The shop steward who led the Major Attlee Company

‘Paddy’ – hero of the Spanish War

Article in The Record, February 1982, p9, newspaper of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union.

Essentially the same report was carried in the Irish Post, 14th Nov. 1981. - note by Ciaran Crossey

Paddy O’Daire, whose death we recorded briefly last month, was a long-time member and TGWU shop steward. He was a famous leader of the International Brigade in Spain. This tribute to Paddy first appeared in the Irish Post under the heading ‘fionn mac cool’, (a legendary figure in pre-history Ireland who lead his men in great battles to give the people justice.)

Recently in Bangor, North Wales, they laid to rest Patrick O'Daire from Glenties, Co. Donegal. He was 76 and as brave an Irishman as any that came this way.

As a teenager he joined the Irish army, took soldiering seriously and soon became an NCO. In 1929, he left Ireland for Canada under a Canadian government scheme which gave immigrants portions of land which, when cleared of boulders and brushwood, made good farms. ,b>Unemployed

After a year of Trojan work, O'Daire had cleared his farm and all that remained for him to do was to raise the finance which would buy stock and seed. Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem. But by now Canada was gripped by a depression and the money wasn't to be had. So O'Daire found himself out of work and on the streets with the unemployed.

A natural organiser, he was soon to be at the forefront in demonstrations. He used to teach the marchers rebel songs and this the Canadian police thought was dangerous, so they arrested him. He was given 15 months’ hard labour and then deported.

Next he settled in Liverpool. By now he was a committed Marxist. His Canadian experience had convinced him. Come December 1936, he left Liverpool to join the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

He saw his first action at Lopera when the newly formed XIV International Brigade went south to Andalusia to halt a Franco offensive which had already overrun Republican strongholds of Jaen and Cordoba.


O'Daire was wounded at Lopera but after a period in hospital, was soon back in action - being posted to the hastily formed XX International Battalion. This battalion stayed on frontline service from March until July 1937 and took part in the Pozoblanco counter-offensive. At Chimorra in the Sierra Morena. O'Daire was promoted on the field to lieutenant. Soon afterwards, he was one of the only 19 survivors who returned to Albacete.

Soon he was promoted again - to second in command of the British Battalion. The commander was Peter Daly and, when he fell mortally wounded on the slopes of Purburell Hill, it was O'Daire who led the final move forward that captured the fortifications on the summit and gave the Republicans control of the Quinto stretch of the River Ebro.

After that, he was sent for some time to a college for senior officers and, when the British Battalion was reorganised, O'Daire was given command of the legendary Major Attlee No. 1 Company in which he had first served at the battle of Lopera. He quickly won the admiration of his men. Among them was Jack Jones, the future general secretary of the British Transport and General Workers' Union. They established a lifelong friendship.

By utilising the principle of surprise, the Army of the Ebro came close to saving Spanish democracy by snatching victory from defeat. O'Daire survived those last fierce battles and eventually returned to Britain.

Then came World War 2 and he joined the British army - winning a commission and eventually becoming a Major with the Pioneer Corps in Italy. After the war, he lived in Coventry for many years - before finally setting up home in Llanberis where, in the closing years of his life, the beauty of the hills of North Wales kept green his memory of Donegal.

Jack Jones was among the old comrades at Thursday's funeral in Bangor. So too was another who served with him in Spain, Joseph Monks, (retired NUR member), and Tom Jones, former Wales Regional Secretary. All three made funeral speeches.