Articles on Ireland and the SCW

Reprinted from the Irish Democrat

By today, 6th December 2003, there are 21 articles reprinted on this page alone, approx. 35 A4 pages of text. This was getting a bit too large so I've now split this collection up. A few typos, etc. corrected, August 5th 2008, CC.
September - October 1937
November - December 1937

3rd July 1937 - Wounded Men Home from Spanish Front

3rd July 1937 - Dublin Fascists Routed - Great Forces Rally for Frank Ryan

3rd July 1937 - Non Intervention - A Farce

3rd July 1937 - Dublin Man writes from Spain

10th July 1937 - Dublin Man Specially Mentioned - Bravery Displayed in Encounter with Moors

17th July 1937 - "I Met Frank Ryan at the Front"

17th July 1937 - Basque Seamen write from Belfast Port

17th July 1937 - An Irish Boy writes to mother from Spain

17th July 1937 - One Year Ago

24th July 1937 - Dublin greets returned anti-fascists

24th July 1937 - Belfast Workers' fine meetings

24th July 1937 - Poem: To those who died for Democracy

24th July 1937 - They sang wrap the Green Flag Round Me’
24th July 1937 - The Irish Charge on the Madrid Front

31st July 1937 - Tommy Woods - An Appreciation

31st July 1937 - Finished with the Generals

31st July 1937 - We shall miss Charles Donnelly

31st July 1937 -They died in defence of democracy

7th August 1937 - Irishmen in Action in Spain

7th August 1937 - Roll of Honour

7th August 1937 - Today they are fighting For Republican Liberty

7th August 1937 - Defeat O’Duffy’s Stunting

21st August 1937 - Frank Ryan’s tribute to Michael Kelly

21st August 1937 - Friends of Spain

28th August 1937 - Liam Tumilson - An Appreciation by Patrick R McLaughlin

28th August 1937 - Band Without Uniforms

28th August 1937 - William Laughran of Belfast

28th August 1937 - Welcomed Home from Spain

28th August 1937 - Franco Fascists use Women and Children as Cover

28th August 1937 - Kit Conway

Irish Democrat, 3rd July 1937

Wounded Men Home from Spanish Front

PATRICK SMITH and Jerry Doran, both of Dublin, have arrived back from Spain, after recovering from severe wounds received in the fighting on the Cordova and Jarama fronts last December and February respectively. Both are young Republican workers, who volunteered for service against Fascism in the Irish Section of the International Brigade under Frank Ryan. Both received severe arm and head wounds and were in hospital for several months. Doran is at present in London.

"I am satisfied we were right. We fought, and our comrades are still fighting for the only just cause in Spain, the cause of the people of the Republic against the Fascist Generals and landowners and their German and Italian mercenaries," said Patrick Smith to a Democrat representative.

"Our men are splendid. Their gallantry has won the admiration of all nationalities. Our losses have been heavy. It will be hard to replace such as Kit Conway, Coady, Fox, may, and the many others. It is up to all who stand for freedom to take up, with redoubled enthusiasm, the work to which these men devoted their lives and carry their banner to victory over fascism her in Ireland.

"Bilboa is a big loss, but it won't shake the position of the Republican forces. These are becoming more united. The new Government is an improvement. The POUM rising in Barcelona failed in its objects. It has finished this disruptive group and the workers organisations and the Peoples Front comes forth strengthened. All our Irish comrades look forward confidently to a glorious victory over Fascism in Spain - and in Ireland."

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 3rd July 1937

Dublin Fascists Routed
Great Forces Rally for Frank Ryan

The Dublin workers administered a rout on Tuesday night to the Fascist gangs, who throughout the election have attempted to prevent free speech to the supporters of Frank Ryan, candidate of the United front against fascism, in Dublin City, South. Fascist gangs broke up a meeting in York Street earlier in the evening. They attempted to do the same later on at Christchurch Place. In this they were completely unsuccessful, despite stone throwing and attempts to drown the speakers' voices.

