budding young Irish diplomat who proclaimed: "Franco is winning". They were accompanied by an official to Euston Station to make sure they got on the boat train for Holy head. Lehane and Downing arrived back in Dublin’s Westland Row railway station on Mid-Winter’s Day, December 21, 1938.
In 1939, the Kerry International Brigadier Michael Lehane emigrated to the English city of Birmingham where his brother Stephen had set up home. Stephen, a year older than Michael, is now his sole surviving brother and still resides in Birmingham with his daughter Julia Bagley who "has very happy treasured memories of her uncle Michael’. Michael Lehane is also remembered as follows by his nephew Con, now resident again in the family home at Morley’s Bridge, Kilgarvan:
I knew him well, as he lived with us in England. (We moved there before the War In fact it was he who took my mother and myself over to join my father in Birmingham). I remember his arrival at our house in King’s Heath from Spain. He was on crutches. That would be his second time wounded. I also recall police raids on the house because of his involvement with the Daily Worker newspaper. I believe it was regarded as subversive.
Eugene Downing also recalls his last meeting with Lehane:
I met Michael in London during the Second World War when he was in London as a delegate to the People’s Convention in (January) 1941. I never saw him again after that. I believe he was working in, Birmingham.
So, how then did Michael Lehane subsequently meet his death? Various versions have hitherto been published. Patrick Campbell wrote incorrectly as to which navy was involved:
After the exit of the Irish section of the Brigade, Michael joined the British Merchant Navy and was later, under tragic circumstances, lost as sea. That is in short the end of a friend whom I will remember to the end of my days.
Completely correct as to the navy, but inaccurate as to circumstance, Peter O’Connor has related:
Michael Lehane joined the Norwegian Merchant Navy and lost his life when his ship was attacked and sunk on the Murmansk run.
Inaccurate in respect of both date and circumstance, I myself have also written:
Allied convoys played a vital role in bringing war supplies to the Soviet port of Murmansk. It was during one of those convoys in 1942 that Lehane’s ship was torpedoed and sunk by the Nazis.
Apart from the incorrect date, it is the tribute paid by Michael O’Riordan which has hitherto provided the clearest insight into the meaning of Lehane’s sacrifice:
Michael Lehane, Kilgarvan, Country Kerry, unable to bring himself to wear a British uniform, but recognising the vital need for the defeat of Hitler in World War II, instead joined the Norwegian Merchant Navy. His contribution was the important one of war transportation and supply. He was killed at sea when his ship was attacked in 1942. Mick Lehane had a distinguished record in Spain, being wounded several times, the last occasion being at the battle of the Ebro, when his close companion, the Londoner Max Nash was killed.
Michael O'Riordan was arrested by the Irish Government and interned without trial in the Curragh Military Camp from 1940 to 1943. Michael Lehane’s great generosity of spirit led him to set aside some of his hard-earned wages from Birmingham building work in order to forward pocket-money to his imprisoned comrade, accompanied by a correspondence wherein Lehane reflected on his responses to the unfolding character of World War II. As it moved from the ‘phoney war of the ‘Men of Munich’ to the resistance movements of occupied Europe, Lehane was more and more convinced that Hitler had to be stopped by hook or by crook. Moreover, this conviction had crystallised prior to - even if subsequently reinforced by - Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. His Kerry Republicanism, however, made it impossible for Lehane to contemplate wearing a British military uniform. He finally wrote to O'Riordan that he had found the solution to his dilemma: he would participate in the Allied war effort by enlisting in the Norwegian Merchant Navy.
When the Norwegian military forces had been forced to surrender to Nazi Germany in June 1940, its merchant navy of one thousand ships disobeyed Quisling’s orders to return to occupied Norway and came to play a vital role in Hitler’s eventual defeat. Norwegian tankers were estimated to have carried forty per cent of all the oil to the different theatres of war, and the share of supplies transported to Great Britain was 19 of similar magnitude.
As U.S. President Roosevelt was to declare on September 16, 1942:-
If there is anyone who doubts the democratic will to win, I say, let him look to Norway. Abroad, Norwegian ships and Norwegian men have rallied to the cause of the United Nations. And their assistance to that cause has been out of all proportion to their small numbers.
Norwegian poet Norah Greg - who was himself fated to be shot down over Berlin in December 1943 - had written of them:
First the answer came from ocean.
Norway’s forty thousand seamen,
One and all, they chose resistance:
Chose the exile, chose the longing,
Chose the death of flame and frostbite,
Chose to drift on flimsy wreckage,
Lost a thousand miles from rescue:
Chose to their eternal honour.
And Michael Lehane made that very same choice. But was it possible to find out more about the final years of his struggle against fascism? The former Norwegian ambassador to Ireland, Jan Astern - anxious to pay his respects to the memory of:
Michael Lehane who for his very idealistic reasons joined the Norwegian Merchant Navy in the Second World War and shared the fate of so many of my heroic countrymen.
I forwarded my earlier article to the author Leif Valise, himself a wartime veteran of the Norwegian Merchant Navy. Thanks to his meticulous research, Valise was able to use Michael Lehane’s date of birth from the Newsline reproduction of his International Brigade ID. card in order to trace his record from the Norwegian National Archives:
It appears that he signed on the Norwegian steamer sis "Brant County" as a fireman on the 2nd of October 1941 and stayed on board that same ship until it was sunk by a German submarine in the mid-Atlantic on the 11th of March 1943. Twenty-four passengers and crew, among them Michael Lehane, lost their lives.
Valise rightly went on to correct my errors in Newsline:
Michael Lehane was not on his way to Murmansk when his ship was torpedoed. Actually very few Norwegian merchantmen sailed in the Murmansk convoys. "Brant County" sailed between the USA and the UK.
The "Brant County" had been built in 1915 and had belonged to a Bergen shipping company in the pre-war years. Leif Valise proceeded to translate two detailed accounts from Nortraships Flute, the 1976 history of the wartime Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission, written by Naval Commander Jon Rusting He gland. The first dealt with an earlier brush with death experienced by Lehane in mid-Atlantic in 1942 after the "Brant County" had sailed in convoy from Northern Ireland towards North America:
The ship left Belfast in convoy on the 9th of November (1942). The journey proceeded peacefully until the 21st of November when the convoy had reached the position 4348 N 5440 W At a quarter past midnight three British ships were suddenly sunk by torpedoes, one after the other The weather was cloudy and it was pretty dark. Several ships in the convoy fired salvos of "snowflakes", and some shot volleys of "tracers" in the direction where they assumed the sub was operating. However, nobody actually spotted it. The whole thing lasted for about 6-7 minutes, and darkness descended on the convoy again...
In the second account He gland proceeded to tell the story of the sinking of "Brant County" four months later:
Convoy HEX 228, leaving Halifax (Nova Scotia) on the 2nd of March (1943), consisting of 60 ships, got a fairly strong escort. two British and two Polish M. T.D.s, two British and three French corvettes, and from 5th to 14th of March a hangar ship with two American M. T.D.s. The German military secret service succeeded in tracing the convoy on the 8th of March, and in the following two days 18 submarines set course for the selected attack area, approx. 52~ N 270 W On the 10th of March, in the evening, the weather being fairly good, six subs went into action. A hot battle between the escorts and the subs ensued. The M. T.D. "Harvester" rammed U 444 and with the assistance of the French corvette "A conic" the sub was sunk. Next U 432 hit "Harvester" with a torpedo and the M. T.D. sank with its captain and a numerous crew. One hour later "A conic" took revenge, forced the sub to the surface with sink mines, peppered it with its guns and rammed it in the moment it started to sink.. While this went on, other subs torpedoed 6 ships in the convoy. The last one that was sunk, was sis. "Brant County", captained by Normal Brevet.
"Brant County" had a load comprising, among other items, 670 tons of explosives in holds 1 and 2, and a large shipment of carbide in no. 3 hold. The carbide immediately caught fire. In the course of a few seconds the mishap, including the top bridge, was enveloped in flames, gas and smoke. On the bridge were five men. Three of them climbed down a pillar and moved aft to the port lifeboat, which they lowered into the sea. One of the men on the bridge jumped right into the sea and disappeared.
