Obituary: Eugene Downey

by Oisín Breatnach , Thursday, Jul 31 2003, 5:02pm
[reprinted from Indymedia]
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Obituary: Eugene Downey

Eugene Downey, author of La Nina Bonita and one of the last survivors of the Irish contingent in the International Brigades of the
Spanish Civil War has passed away as all old soldiers must. Draped by the twin flags of the Starry Plough ( the flag of Irish labour) and the flag of the international brigades Irish section, his coffin was accompanied by his extended family, friends and comrades to Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin for burial yesterday,

Born in 1913, the year of the great general strike in Dublin, he was politicised at an early age and became involved in the Republican
Movement and later in the forerunner of the Irish Communist Party. He had a great admiration for the politics of republican socialist
Frank Ryan and was one of those who followed him to Spain to defend the Spanish Revolution, enlisting in the 15th International Brigade. He was later to write a book in the Irish language about his experiences.

On the first day of the Republican Ebro offensive in July 1938, he was wounded in the leg and because of his isolated position help arrived late. As a result, gangrene set in and his leg had to be amputated. A measure of his sense of humour, he was later to quip about this that he was one person who could say with certainty that he had one foot in the grave.

He was a lifelong atheist, activist and Irish language speaker, a wonderful free spirit who will be greatly missed by all who met and knew him. His strength, courage and fortitude will continue to give hope to many. When a relative asked him whether he believed in heaven, his wry sense of humour caused him to retort that if as an atheist he were to be to be proven wrong that he would be pleasantly surprised whereas his questioner if proven wrong would be greatly disappointed!

Viva la Quince Brigada!

There is another obituary available about Eugene: By Manus O'Riordan

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

Here are some that are now online on this site.In September 2000 Eugene was interviewed by Ciaran Crossey and John Quinn about the SCW. Here is Eugene's
5 page version of the notes from that discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IB and the Ebro

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

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

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

Ciaran Crossey
Belfast, 6th August 2003.