A body of several hundred workers marched from the Republican meeting in O'Connell Street, to Christchurch Place, the Fascists skedaddled and an enthusiastic meeting was addressed by Peadar O'Donnell and Larry O'Connor. Amongst those on the platform were George Gilmore, Peter Ledwith, P Byrne, Bill Scott and Patrick Smith, who has returned wounded from the Spanish Front.

In an election address, Ryan's Committee makes clear the Candidate's stand on the political and economic issues facing the people, calls on the electors to drive from Irish public life the Fascist Party of Cosgrave; for the rejection of the New Constitution; the scrapping of every form of coercion and persecution; against international Fascism and war; solidarity with the Spanish, Catalan and Basques, peoples in their fight against Italian and German fascism, and a programme of immediate economic demands to be realised by action in Parliament and in the country during the next five years.

The bold stand of Ryan on all these issues has driven the reactionaries into a white heat of fury and gangsterism, but Ryan's campaign is clearing the way for unity among all democratic sections and the advance of the working class movement.

We remind readers that the expenses of this campaign have been a heavy burden and appeal to all readers to forward monies to assist the work which doesn't cease after the elections. Donations should be sent to Miss A Walsh, 56 Fitzwilliam Ave, Drumcondran, Dublin.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 3rd July 1937

Non-Intervention a Farce

Before a large crowd assembled at the Custom House, Belfast, last Sunday, the Socialist Party of Northern Ireland held a further propaganda meeting, Mr J McIlveen presiding.

S Haslett in his speech analysed the various problems which had been of importance to the Belfast workers during the past decade. He pointed out how the large capitalists and the bankers in England were crippling the various small shareholders in industrial concerns in Belfast and at the same time forcing the workers to live in a state of semi poverty. He spoke on the question of unemployment and exposed the futile efforts of the Craigavon Government to find any solution to this problem. He concluded his remarks by appealing to the audience to assist the Socialist Party in the present struggle for democratic freedom and better conditions for the workers of Belfast.

D Ritchie in a forceful speech reviewed the war in Spain in the light of recent International events. He spoke of the recent withdrawal of Germany and Italy from, perhaps the worst farce ever perpetrated in history, namely, the Non-Intervention Committee. Germany and Italy stripping the mask off non-intervention, without even the pretence of disguise. Ugly and naked – Fascist aggression stares Mr Eden in the ace – and Anthony smiles. He pointed out how in 1914 the independence of ‘poor little Catholic Belgium’ was threatened by German militarism and the ‘Daily Mail’ screamed ‘Hats off to France.’ But in 1937 what a difference. The little Catholic Basque country is threatened by German militarism, as witness Guernica, and the ‘Daily Mail’ yells, ‘Hats off to Franco.’ In conclusion he stressed the necessity of every democrat rallying to the aid of the Spanish people in the fight against Fascist terror.

The meetings will be continued each Sunday during the Summer months.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 3rd July 1937

Dublin Man writes from Spain

Robert C Hepburn, member of the International Column, writes from the Spanish Front to his parents in Dublin: “I have only just found time to write, after being engaged in a long-drawn-out offensive. This is mostly guerrilla warfare, hand to hand fighting. In this attack we bombed the Fascist positions, inflicting heavy losses, and driving them back several kilometres. Packets of cigarettes, etc., continue to arrive for me from unknown people who sympathise with the government. They send me, also, some very nice letters which are really helpful and make me fell glad to be fighting on the side of the workers against those who make capital out of them. Trusting the Irish workers eyes are opened to the real nature of this war and the deceitful propaganda which is being made on behalf of Franco and his Fascists.” [The microfilm was very hard to read, this is the best transcript I can make, CC.]
To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 10th July 1937

Dublin Man Specially Mentioned Bravery Displayed in Encounter with Moors

"During a counter-attack by Moors, Frank Edwards was surrounded owing to a temporary withdrawal of part of our line. Joe Monks, with a bag of hand grenades, broke through to Edwards, and you should have heard the barrage they laid down. They were specially mentioned in Brigade Orders, and deserved it."