The last man on the bridge, Captain Brevet, died in the flames. In the engine room three men were killed and a fourth did not manage to stop the engine as the room was filled by coal dust and sea water He managed barely to reach the deck and thus saved himself From the port life boat - holding 23 men and drifting away from the ship - they could see members of the crew and some passengers striving to release two rafts. Then suddenly, when the lifeboat was about 225 yards aft of the ship, the fire on board reached the ammunition part of the cargo, and the "Brant County" exploded. In the light from the flames, almost reaching the sky, they could observe big pieces of iron and other wreckage being flung into the air. Shortly afterwards pieces of wreckage started to rain down around the lifeboat and where the "Brant County" had disappeared. The life boat escaped unharmed, but U 757, captained by Lieutenant Commander Dietz, which had surfaced to observe the result of the torpedoing, had its periscope bent and suffered other exterior damage from the rain of splinters. The men in the life boat did not observe anybody alive where the explosion had taken place, only burning pieces of wreckage. Half an hour later the men in the lifeboat were picked up by the sis. "Stuart Prince". One of them had received severe burns and died soon afterwards. Altogether 24 men lost their lives, among them an ensign, six sergeants and a soldier from the Norwegian army.
Thanks to Leif Valise, we in Ireland at last know the details of Michael Lehane’s death on the "Brant County" on March 11, 1943 - not only verbally from He gland's account, but also visually from the photographs of its torpedoing and sinking which were taken by seaman Ole Frieze Backer from the deck of the Norwegian freighter em's. "Montevideo" which had been sailing in the same convoy.
This has prompted Con Lehane to recall:
My Uncle Michael was a mighty man. I was nine years old when he was killed. Shortly after his death one of the survivors called to see us. He came from Wales, if I remember, and he told us what happened. So when I saw the photos of the ship’s end it was just as he had described it.
In 1989, a month prior to unveiling the plaque to Michael Lehane at Morley’s Bridge, Michael O’Riordan argued that Lehane had belonged to a category of International Brigadier that should be credited with showing particular heroism:
They went to Spain, were all wounded, came back here to recuperate and went back to Spain again. It is one thing to go to a war and fight and realize you can’t come back. But it is the great test of a man who goes into war, knows what it is, comes back and then climbs over the Pyrenees again to have another go.
And it was a still further test of Lehane’s heroism that he resolved to have yet another go against fascism from 1941 to 1943. Leif Valise informs us:
According to Norwegian law Michael Lehane is entitled to receive decorations for his war effort in the Norwegian Merchant Navy. As far as I can see, he has earned the medal given all active participants in the War and also the war medal given those who served for at least six months in particularly dangerous posts (like in the convoys). Since he died in service his family can claim these medals post mortem.
Valise also resolved to make Lehane’s story known to the Norwegian public and did so in the principal Labour paper Arbeiderbladet (Workers’ Daily) on February 17, 1996. He wrote:
The blackest month in the Battle of the Atlantic was March 1943. In the course of the first three weeks of this month the Germans sank ninety-seven Allied ships.
Valise entitled his article Not only Norwegians on our ships when Michael Lehane was sunk with the Norwegian "Brant County" " and proceeded to tell the story of that Kerry International Brigadier.
This article prompted another seaman war veteran, Bard Haugland, to write a further article for Arbeiderbladet on February 22, 1996 wherein he pointed out:
The freedom fighter Michael Lehane from Ireland, who was a stoker, on board the steamship "Brant County", went down with this ship when she was torpedoed on the Atlantic Ocean in 1943. Much indicates that he suffered the cruel fate common to many stokers during the War.
The torpedoes of the submarines usually hit mishap, where the engine and the steam boilers were situated. Consequently the stoker on watch would perish in an inferno of explosions and scalding hot steam. However, there are signs to the effect that Michael Lehane’s bereaved will get his Norwegian war decorations post mortem, an honour and a well-deserved thanks for services rendered!
All of which prompts his only surviving brother, Stephen Lehane, to write at 88 years of age:
I am very pleased and happy that Michael should be honoured in this way. Michael and I were very close and the shock news of his death is as real today as it was 53 years ago. He was a wonderful man, who never gave a thought for himself and was loved and liked by all who knew him.
The folk-song "An Poc Ar Buile" opens with the following reference to Michael Lehane’s birth place:
Ar mo ghabhail dom siar chun Droichead Ui Mhora
Pic’ im’ dhoid's me ‘dul i meitheal.
Of Michael Lehane himself we may truly say:
From Morley’s Bridge his way he made
A pike in his fist, fellow-workers to aid
Death cheated in Spain, Atlantic waves guard his grave
War convoys set sail, for freedom life gave.
2. AN POC AR BUILE -THE GOAT IS CRAZY
Original Irish-language song by Donal 0 Mullain. This English-language version by Manus O’Riordan in honour of Michael Lehane, born at Morley’s Bridge, Co. Kerry, September 27 1908. Fought as a Connolly Column volunteer in defence of the Spanish Republic 1936-38 Served as a volunteer in the Norwegian Merchant Navy on the Allied convoys of the Second World War, 1941-43. Torpedoed and killed at sea, March 11, 1943. Posthumously awarded the Norwegian War Service Medal at Morley’s Bridge, May 11, 1997. Accepted by his niece Julie Bagley on behalf of her father Stephen Lehane, whose other daughter Carol is married to Ton Mullins, grandnephew of Donal 0 Mullain.
To Morley’s Bridge on my way to labour
With pike in fist, sharing work with neighbour
What - through the mist - should I see await me
On a mountain ridge, but a puck gone crazy!
At full pace I raced, through the grass he chased me
And face to face at last engaged me
I’d one chance granted to him subdue
But on his back I landed and away we flew!
With heart in mouth, in trepidation
From his leaps and bounds I feared devastation
From rock to rock going round the bend
From Kerry to Cork and back again!
In Rochestown a great big Garda
To pin us down his forces marshalled
But a fearsome run left his trousers torn
When that Peeler’s rump met the goats sharp horn!
When the town of Dingle at least we reached
Who came out agin us but the parish priest
saying "Hanam ‘on diabhal, I’ve seen the divil
Streak through the fields on a poc~n buile!"
3. "An Irishman’s Diary" THE IRISH TIMES, May 9,1997
Norway to honour Kerry anti-fascist
Ar mo ghabhail dom siar chun Droichead Ui Mhora Pic im dhoid, ‘s me ‘dul i meitheal.
For those unfamiliar with the Doire na Sagart mountain borderland that straddles South Kerry and the West Cork Gaeltacht, reference to Droichead Ui Mora, or Morley’s Bridge may only conjure up the first line of that well-known song "An Poc Ar Buile". And yet it is to Morley’s Bridge, just three miles east of the Co. Kerry village of Kilgarvan, that the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Helge Vindenes will travel on Sunday May 11 in order to pay homage at the memorial to one of its most heroic sons.
Michael Lehane was born at Morley’s Bridge on September 27 1908. He worked in Dublin as a builders’ labourer and was initially a member of the United Builders’ Labourers Trade Union. But his interest in the welfare of his fellow workers extended far beyond these shores. He enlisted in the International Brigades on December 14th 1936 and was accordingly one of the very first participants in the Irish Unit formed by Frank Ryan to defend the Spanish Republic against both domestic fascist revolt and foreign fascist invasion. He went into action on the Cordoba front on Christmas Eve, 1936 where nine of his fellow Irishmen were to be killed. The following month he switched fronts and fought in the Battle of Las Rozas de Madrid where he helped repel the threat to the capital.
Home on leave for a few months, he resumed work in the construction industry until the building strike of April 1937, during which dispute he became a member of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. He was. however, soon back in Spain in order to participate in the Battle of Brunete in July 1937. Contemporary reports spoke of his heroism under fire from the fascist machine-guns which were located in the Church tower of Villanueva de La Canada. Lehane rescued many of the wounded and carried them to safety before being severely wounded himself.
