Bill Scott, RIP, remembered by Patrick Byrne

Irish Democrat, April 1988

It is my sad duty to bid farewell to another of the vanishing band of Republican Congress veterans of the thirties, Bill Scott, who died recently, aged 80 years.

Bill, a staunch Socialist, came from a Dublin Protestant family, cast in the mould of Tone and Emmet. His father was 'out' with Connolly in Easter Week 1916, and remained loyal to the Republic in the years that followed.

The Republican Congress arose from a deep division in the IRA of that period. The Congress tried to align all progressive forces in a united front against fascism, and for a Socialist policy, away from the right wing obscurantism of the IRA leadership, excepting, of course, Peadar O'Donnell, Frank Ryan and George Gilmore, who were to form the leadership of the new movement. This was still militaristic, and the five Dublin branches were based on Battalion areas. As I was in the northern area, and Bill in the south, we rarely met. On one occasion where we did meet, which I will never forget, prompt action by Bill averted trouble for a section of the born-again Citizen Army, of which I was in charge, where about to engage on sabotage during a strike. Bill suddenly appeared like a fairy godfather telling me to "get to hell out of it with my merrie men" as the place was swarming with the Special Branch.

Bill was the first Irishman to arrive in Spain after the Franco rebellion. He first served with the Thaelmann (German) Battalion, and later joined the Irish Battalion under Frank Ryan. [Note by C Crossey - Bill was AMONG the first Irish, not the first.Dec. 26 2004] I last met Bill about five years ago in London at the funeral of another veteran, Jim Prendergast. He told me then of the engagement in March 1938 when Frank Ryan was captured. An Irish detachment, attached to the British battalion, were advancing to secure Gandesa to avert the division of the Republican front in two. They sang as they marched along in the moonlight - into a terrible ambush by Italian fascists, using tanks.

Bill Scott was a warm-hearted, quiet, courageous man, who like Cromwell's Republican troopers 'knew what they fought for, and loved what they knew.' His personality was akin to that of Kit Conway, Charlie Donnelly, Alec Digges, Jack Nalty and others of that brave band, who were my comrades in the great enterprise of the Republican Congress.

Farewell, Bill, the good fight for Socialism goes on.

Patrick Byrne.