So writes Peter Daly, of Enniscorthy, in a letter describing one of the outstanding feats of courage on the part of the gallant boys from our four corners of Ireland who are serving with the Irish Unit, under Frank Ryan, in the Spanish Republican Army.

Frank Edwards is the well-known Waterford school-teacher, victimized two years ago for his Republican activities. Joe Monks is a young Dublin worker, a member of a well-known Republican family. He is a nephew of Mary Donnelly, the writer, and Jimmy Donnelly, late O/C of the 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA.

Peter Daly, who does not mention his own part in the battle on the Pozoblanco front, has been promoted to Lieutenant. Here is Lieutenant Daly's letter.

"During recent fighting on the Pozoblanco front I got a slight wound. Frank Edwards and Joe Monks did some great work. They are inseparable.

"During a counter-attack by Moors, Edwards surrounded owing to a temporary withdrawal of part of our line. Monks, with a bag of hand grenades, broke through to Edwards, and you should have heard the barrage they laid down.

"They both managed to get back into our lines unhurt, bringing back a badly wounded comrade who was unable to walk. They were specially mentioned in Brigade orders and deserved it.

"In a war like this, where bravery is an eevreyday affair, Brigade orders don't publish bunk.

"In the same scrap Paddy O'Daire, of Donegal, showed the Moors how a machine-gun should be used. The casualties on the enemy were heavy. The poor devils, it is pitiful to see the prisoners we do take. Ragged, hungry and frightened.

"The first thing we do is give them a good meal and a smoke. They take a long time to get over their surprise. Then they tell us they were told that we butcher all prisoners.

"Every day the deserters bolt into our lines. One of them, a fascist Sergeant of artillery, told me that the officers are threatening to murder the relatives of those who desert. He said a whole battalion from his home town would desert only for that reason.

"Have the butchers of Ballyseedy arrived home yet? Let O'Duffy know the Irish lads here are very disappointed they did not meet him. The graves of the murdered women and children of Madrid are a fitting monument to the 'heroes' of Countess Bridge, who misled good lads into going with them.

"The spirit of the boys is great. The news of O'Duffy's decision to go home inspires us all to fight harder so that we will force a similar decision on his pals Hitler and Mussolini.

"If only Kit Conway were alive to see the great things that have been accomplished? Wouldn't he be the proudest man on earth? But his memory and his courage always inspire is in battle.



After reading these inspiring letters. Show subscriptions to Friends of the Spanish Republic, c/o Mrs H S Skeffington, 7 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin.


"When I was in Albacete a few weeks ago, I met Paddy Duff and Jimmy Prendergast. Both are looking fine."

Paddy O'Daire, praised in Peter Daly's letter, returned a few years ago from Canada, where he is well-known, as the following message from Saskatoon, Sask, printed in the 'Clarion Weekly' of June 26, shows:

"Word has been received by his friends here that Paddy O'Daire, who was sentenced to 15 months in jail and deportation for his part in the struggle of the single men at Sasskatoon exhibition grounds camp in the winter of 1930, has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in the International Brigade in Spain.

"Paddy, who previous to coming to Canada was a machine gunner in the Irish Republican Army, is well-known to the workers of Western Canada, both for his work in labour struggles here and for his songs and parodies portraying the lives and aspirations of the workers."

From a well-known figure in the North, Ben Murray, a member of the Belfast Branch of the Irish Communist Party, comes an informative and chatty letter which his friends will be glad to read. Ben writes:

"I have just had the great pleasure of reading my first copy of the 'Irish Democrat', and I am delighted to know that such a splendid new fighting weapon has been forged to serve the cause of democracy in Irelasd and to cut the ground from under her fascist and Imperialist enemies.