In the early summer of 1938, having eventually recovered from these injuries, he began work as an ITGWU member on the construction of the Adelphi Cinema, now recently departed from Dublin’s Abbey Street. But once again the call of the anti-fascist struggle led him to climb back over the Pyrenees into Catalunya and participate in the last great offensive of the Spanish Republic. On July 25, 1938 the International Brigades re-crossed the river Ebro and advanced towards the town of Gandesa. Blocking their way, however, was Hill 481, under firm fascist control. Successive attempts by the poorly-armed Republicans to capture it were beaten back by superior murderous fire-power, Lehane’s’ closest friend on that front, the Jewish Londoner Max Nash, as well as his fellow Irishmen, Paddy O’Sullivan of Dublin, George Gorman of Derry and Jim Straney of Belfast, all lost their lives under such fire. Lehane was wounded on July 31 and carried to safety by my father, Michael O’Riordan, whom he cursed all the way down Hill 481 as every jolting step intensified the pain of Lehane’s wounds. On the following day, La Lughnasa, my father was himself wounded in a further unsuccessful attempt to take that Hill.
After the defeat of the Spanish Republic Michael Lehane and Michael O’Riordan were separated physically but not spiritually. 1940 saw O’Riordan imprisoned without trial in the Curragh Internment Camp and Lehane working on the building-sites of Birmingham. The generous Kerryman forwarded pocket money to his imprisoned comrade and corresponded with him on the unfolding character of World War II. Hitler had to be stopped by hook or by crook! However, Lehane had a dilemma - perhaps it was the Kerry Republican in him, but he just could not bring himself to put on a British military uniform. He later informed O’Riordan that he had now found the solution to his problem - he would join the Norwegian Merchant Navy and sail in the Trans-Atlantic convoys ferrying much-needed war supplies for the Allied cause.
My father subsequently learned of Lehane’s death on one such convoy, but not much else was known. However, more than half a century later the key to unlock the mystery was provided. On the occasion of the SIPTU Delegate Conference in Killarney in October 1995 I wrote an article for my own (and Lehane’s) Union journal Newsline on the hero born only eighteen miles away. The then Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Jan Ostern, forwarded this article to Leif Vetlesen, a seaman veteran of those same wartime convoys.
By utilising the date of birth provided on Lehane’s International Brigade identity book, Vetlesen was able to establish the following facts from the Oslo records; On October 2, 1941 Lehane signed on as a fireman/stoker with the Norwegian steamer "Brant County". On one such convoy sailing out from Belfast in November 1942 three ships were suddenly sunk by torpedoes but Lehane’s own ship came safely through. It was otherwise with the convoy that left Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 2,1943. Eighteen Nazi German submarines set out to attack it on March 8 and on the evening of March 10 six of them went into action. The initial battle with the Allied escort ships saw one ship torpedoed with, however, two of the subs being hit in turn. But the remaining subs succeeded in torpedoing six merchant ships, the last of them being the "Brant County".
In the course of a few seconds during the early hours of March 11, 1943, the midship, including the top bridge, was enveloped in flames, gas and smoke. The Captain and four other crew members (including three in the engine room) perished immediately. Twenty three crewmen managed to launch the life boat. The remaining nineteen were also attempting to release two rafts but were too late: -
Suddenly, when the life boat was about 225 yards aft the ship, the fire on board reached the ammunition part of the cargo, and the "Brant County" exploded. In the light from the flames, almost reaching the sky, they could observe big pieces of iron and other wreckage being flung into the air. Shortly afterwards, pieces of wreckage started to rain down around the life boat and where the "Brant County" had disappeared.
Altogether, twenty-four men perished on board, including Michael Lehane. On February 17, 1996 Leif Vetlesen related Lehane’s story in the Labour daily newspaper Arbeiderbladet and in a further article on February 22 his fellow convoy veteran Bard Haugland also wrote:
Much indicates that Lehane suffered the cruel fate common to many stokers during the War. The torpedoes of the submarines usually hit midship where the engine and steam boilers were situated. Consequently the stoker on watch would perish in an inferno of explosions and scalding hot steam. However, there are signs to the effect that Michael Lehane’s bereaved will get his Norwegian war decorations post mortem, an honour and well-deserved thanks for services rendered!"
Because of the diplomatic and publicity campaign initiated by Leif Vetlesen, this is now the case. On January 11, 1997 Oslo’s foremost newspaper Aftenposten featured Michael Lehane as its lead story, carried an interview from Birmingham with his only-surviving brother Stephen (aged 88), and highlighted the interest taken in Lehane by our own Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dick Spring. On January 27 Aftenposten was able to report on the successful outcome with another front page headline - the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had finally decided to award to Stephen Lehane the Norwegian War Medal won by his brother’s heroic sacrifice. Leif Vetlesen will himself now travel to the ceremony hosted by Kilgarvan Community Council and the subsequent reception held in association with the Killarney Branch of SIPTU. And so May 11 will witness a unique occasion when surviving International Brigadiers will be joined by a Norwegian seaman war veteran in order to pay due tribute to their comrade-in-arms Michael Lehane.
From Morley’s Bridge his way he made
A pike in his fist, fellow-workers to aid.
Death cheated in Spain, Atlantic waves guard his grave
War convoys set sail, for freedom life gave.
4. MICHAEL LEHANE COMMEMORATION
Morley's Bridge, Kilgarvan, Co Kerry. May 11th 1997
Mr. Chairman, Tanaiste, Mr. Ambassador, Norwegian Navy and International Brigade comrades of Michael Lehane, members of the Lehane family, citizens of Kilgarvan and friends.
On behalf of SIPTU, formerly the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, it is indeed a great honour both for myself and for the Killarney Branch of SIPTU to be associated with this tribute to our fellow-member Michael Lehane who joined the ITGWU during the Dublin Building Strike of 1937.
I also bring greetings from another International Brigadier and outstanding British trade union leader who regrettably cannot be present today. For among those wounded with Mick Lehane in the July-August 1938 Battle for Gandesa was Jack Jones, subsequently General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. Jack was born in Liverpool in 1913 and named by his father as James Larkin Jones in honour of his comrade-in-struggle on the Liverpool Docks who had since gone on to found my own Irish union and was about to lead it during the epic Dublin Lockout of that year. In 1991 I had the honour of bringing Jack to pay his respects at the Morley’s Bridge Memorial, together with his wife Evelyn, whose first husband, Kilkenny-born George Brown, had been killed in the July 1937 Battle of Brunete where Mick Lehane was first wounded. He writes:
Many, many thanks for your invitation to attend the ceremony in honour of Mick Lehane. You have done wonders in keeping green the memory of Mick. I’ll be thinking about the event and silently remembering a splendid comrade. With warmest fraternal greetings. Salud!
Comradai eile a throid sa Spainn in eineacht le Michael 0 Liathain - agus a goineadh leis chomh maith os comhair Gandesa - is ea Eoghan 0 Duinnin. De bharr droch-shlainte ni feidir leis bheith I lathair inniu, ach ma chuimhni cinn i nGaeilge, La Nina Bonita agus an Roisin Dubh, scriobhann se an meid so:
Thug Michael O Liathain an-churam da raidhfil agus is minic a thug me fe deara go raibh se a muirniu aige amhail is da mba leannan a bhi aige. Saighdiuir criochnaithe ab ea e.
Fear leannta culturtha ab ea e freisin:
La Nina Bonita ab ea an t-ainm fileata (mar a mhineodh Micheal 0 Liathain e) ar Phoblacht na Spainne. Bhi se de nos ag Micheal O Liathain an stair a bhain le gach amhran Gaelach a mhiniu agus eolas a thabhairt ar gach iomha filiochta. Ba thabhachtai do miniu stairiull na an t-amhran fein. Nuair a bhi an fiesta thart, ni doigh horn go raibh duine I Iathair nar thuig cerbhi Roisin Dubh, Caitlin Ni Uahlachain no an tSeanbhean Bhocht.
