Irish Democrat, [Nov] 1984
Tommy Patten was the first Irish volunteers to die in defence of the Spanish Republic against Franco Fascism. He gave his life outside the gates of Madrid in December 1936.
He was a native Irish speaker and an IRA veteran from Dooega, Achill, Co. Mayo, and a monument to his memory was unveiled by Sean Fitzpatrick of the National Graves Association on 28th October last.
The unveiling took place after 11.30 am Mass, the celebrant being Father Sommerville, who afterwards blessed the monument. It is erected about three-quarters of a mile from the Church on a hillside overlooking the beautiful bay of Dooega and Tommy Patten’s old homestead.
In the September issue of the Irish Democrat we mistakenly referred to Tommy Patten as being a Protestant. In fact he was a Catholic and we are glad to make the correction.
The parade to the monument was led by the national flag carried in front of a piper’s band, followed by Tommy’s relatives, chief among whom were his brothers Owen and Willie, Tommy’s sister, Owen’s wife and son, young Tommy Patten, and other nieces and nephews.
Then came representatives of the National Graves Association, and the flag of the Connolly Column, 15th International Brigade, carried by Packy Early, that staunch republican and trade union activist from Leitrim, now living in Dublin. Beside the flag walked Michael O’Riordan and Peter O’Connor, ex-members of the International Brigade, and behind them came several hundred members of the general public from the area.
The monument is a fine piece of workmanship, carried out by local labour. Tommy’s picture is imbedded in the monumental slab. The inscription on the slab is in three languages – Irish, Spanish and English.
The unveiling was presided over by Michael Geraghty, from Swinford, Co. Mayo, who introduced Michael O’Riordan who spoke on behalf of the International Brigade and laid a wreath at the foot of the monument. Wreaths were also laid by Owen Patten on behalf of the relatives and a young lady on behalf of the Republican movement. The main oration was delivered by a young Achill man, Gabriel McNulty.
The weather that Sunday morning looked very threatening with an overcast sky, but just before the march the sun came out and it was a brilliant afternoon.
Peter O’Connor of Waterford, who fought in Spain with Tommy Patten and who was a close friend of his and present at his wedding writes:
“For me personally to be present that Sunday was an honour and a privilege. It was a moving and unforgettable experience for me to meet with Tommy’s relatives, especially with his brother Owen whom I had known in London in 1935-36. Meeting him again for the first time since then brought back memories of those trying but glorious years when Tommy, Owen, Sean Mulgrew, the three Power brothers – Johnny, Paddy and Billy – Alan McLarnon and others were together in the London branch of the Republican Congress. Together with Tommy’s brothers and sisters and some of his old friends and neighbours who were present last Sunday, I was privileged to have known Tommy as a friend and comrade. He was such a wonderful human being, full of joy of life, hating oppression and injustice and finally giving his young life – he was only 26 – for the cause he believed in so passionately.
It was from the London branch of the Republican Congress a few years later that people came together to form the Connolly Club and its paper, Irish Freedom, from which came the present day Connolly Association and the Irish Democrat.
Peadar O’Donnell dedicated his book on Spain - Salud!” - to ‘a boy from Achill’. He had the job of giving the news of Patten’s death to his parents. Tommy Patten’s name is listed among the heroes of the Spanish Civil War in Christy Moore’s recently released song, ‘Viva La Quince Brigada.’
Other articles on Patten
Irish Democrat, September 1984
Monument to Tom Patton
Irish Post, 6th Sept. 1986 Brigade Salute