"Please accept the sincere congratulations of all anti-fascist fighters in the International Brigades, and particularly from the Irish Unit.

"Irishmen, both from North and South, Irish exiles from Canada, Australia, USA from Great Britain, and other parts, schooled in the tradition of Ireland's centuries old history of oppression have flocked to the aid of Republican Spain.

"They fully realise that the defeat of Franco and his German and Italian allies is merely a prelude to the defeat of Ireland's traditional enemies at home and abroad.

"Spain will not only prove the grave-yard of Spanish fascism, but also will provide a tomb for the hopes of O'Duffy and all Irish reactionaries.

"The struggle for freedom and democracy here is indissolubly linked with your struggle - and so, comrades, we salute you.

"The 16th, an Anglo-Irish Battalion, is now out for a well-earned rest, after four months in the front line.

"We may well be in action again before this letter reaches you, but in the meantime, life is enjoyable.

"Boxing tournaments, football, concerts, swimming, glorious sunny days in a peaceful little Spanish village; on forty-eight hour leave to Madrid for all in town.

"We have plenty of good food, cigarettes, beer and wine, and opportunity for social contract with the Spanish civil population, the kindliest, most amiable people the world. They are delighted if one can speak a few words of their language.

"Although a wonderful experience and more likely to inspire greater and more determined efforts than ever to bring the war to a speedy and victorious close. Best wishes to the 'Irish Democrat' and all its supporters."

Ben encloses a copy of 'Nuestro Combate', the paper published by the 15th Brigade, of which the 16th Batt. is now part. The paper includes an article by himself on his visit to wounded members in hospital behind the lines and a photograph of Isaac Hillen, of Belfast, playing a guitar solo at a Battalion concert.

He says the Irish boys are hungry for reading matter, and suggests that readers with 'Democrats', 'Labour News,' and magazines to spare, should forward them to Frank Ryan or himself at Socorro Rojo, 161 Plaza del Altazona, Albacete, Spain.

Since the recent Republican Staff Order abolishing the International Brigades as separate units and drafting them into the regular Spanish Army, the Irish Unit is fighting on two fronts - one company on the centre around Madrid, and another on the Southern, where the advance to Granada proceeds.

The Staff's step was to bring the Spanish foreign volunteers into closer contact with the Spanish troops, different nationalities kept their company formations and officers, to ensure they would be among friends who spoke their language. At the same time, they now take regular lessons in Spanish (and are becoming quite fluent), to increase contact and comradeship with the Spanish companies of the same battalion.

There is good news of the Irish wounded, and his many friends in Dublin Republican, trade union and athletic circles will be delighted to hear that Jack Nalty has recovered from his wounds and has resumed command of his company.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 17th July 1937

"I Met Frank Ryan at the Front"

Harry Pollitt was recently on a visit to Spain. In a series of articles in the London 'Daily Worker', he tells of his visit to the wounded in the hospitals. Among the Irish lads he hit across he mentions Danny Boyle, of Belfast, and Paddy McIlroy, of Inchicore, Dublin. Both the comrades are getting along fine, says Harry, and send their best wishes to their friends at home.

Politt, in his second article, records his meeting with Frank Ryan: "Then I went to the front line to visit some of the comrades who were on duty there. Who should I bump into but big Frank Ryan, the well-known Irish Republican leader.

"My word, Frank, you've lost some weight since I last saw you!" I exclaimed.

"Harry, me lad," Frank replied, "when you last saw me in London I asked you if it took long to walk to Spain. Well, it does, and how long my waist-line will tell. Believe me there is no straight road and there's no road that goes down hill all the way, but it's good to be here with the boys. Just say, when you get back to London, that Frank Ryan says there are two Britains, one that helps Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, and the one represented by Fred Copeman, Jock Cunningham and their comrades, and the Irishmen in the International Brigade, are proud to fight alongside their English comrades. So long, Harry."