Eugene Downing, who fought alongside and was wounded with Michael Lehane in the battle for Gandesa, says of his singing at a fiesta held in Spain to commemorate Wolfe Tone (who had founded Irish Republicanism two centuries ago):
It was the custom of Michael Lehane to explain the historical background of each Gaelic song and to provide information on each poetic image used.
It is therefore appropriate that tribute to such a man should also be paid in his native Irish.
Omos do laoch croga as Droichead Ui Mhora
Mick Lehane of Morley’s Bridge
A d’fhreagair achaini na Spainne
Ar uair na prainne
Is ar son cosmhuintire gach tire
Rinne ni ba mho na a chuid.
From Morley’s Bridge
His way he made
A pike in his fist
Fellow workers to aid
Death cheated in Spain
Atlantic waves guard his grave
War convoys set sail
For freedom life gave.
Do throid an laoch so os comhair Gandesa
Um La Lughnasa triocha ‘hocht
Ach in aghaidh lon cogaidh na bhfaisistithe
Nior leor raidhfli na mbocht.
Le buamai Hitler is gunnal mora
Franco ar uafasach do scaoil
Anuas ar na hoglaigh chroga
Ag troid sa bhearna baoil.
Do goineadh Micheal 0 Riordain
Tar eis do Micheal 0 Liathain
A dhluthchara gonta
Thar a dhroim a iompar slan
Dob as Droichead UI Mhora thar na sleibhte
Laistiar de Ghuagan
As ceanntar Chill Gharbhain.
‘Gus leis an gCogadh Domhanda dar gcionn
In aghaidh Naitsithe na Gearm6ine
Do gheall Mick Lehane do Mick O Riordan go leanfadh se
Go dti an la tubaisteach gur shrois
Torpedo de chuid Hitler e a scrios
Is a chuir go toin poill
An long ar ar Threastail se.
0 Morley’s Bridge go Madrid
Gus ar convoys na h-Atlaintice
In aghaidh fascists ag troid
Ar gach uile seans do bhi aige.
Faraor, pleascaithe baite
Laoch an daonlathais basaithe!
Fear Fodhlach ag seoladh
Le foirthint chun na h-Eorpa
Mairnealach as Eirinn
I saorchabhlach na h-lorua
An Gaeloglach ba chroga
Ar thaoibh saoirse in aghaidh daoirse
0 Chiarrai go criochlul
In uaigh uaigneach sa mhuir fhuar.
Seachtain roimh La le Padraig
I mbliain an Chogaidh daichead’s a tri
I bhfad siar o chosta Inis Fail
Micheal an Droichid do shroich deireadh a shaoil
Ach mile buiochas da iobairt
Do bhi le blianta ag tiocht I dtir
Cunamh fuascailte do chomhghuaillithe
A scaoilfeadh Mor-roinn saoir.
Sioraiocht tri scribhneoireacht
Do scriobh Blascaodach "an t-Oileanach"
Bri a bheatha insan abairt
"Chun go mbeinn beo is me marbh".
Sioraiocht tri eacht laochais
Saol daonlathach luach a shaothair
Beo go deo an Liathanach!
[scriofa ag Manus 0 Riordain]
A Norwegian poet summed up vividly the sacrifice of his fellow countrymen with which Michael Lehane’s own life was joined. G.M. Hardy has translated as follows those lines by Nordahl Grieg who would himself give his life for freedom when shot down over Berlin in December 1943:
First the answer came from ocean.
Norway’s forty thousand seamen,
One and all they chose resistance:
Chose the exile, chose the longing,
Chose the death of flame and frostbite,
Chose to drift on flimsy wreckage,
Lost a thousand miles from rescue:
Chose to their eternal honour.
I wish to conclude by also quoting the Spanish poet, Rafael Alberti. It was Alberti who gave such inspiration to both his own Republican Army and the International Brigades with his public readings during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War. And it is Alberti who has also written a poem that can speak to us on an occasion such as this. In honour of Michael Lehane I have translated that poem into both of his native languages:
Ma fhaigheann mo ghuth-sa bas ar thalamh
Beir sios e chun na mara
Agus feg e ar an tra.
Beir sios e chun na mara
Guth nach bhfagfar balbh marbh
Mes captaen e ar long chogaidh bhen.
O biodh mo ghuth-sa gleasta
Le suaitheantais mhairnealaigh:
Le hancaire e mo chrol-se
Gus e ceangailte la realt
As a n-ardoidh seideadh gaoithe
Faoi lan seoil - mo ghuth gan eag!
If my voice should die on earth
It’s from the sea it may be heard
If you leave it on the shore.
So take my voice down to the sea
That a captain it may be
Of a white ship of war.
Oh let my voice be decorated
With the emblems of a sailor:
With an anchor from the heart
That anchor reaching for a star
And from that star the wind will rise
With wind to sail - my undying voice!
The unconquerable spirit of freedom that was embodied in Michael Lehane is indeed immortal and it is here with us today in this celebration of his life.
Manus O’Riordan May 11, 1997
Commemorative speeches at the Michael J. Quill Memorial Centre, Kilgarvan were made by the following.
(Chairperson) and Paidi Casey of Kilgarvan Community Council.
Dick Spring, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Helge Vindenes, Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland.
Julia Begley, niece of Michael Lehane.
Leif Vetlesen, of the Association of Norwegian Seamen War Veterans.
Michael O’Riordan and Peter O’Connor, Connolly Column veterans of the International Brigade, Spain.
Manus O’Riordan and Patsy Cronin (Killarney Branch Secretary) of SIPTU.
5. Speech by Leif Vetlesen
A Norwegian seaman war veteran at the Michael Lehane Commemoration, Kilgarvan, Sunday 11th May 1997
Your Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen, Irish friends.
I hope you won’t mind me starting out with a quotation from Sir Winston Churchill. In his work on the Second World War, he wrote the following in volume IX, Norwegian translation:
All through the war the Battle of the Atlantic was the all dominating factor. Not for one second did it slip our minds, that everything else happening - ashore, at sea, in the air - would in the long run depend upon the outcome of this battle.
It was in this battle - the Battle of the Atlantic that proud son of Ireland, Michael Lehane, lost his life when the ship he served on, the old Norwegian steamer, "Brant County" was torpedoed by a German submarine, in the Mid-Atlantic on March the 11th 1943, two hours after midnight.
At the time when the Second World War broke out, Norway ranked no. 4 among the seafaring nations, after England, the United States and Japan. Only a small percentage of the Norwegian merchant navy sailed in home waters, about 90 per cent of the ships were engaged in overseas trade between foreign countries. Norwegian ships you thus met in harbours all over the world.
When Norway was invaded by Nazi-Germany on April the 9 in 1940 a merchant navy consisting of a little more than 1,000 ships, counting 4 million gross tons, sailed in foreign waters out of reach to the German invasion forces. The Germans, of course, were aware that this fleet would be a tremendous asset to the allied forces, and one of their first actions on Norwegian soil was to have the Norwegian arch traitor, Quisling, broadcast an order to all Norwegian ships in foreign waters to immediately sail for German or neutral harbours, preferably Spanish or Italian.
It is the great pride of the Norwegian seamen war veterans that not one single ship obeyed this order. Their crews all stayed one hundred percent loyal to the lawful Norwegian Government which later was to establish itself in London to carry on the struggle from exile. As the Norwegian author, Nordahl Grieg, wrote in one of his best known war poems:
Norway’s forty thousand seamen
one and all, they chose resistance,
chose the exile, chose the longing,
chose the death of flame and frostbite,
chose to drift on flimsy wreckage,
lost, a thousand miles from rescue:
Chose to their eternal honour.
And the Norwegian merchant navy, manned by skilled and experienced seamen, was destined to play a decisive role in the ensuing Battle of the Atlantic. Most important in this respect was the Norwegian tanker fleet, which ranked first in the world, consisting of 252 modern and fastgoing ships. Noel Baker, Minister in Churchill’s war government once said that England wouldn’t have been able to withstand the German air attacks - the Blitz - after the fall of France if it hadn’t been for the Norwegian tankers, at that time freighting close to 50 percent of the petrol and oil needed for Britain’s defence.
