Passing Through

By Salaria Kee O'Reilly, pages 8-9

International Brigades Association archives, Marx Memorial Library, London; Box D-2: D/1

Life Long Romance Begins

When I first saw Pat I thought he was very shy and business-like man. I wondered why he had come to Spain. Pat seldom seemed to notice anyone. He was known on the base as a 'loner'. He would sit at his desk every night for what seemed hours, writing. Ellen, a nurse who was on duty at that time, was curious about what he was writing. Often she would take a look only to see poems - some completed, others just a few lines. To her surprise all the poems were about me. Ellen and I were very good friends. She would slip me a poem in the morning and scold me for not speaking to Pat.

I put his poems in my pocket and, after my tour of duty, I read them during the long walks I took with the hospital's pet dog, Paz. One day I was reading some of the poems while sitting with Paz in the center of a poppy garden. Paz began to bark. I turned and saw Pat strolling towards me., When he came near I teasingly asked, "Have you lost something?" and handed him one of the best poems. As he read the poem to himself he blushed deep red. I asked him to sit down and he sat beside me. He confessed, "Since May I have liked you. But I know both of us came to Spain to do a job. Although we may be criticised by some if we fell in love with each other, we would feel ashamed of ourselves if we did not carry on our anti-fascist work." Together we decided to be just good friends.

We discussed North America, Ireland, and all groups and races who were victims of fascism and other injustices and how we two could help to abolish the enemies of the human race.

Pat and I had known each other for eight weeks on an evening a group of us went swimming. On the way back to the hospital, Pat and I were walking ahead of the others. We were climbing a hill were grew every kind of weed, grass and bush. Suddenly he popped the question, would I marry him. I plopped to the ground still wearing only my bathing suit. I did not realize I had fallen on a cactus plant until I reached y quarters and sat on the bed. My whole body seemed punctured by hundreds of tiny pins. I knew dear Ellen would help. When she arrived a few minutes later, I told her what had happened. She called Dr. Mary Pearson, one of the female doctors in our unit. They soon went to work removing the cactus needles.

The next day when Pat and I met, he asked if I had an answer to his question. I gave several excuses as to why we should not marry, especially since he was white and I was black. I gave in when Pat asked me:

"Would you let the reactionaries take away the only thing a poor man deserved, and that thing is his right to marry the one he loved and believed loved him?"

After thinking about it, I realised I loved Pat. We were married October 2, 1937 at Villa Paz. We spent our honeymoon in Denia, Valencia and Alicante. After our honeymoon, Pat was sent away leaving me at the base hospital.

C Crossey Notes:
I can't find a Dr Mary Pearson

Other documents about Salaria Kee

A 1975 interview with her and John O'Reilly here ....

Salaria Kee: A Negro Nurse in Republican Spain A pamphlet from the 1930s here ....

More articles on Ireland and the SCW >are available here ....