"With that we went out different ways."

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 17th July 1937

Basque Seamen write from Belfast Port

Owned by the Basque Government, the Spanish cargo ship Cabatres is now in Belfast harbour. A number of us (writes members of the Socialist Party of Northern Ireland) went aboard and had a most interesting time.

The anti-Fascist spirit was very strong among the crew, who were united against the German and Italian hordes ravaging their land. The Captain told us he had run the so-called blockade of Bilbao six times before the city fell.

Last week the Captain and crew were invited to the Labour Hall, where they saw a special showing of the film, 'Defence of Madrid', the performance being given by the Socialist Party.

Our contact with these gallant seamen has convinced us that if they are typical of the Spanish Government supporters, who are portrayed by the 'Daily Mail' and other Fascist papers as some sort of demons, the future of the Spanish Republic is safe in their hands.

All members of the crew gave us the following appeal to Irish trade unionists, for publication in the Democrat:

Comrades, Salud!

We appeal to you as workers, as partisans of the cause of workers of the whole world, and it is this cause which is being fought out in Spain in the present war.

You all know, comrades, that every anti-fascist worker, from whatever country he may be, has the obligation to give moral and material support to our Spanish brothers by all possible means. Why? Because the future of the workers of the whole world is being decided in Spain, because fascism is playing its last card, because Spain is its battle-field, where we shall smash it for ever. But to smash it, we require the assistance of all anti-fascists, of all democratic and freedom loving people.

You all know that we are facing a powerful enemy, which is Capital, you know also, that we are not fighting or defending ourselves against Spanish fascists only, but against the fascists of the whole world. The fascists who are causing damage in Spain with machine-guns and bombs are also doing us much harm outside the country by spreading their vile calumnies which, however, have little effect among democratic people, as the whole world is aware of what happened and what is happening in Spain. The fascists are responsible for the material damage by sending men, machine-gins and bombs, to cowardly kill our children and our mothers!

Comrades: Exactly as the fascists of the whole world are helping their colleagues in Spain, you have to assist us in the following manner:-

1. By sending over and over again telegrams of protest to the infamous 'Non-Intervention' Committee;

2. By urging your leaders to take concrete measures to insist that the so-called democratic powers act in a more definite way.

Comrades: The circumstances which face the world proletariat at present do not allow any hesitation, but we are still in time to prevent the evil which is threatening us. If we do not act in a decided manner, we shall ourselves be the accomplices and the victims of our aggressors: we have thus to show firmness and courage.

Remember, comrades, that the future of the working class and of democracy is being decided in Spain. A large number of middle-class people and high chiefs of the old Army are fighting along with us workers. Catholic priests, who are not hypocrites, but are human and who follow the true doctrines of Jesus Christ, they are also on our side. They remember that He struggled for Humanity and that He was on that account opposed by the Pharisees.

Comrades, salud! Workers of the world unite, for united we shall win!

Arturo Boroges Perez.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 17th July 1937

An Irish Boy writes to mother from Spain

Joe Monks, Dublin, who has been with the International Column since last December, and was wounded on the Cordoba front, writing from the front to his mother says:

"You must understand that I am only doing my duty in being out here. We are fighting world Fascism. Already we have smashed O'Duffy's hope of leading home a corps of victorious veterans to wage Fascist war on Ireland. The world knows that he and the men, whom he deluded out here, are going home with their banner trailing in disgrace.

"I hope that war will never visit Ireland. I have been in homes where mothers were praying that the next bomb the Fascists would drop, would not blow them to eternity. To console them I would tell them that my mother was praying for them and that many more Irish men were making their way out here to fight for them.

"Paddy McElroy got wounded. I heard a very good account of him from a Limerick man. The brigade he belongs to was a great one. The defence of the Madrid-Valencia road made military history.