But also the Germans were well aware of the decisive importance of the Battle of the Atlantic. Their main aim was to cut Britain’s supply line across the ocean and thus force its enemy to succumb. The main weapon of the German navy in this battle was its submarines. And by the end of 1942/beginning of 1943 they were close to success. At that time the German shipyards launched 5 new submarines every week.
This enabled the Commander of the German Navy, Admiral Donitz, to let his submarines attack the allied convoys in units consisting of 15-20 crafts, soon to be named "wolf packs". Their tactics was to engage the convoys’ escort vessels and keep them busy, while a couple of subs suddenly emerged in the middle of the convoy, firing their torpedoes left and right.
"Brant County" became the victim of these wolf packs. In the beginning of March 1943 in Halifax on Nova Scotia it joined an eastbound convoy consisting of 60 ships, escorted by four destroyers and five corvettes. Midway across the Atlantic, on the March the 10, the convoy was attached by 18 submarines and six ships were sunk along with two of the escort vessels. The Germans lost two of their submarines.
The sinking of "Brant County" which took place in the middle of the night was particularly dramatic. In its hold the ship among other cargo carried 670 tons of explosives and a large shipment of carbide. When the torpedo hit, the carbide caught fire and the whole winter sky was lit up by the flames. In the course of a few seconds the amidships, including the top bridge, was enveloped in flames, gas and smoke. When the fire reached the hold where the explosives, mainly ammunition, were stored, a big explosion ensued. Pieces of wreckage started to rain down on the neighbouring deck of the submarine that had fired the torpedo, wrecking its periscope. A few minutes later what was left of "Brant County" disappeared in the sea.
Michael Lehane has signed on as a stoker, and was down below in the stokehole when the torpedo hit. The stokers in these old steamers - "Brant County" was built in 1915 - had a particularly dangerous and exposed job, down the bottom of the ship, flanked by boilers filled with steaming hot water and facing a series of open coal fires, a narrow, steep and winding iron ladder being the only escape route. Only one of the crew down the engine room managed to save his life when the torpedo struck amidships. The other three men on watch - including Michael Lehane - were never seen again and must be assumed killed immediately.
All together 24 men lost their lives with the sinking of the "Brant County". 23 others, in spite of the havoc created by the fire, had managed to lower a lifeboat and found themselves some 200 yards aft of the ship when the explosion occurred. Half an hour later they were picked up by another ship in the convoy.
A week after the sinking of "Brant County" the allies suffered their biggest set back in the Battle of the Atlantic. On March the 16 three wolf packs attacked two convoys bound for England. The battle lasted for three days and the Germans succeeded in sinking 22 ships without themselves losing one single submarine. 372 allied seamen lost their lives.
Seen in the light of the steadily increasing toll the wolf-packs had taken of the allied shipping during the three first months of 1943, this really meant that the Germans had come close to achieving their strategic goal: to cut the supply lines to Britain. According to rumours the British reserves of petrol and oil at this time had reached its lowest level during the war and would only have lasted three more weeks if further supplies were cut off.
This made the alarm sound on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain Churchill himself took the initiative to a top-level conference where it was decided to withdraw warships from other theatres of the war to strengthen the escort of the Atlantic convoys. In America a similar conference, headed by President Roosevelt, decided to set up a base for long range American Liberator aircraft on the southernmost tip of Newfoundland in order to close what was called "the air gap" in the middle of the Atlantic.
Experience had then shown that military aircraft provided the most effective protection of the convoys. Aircraft cover was therefore provided for when the convoys started out on their voyage across the Atlantic, either from American or British harbours. Because of the limited range of the airplanes available, however, there remained an uncovered gap in the Mid-Atlantic. The German submarines were of course aware of this and concentrated their attacks inside this air gap where they could operate without being spotted and attacked from the air.
These measures of strengthening the escort service and the closing of the air gap together with the technological advance - the extended use of the Radar - which made it possible to spot submerged submarines from the escorting navy vessels and aeroplanes - brought about a rapid and complete change in the situation. In May the same year - 1943 - not less than 41 German submarines were destroyed, by far the biggest number in any single month by then. Admiral Donitz was forced to withdraw his subs from the North Atlantic.
In reality the Battle of the Atlantic was won by the Allies by the end of May 1943. The spine of the German navy, including the fleet of submarines, was then broken. As you may know, the 50-year jubilee arrangement to celebrate this victory, took place in Liverpool, the biggest convoy harbour in England during the war, at the end of May 1993. Sailing in the Atlantic convoys for almost five years during the war, I myself took part in this celebration.
But - the cost of this victory was high both in men and ships. The Atlantic was destined to become the biggest ship graveyard in the world. 2,232 allied ships rest on the seabed and between 25 and 30,000 allied seamen went down with their ships. Norway’s total loss at sea during the war was more than half its merchant navy - 706 ships - 4,647 men.
One of these men was Michael Lehane, the Irishman. He had joined the baffle against fascism as a volunteer in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, and continued the struggle, joining the Norwegian merchant navy during the Second World War. He gave his young life in this struggle.
Glory to his name.
The Association of Norwegian Seamen War Veterans honours his memory.
With Leif Vetlesen at this Commemoration were four of Lehane's fellow International Brigadiers from the Spanish Anti-Fascist War: Michael O'Riordan, Peter O'Connor and Bob Doyle of Ireland's Connolly Column. The fourth Brigadier was Lou Gordon of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion.
6. Strad(d)ling Democracy and Fascism Doesn’t Work
A review of The Irish and the Spanish Civil War 1936-39: Crusades in Conflict by Robert A. Stradling, 1999; published by Mandolin, an imprint of Manchester University Press, and distributed in the USA by St. Martin’s Press. Carried in The Volunteer, USA, Publication of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
How does one go about reviewing a book which is not what it seems to be at face value?
This is not an even-handed account of the War, since in terms of the degree of actual military engagement and its spread over the duration of the International Brigade presence, the reality was one of whole-hearted commitment and sacrifice on the part of those 200 Irish who fought in defence of the Spanish Republic, in contrast with the 700 who followed the Irish fascist leader O’Duffy to Spain and left again within five months with no more than a handful of casualties. With the major proportion of the book, however, devoted to the latter, the resulting imbalance leaves the treatment of the International Brigadiers as in effect an extended Appendix.
Does the book then have any value? Stradling has a very readable style and can bring to life a battle-scene with great effectiveness. He is also a thoroughgoing researcher who from various International Archives, not available to my father Michael O'Riordan when writing his Connolly Column: The Story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936-39. has been able to compile a more extensive list of Irish participation in the International Brigades then previously published.
Stradling is also worth reading for the purpose of actually undermining one of his prime objectives in writing the book, "to seek redress of one reputation", Eoin O’Duffy, including the partial restoration of that Fascist leader’s grave. As Stradling’s account unfolds we find that O’Duffy effectively let down his own men by his behaviour.
Not often to be seen at the front, he led a separate existence, spending much of his time on tourist trips, visiting aristocratic patrons, attending receptions and socialising with his intimates in Salamanca’s Grand Hotel.
So writes Stradling, fully bearing out the assessment of Irish International Brigade leader Frank Ryan in his February 1937 letter to Gerald O’Reilly of the Transport Workers Union of America:
What did I come out here for? To be another O’Duffy, directing his men from the rear?... We would be out here if here if there never was an O’Duffy. We smashed his attempts to set up a dictatorship in Ireland... We came here to fight Fascism; it’s just an accident for us that 0’Duffy happened to be here fighting for it!
But while O’Duffy stands clearly exposed, Stradling is more circumspect in seeking to subtly damn the International Brigades while ostensibly paying tribute to their courage in battle. The book is dedicated "For the Fallen: Tom Hyde, Midleton - Jarama; Gabriel Lee, Tralee - Jarama; and Mick Kelly, Ballinasloe - Brunete; and all those Irishmen who died for their ideals in Spain". From the word go, a 2 to 1 Fascist majority among those honoured by name! And yet even the personal concern conveyed in such a dedication runs skin-deep. Only in the case of the Blueshirt Tom Hyde, who was killed in a fiasco engagement by his own side (Canary Island Falangists), does any human personality emerge. And that is due only to the fact that Stradling was provided with Hyde’s journal by his nephew and namesake Tom Hyde. But Tom in turn also knows the rights and wrongs of Spain, having crossed the street to ask me to convey his congratulations to my father when he and his fellow International Brigadiers were given the right to Spanish citizenship by unanimous decision of the Spanish Parliament. "A well-deserved honour!", as Tom Hyde 11 put it to me.
As for the other Franco volunteer, Gabriel Lee, Stradling does not even see fit to name him on the two occasions where a death on the Jarama front is noted, even though he had to hand a descriptive account of that death by Lee’s colleague George Timlin. Only at the end of it all does he name him with passing reference to a memorial pew in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral.
Lincoln Vets will, of course, grimace at the presence of their colleague Mick Kelly in that dedication. While there are a few brief references to Kelly in Stradling’s text, once again there is no narrative of the circumstances of his death, despite the availability of the powerfully-written eye-witness account by Paul Burns which was reprinted by the Lincoln Vets in their 1987 book Our Fight.
But getting the picture right is not Stradling’s objective. Of those Irishmen who fought for Franco he says: - "As commentators as different as Manus O'Riordan and Frank Ryan have admitted, the vast majority of their enemies were not fascists". But what was always added in such commentaries was that their leadership was most certainly Fascist. I once encountered by chance a 1982 re-union of four of Franco’s Irishmen. I had no reason to assume that three of them were Fascists, but their leader, Seosamh 0 Cuinneagan (Joseph Cunningham), most certainly was. When he sent me a copy of his 1975 pamphlet Saga of the Irish Brigade to Spain it was there in black-and-white in the Preface: The rise of neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism in Germany and Italy today may yet put straight the distorted face of history.
While citing 0 Cuinneagan's writings as a valuable source for his own account, Stradling covers up for his neo-Fascism. Protecting a character witness on the Fascist side is, however, complemented by character assassination of anti-Fascists. His account of Irish involvement with the Lincoln's places too much reliance on the racial stereotyping of the flight-of-fancy fictional account in William Herrick’s novel Hermamos.
But there are four specific cases where Stradling’s characterisation of Irish volunteers needs to be nailed head on. Of Tom O’Brien he writes: -
Unfortunately, a high degree of party loyalty did not guarantee a commensurate level of resolution in combat... He (O’Brien) crossed the Ebro with his comrades on 25 July, but within a few days he left the line, for a reason which even his biographer cannot identify.
In Strong Words Brave Deeds - The Poetry, Life and Times of Thomas O’Brien, Volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, which also contains a chapter by myself, O’Brien’s biographer H. Gustav Klaus in fact writes that he was in the thick of that horrific fighting on Hill 481: -
On 25 July the Fifteenth Brigade was called into action... (to) cross the Ebro... Eugene Downing distinctly recalls ‘him (O’Brien) crossing the river with the whole lot of us and being on that hill, firing with the rest of us’. Downing himself was wounded a few days later and had a foot amputated, while O’Brien left the line on 1 August - wounded or with a heart complaint - was back in hospital briefly, but discharged the next day and subsequently relieved of front-line service.
In a footnote to the same section on "resolution in combat", dealing with repatriation after the battle of Brunete, Stradling again writes: Michael Lehane’s card records him as having been sent home, although no injury or sickness is mentioned.
If Stradling had looked more carefully in the International Brigade Archives in London he would have found a 1938 publication of the Aid Spain Movement in the USA which contained the following account by an American observer of a meeting at which Lehane spoke following his return to Ireland on being wounded at Brunete: -
Michael Lehane spoke last. He does not look as though he had long to live. He told me the American surgeon had saved his life. Somehow it all became so real. I wish Michael Lehane could tell the world what he told us. Lehane’s face, his eyes shining, his belief that fascism must be fought if we are to save our democracies. And... American medical aid - the need of it - the mercy of it! That was Lehane’s word. This is to tell you of the gratitude for American hospital units by men who had been saved by them.
And yet Lehane did recover and went on to re-volunteer. He was wounded on Hill 481 on July 31,1938 and carried to safety by my father who in turn was wounded on the following day. Lehane’s anti-fascist struggle continued when he served in the Trans-Atlantic convoys of the Norwegian Merchant Navy from October 1941 until he was killed by a Nazi torpedo on March 11, 1943.
Following a campaign mounted by myself and the Norwegian Seamen War Veterans, Lehane was posthumously awarded its War Service Medal by the Norwegian Government at a ceremony in his native Kerry which was also attended by Lincoln Vet Lou Gordon. And on this past V-E Day, May 8,1999,1 laid a wreath in his honour at the Norwegian Navy War Memorial in his last port of call, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was interviewed by Canadian Radio on that occasion. So much for Stradling’s suggestion of Lehane’s lack of "resolution in combat"!
There is yet another example in this vein in the only two references he makes to a specific Republican prison camp: - Most unsuccessful deserters ended up in Camp Lucas, set in isolated countryside outside Albacete, ostensibly for ‘re-education’.
He adds a footnote: -
Bob Doyle’s response to questions inadvertently hints at a spell in Camp Lucas. He says at one point, for example, that the Political Commissars were ‘responsible for the care of prisoners.. .er. . .the er... volunteers, the Brigadiers, in every way'.
This is nothing short of slanderous. Considering the number of misprints in Stradling’s book, not least his lengthy quotation from "Frank Edwards" when in fact he is quoting from Peter O’Connor, it is a cheap shot at Bob Doyle’s slip-of-the tongue - particularly when Bob’s most intensive experience of Spain was indeed as a prisoner - but of the Fascists! But Stradling makes light of that when he also writes: Bob Doyle states that he was in the prison camp in San Pedro at some point in 1938-39.
At some point! Since he quotes from my 1987 lecture Irish and Jewish Volunteers in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War Stradling is perfectly well aware that I have documented Bob’s imprisonment from capture at Calaceite on March 31, 1938 until the prisoner exchange of February 6, 1939. Moreover, he has read my reproduction of Carl Geiser’s account in Prisoners of the Good Fight that the Irishman Bob Doyle and the American Bob Steck had been so savagely beaten by their concentration camp guards that the pro-Franco correspondent of the "New York Times", William Carney, was visibly shaken when shown their wounds.
But that is not the only occasion when Stradling selectively quotes from my material. He also refers to a letter which I wrote to Carl Geiser in April 1993 concerning another Irish inmate of the San Pedro concentration camp, Jim Haughey. He had been captured on the Ebro front and I made reference to Downing’s recall of Haughey’s naive Catholic faith in asking prior to the Ebro offensive whether or not the International Brigadiers might have a priest to minister to them at the Front. Stradling describes that as ‘pathetic" but I described it as poignant because as I informed Carl Geiser in the same letter, Haughey had said to a British fellow-prisoner, Frank West:
You know I shouldn’t be here at all! I’m on the ‘wrong side!’... I decided I would fight for the Faith in Spain. But I ended up on this side and am I glad I did!
But there was nothing pathetic about Haughey, because what Stradling also decided to omit from his use of my letter to Carl Geiser was my further account of Haughey’s bravery as a prisoner: -
He had been thoroughly educated by his experience and was so convinced of the justice of that cause (the Spanish Republic) that he courageously stood up as a ‘rojo’ before his fascist captors and endured an almost fatal beating from a pick axe.
And like his fellow Irishman Mick Lehane, Jim Haughey also proved his continuing anti-fascist valour. He volunteered for the Canadian Air Force in June 1941, was killed in a plane crash on September 12, 1943, and his name is engraved or Canada’s World War 11 Book of Remembrance.