"The Fascists have now realised that our slogan 'No pasaran' (They shall not pass) is no idle one and backed by British imperialism they are playing for an armistice. The people see them for what they are - the enemies and murderers of the people and they demand that they must be treated as such."

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 17th July 1937

One Year Ago

On July 18, the people of Spain awoke to find that the democratic Government they had elected in February was menaced with a Fascist uprising. The Army Generals, having most of the Army with them, were in arms to restore the old order of things.

At a glance, the people estimated the situation and with a heroism never before equalled they flung themselves into battle with the Fascist monsters. They chased them from Madrid, Barcelona and other parts. Against the heroism of the people, Franco’s cause was lost, but to his aid came Hitler and Mussolini.

And so for twelve months the great people of Spain, Catalonia and the Basque country, have battled to rescue their national territories from the clutches of international Fascism.

To their aid have come men from all countries. Against the courage, sincerity and sacrifice of the Irishmen who joined the glorious International brigade, the O’Duffy adventure pales into obscurity.

Let all workers, democrats and lovers of freedom show their appreciation of the Irishmen who joined the International Brigade by subscribing to the Fund of the Irish Friends of the Spanish Republic, c/o Mrs H Sheehy-Skeffington, 7 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin.

To mark this Sunday, the Anniversary of the outbreak of the Fascist Rebellion in Spain, the Socialist Party is holding an out-door Meeting at the rear of the Custom House, Belfast, in support of the Spanish Government.

Prominent speakers will address the meeting, including it is hoped, a member of the crew of the ss Cobetas, which is at present in Belfast.

Socialists, democrats, workers, rally to the Custom House, at 3.30 and express your solidarity with our Spanish comrades.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 24th July 1937

Dublin greets returned anti-fascists

The Friends of the Spanish Republic Committee organised a successful reception at Carrickmines, Dublin, on last Saturday, for the recently returned Irish members of the International Brigade, who are recovering from serious wounds received in action at the front. Their old friends in the Republican and working class movements were afforded an opportunity to greet Jerry Doran, John Goff, J Haynes, Patrick Smith and M Roe, as well as the earlier returned Donal O'Reilly, Bill Scott and S Cummins.

A message was conveyed to the gathering from Mrs Sheehy Skeffington, who was unable to be present. Mr R N Tweedy on behalf of the Irish Friends of the Spanish Republic, welcomed the returned men, and expressed the hope they would soon be able to take their places in the trenches of the home front against Fascism. Fr Michael O'Flanagan associated himself with the welcome and recounted some experiences of his recent American tour in support of the Spanish Republic. which showed the wide-spread popular enthusiasm for the cause in the USA, where even greater sections of the Irish there were coming to see through the propaganda intended to decieve them into support for Franco's fascism. R J Connolly and Sean Murray appealed for greater effort and unity to combat the Fascist agencies at home and stressed the need for financial support to the Spanish Aid Committee. Jerry Doran, on behalf of the returned men, assured the gathering that the cause for which the men who had given and risked their lives against fascist barbarism in Spain would be carried to victory n Madrid and they would see to it in Dublin and Belfast as well.

In view of the probability of other wounded and convalescent Irishmen coming home soon, it is proposed to hold a further reception in the near future. In the meantime, every supporter is asked to send all help, financial and otherwise, he or she can possibly send, so that the committee can look after its charges reasonably well.

Note the address: Mrs H Sheehy-Skeffington, President, Women's Spanish Aid Committee, 7 Belgrave Square, Rathmines, Dublin.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 24th July 1937

Belfast Workers' Fine Meetings

The anniversary of the outbreak of civil war in Spain was commemorated by the holding of a largely attended public meeting, under Socialist Party auspices, at the Custom House, Belfast.

Jack MacGougan said that the struggle in Spain was not a war of Christ v Anti-Christ, or religion v atheism. It was a war between the mass of the people and a landlord and capitalist class, using traitorous generals, Moorish troops, and foreign Fascists to set aside the will of the people, as demonstrated by the February elections.

Donal O'Reilly, Dublin, recently home from Spain, gave an account of the gallant defence of Madrid by the people, and the part played by the International Brigades. He said that he considered it a privege to have been of assistance to the cause of democracy in Spain.

Jack Dorricot also spoke.

Although the meeting was held in a continuous downpour of rain the attendance was very large. A second meeting was held in the Labour Hall, 48 York Street, on Sunday evening. Jack Dorricot presiding and Donal O'Reilly speaking.

An outdoor meeting will be held at the Custom House next Sunday at 3.30. Victor Halley and Sam Haslett will be the speakers.

A large attendance was present at a Mass Meeting under the auspices of the Communist Party at Library Street, Belfast, last Sunday.

Thomas Geehan (chairman), in his opening remarks, dealt with the significance of the year old struggle in Spain, and stressed the needs of the workers in Belfast striving for the same unity that has so successfully stemmed the Fascist horror in Spain.

W H McCullough, speaking of the economic and political struggle of the Belfast workers, showed the need for a greater degree of political development and organisation. Speaking of the tremendous developments that have taken place in all spheres of life within the Soviet Union, McCullough contrasted these victories under the leadership of the working class, with the war-mongering policies of the capitalist world.

Donal O'Reilly, of the International Brigade, traced the history of the fascist revolt in Spain, and showed that no longer is it a revolt or civil war, but a war of National independence, against the forces of International Fascism. He called to the workers of Belfast to redouble their efforts within their own particular anti-fascist struggle as a token of esteem for all who are so successfully withstanding the Fascist invasion in Spain.

Next Sunday, at 7.30, another meeting will be held at Library St. under the same auspices.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 24th July 1937

To those who died for Democracy

No wreaths but such wild blooms
as withered lie between the lines,
the no-man's land of yesterday,
to honour those at rest in undug tombs -
No wreaths but such rare seeds
as live and grow in comrades' hearts,
imbued with fertile warmth:
in memory of dreams grown into deeds.
No music but a song -
no organ drone to dirge they're gone:
alone the rifles' brief, prophetic crack
a soldiers' due and prelude to attack
before the dawn...

Frank O'Flaherty
La Pasionaria Hospital

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 24th July 1937

They sang wrap the Green Flag Round Me’
The Irish Charge on the Madrid Front

Patrick Murray [sic Murphy]

One of O’Duffy’s officers on his return told a ‘Connacht Tribune’ reporter that one day on the Madrid from ‘some of our men reported that they saw the Irish Tricolour flying on a hill in the ‘Red’ lines.”

That was the nearest O’Duffy’s men evidently got to the front, where the Irish Unit, under Frank Ryan, has seen service since last December.

Below, Patrick Murray, an Irish exile, who joined the Irish Unit, tells, in the New York ‘Sunday Worker,’ how the traditional Irish shout of ‘Up the Republic,’ echoed in the foothills around Madrid as the boys from the four Provinces charged for freedom and democracy.


The trench line along the Sierra Almaden was busy with activity as the men of the international brigade worked to improve their position. Far below them they could see minute dots on the landscape working their way slowly forward amid little puffs of smoke from bursting six-inch shells. In another hour the advance guard of Italian Fascism would be within long rifle range of their hastily constructed trenches. The decisive battle for possession of the rich Almaden mercury mines would be fought on the morrow.

Somewhere along the trenches a rich Irish brogue was heard singing: “Wrap the green flag around me.” Almost immediately, the song echoed back from the mountain peaks behind them as men from Mayo, Kildare, Dublin, Belfast, Limerick and almost every other Irish county joined in the air. The Irish Unit vanguard of Irish democracy, held the key position covering the pass to the lowlands towards which the Fascist thrust was directed.