There is nothing impartial or balanced in Stradling’s account of the War between Democracy and Fascism in Spain. Although he quotes Mick Kelly of the Lincoln Battalion as saying that 75 per cent of the Irish Unit were Catholics, he seeks to demonise the cause of the Republic by titling it "The Communist Crusade", while sanctifying the Fascist revolt against the democratic will of the majority with the title of "The Catholic Crusade". Strad(d)ling Democracy and Fascism, however, doesn’t work. And the final verdict of the Spanish people themselves was given when public opinion compelled the Spanish Parliament to unanimously confer the right to Spanish citizenship on the International Brigadiers who had so heroically defended that Parliament’s majority sixty years previously.
7. Michael Lehane-A Reputation Vindicated
1999 has seen the publication of a book entitled The Irish and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Robert A. Stradling of Cardiff University. He makes the following charge:
Unfortunately, a high degree of party loyalty did not guarantee a commensurate level of resolution in combat. Joseph Lowry was a member of the CPGB who clearly did not measure up to the situation and was ‘sent to Albacete for repatriation’ shortly after the battle of Brunete.
In a footnote Stradling suggests that some of the mud he throws at Lowry should also stick to Michael Lehane:
No reason for his (Lowry’s) repatriation is given. Michael Lehane’s card records him as having been sent home at the same time as Lowry, although no injury or sickness is mentioned.
I do not possess any details concerning Lowry and cannot therefore disprove Stradling’s negative. For that indeed is all that Stradling’s mudslinging amounts to, unaccompanied as it is by any evidence whatsoever as to Lowry’s actual conduct in battle. In view of the evidence which we do possess in the case of Lehane, however, one could be forgiven for suspecting that Lowry was also slandered, with unwarranted conclusions being drawn on no other grounds than an absence of detail in bureaucratic recordkeeping. The absence of a stated reason for repatriation is no basis for any conclusions regarding cowardice, no more than the absence of any mention of an injury in the note on repatriation that was entered on Lehane’s card can justify Stradling hinting that there was in fact no injury.
In the case of Michael Lehane, at least, there is sufficient evidence to disprove any suggested guilt by association regarding a lack of "resolution in combat" during the July 1937 Battle of Brunete. In The Book of the Fifteenth International Brigade, which Frank Ryan edited in 1938, the following contemporary eyewitness account of the Brunete inferno was reproduced:
Those machine-guns in the Church tower are getting us……There are twenty knocked out, at the very least, by now……Good man Lehane! Getting the wounded away. You have a long way to go, and to come back, but you’ve had the devil’s own luck so far.
In Frank Ryan - The Search for the Republic (1980) Sean Cronin also reproduces Ryan’s own letter of July 30, 1937 in which he said of Lehane:
He’s a great lad. He has been through three weeks of hell and is willing to take more, even just now.
Any slur on Lehane’s character which questions his "resolution in combat" is indeed a slander. Since Stradling cites both of these books among his sources it is strange that he stays completely silent on such testimony. And while there may be no documentary evidence from Spain itself as to the precise circumstances of how Lehane ended up being wounded in that battle, there at least exists a clear-cut contemporary eye-witness account of Lehane being among the wounded of Brunete who were repatriated to Ireland.
Stradling makes much of his detailed researches in the International Brigade Association Archives in London’s Marx Memorial Library. If he had searched more thoroughly he would have found the 1938 publication of the USA’s Aid Spain Movement, entitled One Year in Spain, in which June Richardson Lucas wrote as follows of a Dublin meeting held after Brunete:
Three men invalided home from Spain spoke Michael Lehane spoke last. He does not look as though he had long to live. He told me an American surgeon had saved his life……..I wish Michael Lehane could tell the world what he told us. Lehane’s face, his eyes shining, his belief that fascism must be fought if we are to save our democracies……….The way the men spoke of American medical aid-the need of it-the mercy of it! That was Lehane’s word. This is to tell you of the gratitude for American hospital units by men who had been saved by them.
Neither does Stradling draw any conclusions as regards Lehane's "resolution in combat" from the fact that once he had recovered from Brunette he re-volunteered for Spain yet again. In the only reference to him in the body of his text Stradling merely lists Lehane among those coming to Spain in 1938 as - wait for it - "new (!) volunteers"
We owe a special debt of gratitude to one who has thoroughly researched the International Brigade Archives to provide further evidence of Michael Lehane’s exceptional courage. Jim Carmody has brought to light the contemporary List of Recommendations from the front in respect of the Battle of Hill 481 that followed in the wake of the Spanish Republic’s Ebro offensive of July 25, 1938. In that List the following testimony is given:
Corporal Michael LEHANE - Section Commander.
He organised an attack on Hill 481 with some 25 of his comrades and got to within 25 yards of the objective. Due to the lack of co-operation it was not possible to take the Hill. When he fell seriously wounded, he refused to be picked up by the stretcher-bearers, as he did not wish to expose his comrades to the danger of enemy fire.
Michael Lehane was wounded on July 31, 1938. Eventually my father, Michael O’Riordan, succeeded in reaching Lehane and lifting him onto his back to carry him downhill to safety. The following day, August 1, my father was himself wounded.
The Hill 481 List of Recommendations also records:
Private Michael O'Riordan - Light machine-gunner. He carried his light machine-gun into every action, and when he was ordered to withdraw, he waited until the whole of the Company had done so. He said that his weapon was worth a dozen men. When he was wounded, he refused to leave his position until the others had to leave it. Even then he did not leave until he was ordered to by the Commander and Commissar.
Michael Lehane hailed from the County Kerry townland of Morley’s Bridge, while both of Michael O’Riordan’s parents hailed from the West Cork village of Ballingeary - two sides of the same mountain. It was therefore a particular honour for the undersigned to be requested to write an article for the 1999 Journal of Cumann Staire Bheal Atha’n Ghaorthaidh - the Ballingeary Historical Society - on the subject of "The War Hero from Morley’s Bridge".
Manus O’Riordan December 1999
8. Michael Lehane Honoured in Nova Scotia - A May 1999 Postscript
By Manus O’Riordan
With the Norwegian honours paid to Michael Lehane in his native Morley’s Bridge and Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry on May 11, 1997, it could not have been anticipated that two years later he would also be honoured in the last place on earth he had been ashore before being killed at sea.
On May 6,1999 I spent my first morning ever in the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was there to speak that afternoon at a Conference on Economic Growth, giving an Irish trade union perspective on behalf of SIPTU. But prior to the commencement of that Conference I had one personal priority - to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and view in particular its exhibits highlighting the significance of the wartime Trans-Atlantic convoys, which had Halifax as their principal port of origin until 1943.
After visiting the Museum I walked a short distance along the waterfront to be both surprised and taken aback by a monument that had not been mentioned in any Halifax guidebook. When I subsequently learned that the monument had been erected only six months previously this lack of mention, of course, became less surprising. But the reason I was stopped in my tracks and deeply moved was the very text of that Memorial Stone: -
IN MEMORY OF MEMBERS OF THE NORWEGIAN MERCHANT NAVY, ROYAL NORWEGIAN NAVY AND ROYAL NORWEGIAN ARMY WHO WERE LOST AT SEA OR WERE BURIED IN NOVA SCOTIA DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
I was taken aback when I realised that on March 2,1943 Michael Lehane had sailed to his death past the very site of this Memorial Stone. But then on reflection I was pleased at the thought that there could be no more appropriate site to erect what in effect is the war grave headstone of Michael Lehane and his Norwegian comrades.
Two days later, May 8, I further realised it was VE Day - the date which commemorates that
Victory in Europe over Nazi-fascism for which Michael Lehane had both lived and sacrificed his life. I decided to place a bunch of red carnations in his name at the Norwegian Memorial Stone, with a note attached explaining who he was.
The Conference was concluding that morning and still present was a radio reporter from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who had previously interviewed me concerning the economic policies of the Irish trade union movement. His name was Costas Halavrezos and I asked him if he only reported on economic issues or might he also cover a human-interest story. When I told him what it was he was more than willing. He had been raised in an Irish community in the neighbouring Canadian Province of New Brunswick (his mother’s name was Bohan) but his father had been a Greek seaman on the same wartime convoys, who had survived the torpedoing of his ship to settle in Canada. And so, I told him the story of Michael Lehane.
That afternoon I laid the carnations at the Memorial Stone with the following hand-written note attached: -
IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL LEHANE (1908 - 1943), IRISH ANTI-FASCIST
FOUGHT AS A VOLUNTEER IN THE IRISH CONNOLLY COLUMN OF THE INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES IN DEFENCE OF THE SPANISH REPUBLIC FROM 1936 TO 1938. REVOLUNTEERED AFTER BEING WOUNDED 3 TIMES, THE LAST OCCASION AT THE BATTLE OF THE EBRO ON JULY 31, 1938 WHEN HE WAS CARRIED TO SAFETY BY MY FATHER, MICHAEL O' RIORDAN, HIMSELF WOUNDED THE NEXT DAY.
DURING WORLD WAR II MICHAEL LEHANE VOLUNTEERED FOR THE NORWEGIAN MERCHANT NAVY AND SERVED ON THE TRANSATLANTIC CONVOYS FROM 1941 TO 1943. SAILED FOR THE LAST TIME FROM HALIFAX TO BE KILLED AT SEA WHEN HIS NORWEGIAN SHIP, ‘THE BRANT COUNTY’, WAS TORPEDOED ON MARCH 11, 1943. POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED THE NORWEGIAN WAR SERVICE MEDAL AT A CEREMONY IN IRELAND ON MAY 11, 1997.
THESE FLOWERS LAID IN HIS MEMORY AT THE NORWEGIAN NAVY WAR MEMORIAL IN HALIFAX ON V.E. DAY, MAY 8, 1999 BY MANUS O' RIORDAN, DUBLIN, IRELAND.
And on the reverse side of the note I wrote out the words of my English language-translation of Rafael Alberti’s Spanish poem, which I had dedicated to Lehane.
Since the flowers had been unauthorised, I anticipated their removal. But that evening they were still there. They had, however, been slightly moved - the note had been read. And this was my experience on checking on several occasions over the next couple of days before my departure from Halifax - several passers-by had indeed stopped to read the Michael Lehane story. Back in Dublin on May 12 I phoned the campaigning convoy veteran Leif Vetlesen in Oslo to tell him this postscript, only to discover how much a role he himself had played in getting the Halifax Memorial Stone erected in the first place. I should not have been surprised, in view of how vital had been the campaign Leif had previously waged to secure Norwegian honours for Michael Lehane.
But what really surprised me was that as soon as I had finished my conversation with Leif I received the following e-mail from Bent Pittman, a Norwegian resident of the Nova Scotian village known as Head of St. Margaret’s Bay, and her Newfoundland husband Victor: -
I heard your interview with Costas Halavrezos on CBC Radio in Halifax today (10 May) and my ears perked up when I heard "Norwegian Merchant Navy" because / have a personal interest in the Norwegian Memorial Stone on the Halifax waterfront. I am taking the liberty of sending you a copy of the unveiling ceremony programme (which took place on 11 November 1998), a copy of my husband’s remarks at that event which gives a concise history of the stone, and a copy of a brochure that he and I prepared concerning the stone and which is now available at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
As a result of the reunion held in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in 1994 (mentioned in my husband’s remarks), a non-profit organisation called "The Camp Norway Foundation" was formed for the purposes of recognising and making more widely known the major contribution the Norwegian Merchant Navy made to the Allied cause during the Second World War, encouraging the study of that aspect of the war and, finances permitting, providing scholarships to university students engaged in such studies. As part of the first objective, the Foundation sponsored the design and manufacture of a "Camp Norway medallion" for presentation to anyone who sailed in Norwegian ships and has also sponsored the writing and publication of a book about Camp Norway, the Norwegian edition of which was released in Norway on 9 April with the English edition scheduled for release in Lunenburg on 24 May. The Camp Norway medallion may be presented posthumously and the purpose of this communication is to ask you if you could ascertain if the family of the late Mr. Lahann (I didn’t quite catch the name) would like to have one in his name.
On May 13 I replied explaining how delighted I was to receive that e-mail. I later phoned Julia Begley in Birmingham who also expressed great delight that her 91 year-old father Stephen Lehane would receive a further tribute to the memory of his heroic brother. Indeed, Michael’s War Service Medal and its accompanying scroll, which were presented by the Norwegian Government in May 1997, are now framed in a place of honour above where Stephen sits at home.
On May 14 Bent and Victor Pittman sent me a follow-up e-mail: -
We also have been in contact with Leif Vetlesen who helped enormously in persuading (one might even say shaming) the Norwegian Government to recognise as war dead the 30 or so Norwegians buried here in Nova Scotia during the war and to provide Norwegian war grave headstones to mark their places of final rest. It took some time but, with Leif’s help, it happened and the stones are now in Nova Scotia and will be erected during the course of the summer".
"On 17 May (Norway’s Constitution Day) members of the Norwegian colony here in Nova Scotia will place flowers at the monument. Traditionally, this is a simple ceremony, which consists of a short speech, the placing of a bouquet or bouquets by a child or children and the singing of the Norwegian National Anthem. We found your tribute very moving and would like to include in the speech the text of the note and the poem you left at the memorial on VE Day. May we have your permission to do so?
So it came about that on Norway’s Constitution Day, May 17, 1999, the Norwegian community paid tribute to the Kerry war hero Michael Lehane in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And in doing so they ensured that his Irish voice lived once again on the waterfront of his last port of call, by invoking the words of the Spanish anti-fascist poet Rafael Alberti:-
If my voice should die on earth
It’s from the sea it may be heard
If you leave it on the shore.
Notes on sources and quotes in the pamphlet.
- Colin Williams, Bill Alexander and John Gorman, Memorials of the Spanish Civil war, 1996.
- Patrick Campbell, From Silent Glens to Noisy Streets, 1983.
- Michael O'Riordan, The Connolly Column, 1979.
- Letter from Eugene Downing to Manus O'Riordan, January 22nd1996.
- Quoted in Frank Ryan (ed), The Book of the 15th International Brigade, 1938.
- Quoted in Connolly Column.
- Quoted in Sean Cronin, Frank Ryan - The search for the Republic, 1980.
- Peter O'Connor, A Soldier of Liberty - Recollections of a Socialist and Anti-Fascist Fighter, 1996.
- Medical Bureau, One Year in Spain, 1938. Aid Spain Movement in USA, International Brigade Memorial Archive, Marx Memorial Library, London.
- Eoghan 0 Duinnin, La Nina Bonita agus an Roisin Dubh-Cuimhni Cinn ar Chogadh Cathartha na Spainne, 1986.
- Eugene Downing letter.
- Letter from Stephen Lehane to Manus O'Riordan, June 12, 1996.
- Letter from Con Lehane to Manus O'Riordan, April 10, 1996.
- Letter from Eugene Downing to Manus O'Riordan, January 22, 1996.
- From Silent Glens to Noisy Streets.
- Lecture at the Irish Labour History Museum, November 18, 1991. Reprinted in A Soldier of Liberty.
- Manus O'Riordan, ‘Another Hero from Kilgarvan, Newsline (SIPTU), October 3, 1995.
- The Connolly Column.
- Bill Backe - Hansen, Postscript to the 1995 commemorative reissue of The Spirit of Norway.
- Nordahl Grieg, "Kongen’, as translated by G.M. Gathorne-Hardy in The Spirit of Norway - Norwegian War Poems, 1944.
- Letter from Ambassador Jan Ostern to Manus O'Riordan. November 6, 1995.
- Letter from Leif Vetlesen to Manus O'Riordan, January 3,1996.
- Translation by Leif Vetlesen, January 3,1996.
- Con Lehane letter.
- Interview on BBC Radio Ulster, April 5,1989.
- Letter from Leif Vetlesen to Manus O'Riordan, January 31, 1996.
- Translation by Leif Vetlesen, February 19, 1996.
- Translation forwarded by Leif Vetlesen, March 12, 1996.
- Stephen Lehane letter.