Suddenly the rumour spread: “The O’Duffy’s are below.” The song stopped immediately as the men gathered together in little clusters to discuss this news. They had fought on the Guadarramas, in University City, at Guadalajara and on the Jarama front. But nowhere had they been in contact with the men under General O’Duffy who had come to Spain ‘to defend the faith.’

Many an Irish Republican Army veteran slept that night with his rifle butt for a pillow and a grim smile on his lips. Half of them had served under O’Duffy’s warders and had entered the inhuman regime of Mountjoy Prison, in Dublin, for the crime of advocating complete independence for Ireland.

At dawn, when the order came to go over the top, the Irish moved forward. Let Frank Ryan, commandant of the Irish Unit, tell of it:

‘When the order came to go over you should have seen our lads charge shouting the old war cry ‘Up the Republic!’ But we found ne’er an Irishman in the opposite trenches. Mostly they were Italians, who broke and ran as soon as our lad’s cries reached their ears. We found out later that O’Duffy’s men are mostly doing police work back in Salamanca.’

Ryan and O’Duffy are the two Irishmen who have taken leading positions in their homeland on the Spanish issue. Early, Ryan organised a group of Irish Republican army veterans in extreme secrecy and sailed for Spain against the overwhelming opposition of the Irish press. Sometime later O’Duffy announced the formation of the ‘Irish Brigade’ for the ‘defence of the Faith’ in Spain. The entire reactionary Press, Lombard Murphy’s ‘Independent’ leading, was open to O’Duffy. Funds came pouring in. His well-equipped detachment sailed for Spain and landed in the north. While Ryan’s men were fighting on all fronts, O’Duffy’s band contented itself with policing Salamanca and fighting intermittent skirmishes with their Moorish, Italian and Spanish allies in Salamanca bar-rooms. Ryan was invalided home in April to recuperate from a wound received on the Jarama front. He has since returned to Spain where he again assumed command of the Irish Unit. O’Duffy and his men recently reached Dublin without having endured more than a series of bar-room brawls.

Frank Ryan is today a symbol of the Ireland of the future. He is in his middle thirties and has fought since his late teens in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army. He is the one IRA veteran whom Scotland Yard compliments with a shadow on his infrequent trips though England. For many years he was editor of ‘An Phoblacht,’ which has been suppressed by the Free State Government. His leading role in the fight for Irish Independence brought him many prison terms the latest of which ended in 1932 with the accession of the de Valera government to office and the proclamation of a general amnesty for political prisoners.

Ryan’s militant nationalism has not stopped there, as was the sad fate of many another Irish leader. Today, he has realised the intimate connection between the Irish struggle for complete independence and the world struggle against fascism as carried on by Father Michael O’Flanagan, among others. Writing from Albacete on March 20, he expressed it as follows:

“We have got to let the world know that the lives of Conroy, Conway, Boyle and all the other Irish lads now buried in Spain have not been wasted, that their deaths are not tragedies. Honour for those who died for the freedom of all humanity. They could have remained at home and been regarded as ‘soldiers of Ireland.’ Instead they came here because they believed it was their duty to do so. They came here asking neither pay nor preferment, coming to participate in this decisive fight against fascism. And for my part, while it would be wrong to accuse me of bringing them here, I would never regret having done so. Our 50,000 who died in the World War were sacrificed uselessly. No life given here is given in vain. Look at it from a purely selfish viewpoint - which is better – that some of us should die here, or that thousands should die at home? For if Fascism triumphs here, Ireland’s trial will soon be at hand.”

His word pictures of the fighting along the Jarama front are among the best to come from the trenches. Writing to a friend in America from his hospital bed, he said:

“Yes, I am still alive here in a military hospital after a bad shaking up a fortnight ago. The Irish contingent had just returned from the trenches and were resting in a small village called Chincon, when the order came to go up the line again.

“From then on, for three days, we were in action on the Jarama front (that’s where Franco had driven a wedge in, south of Madrid, menacing the only road out of Valencia.) We had been previously in the University City, in Caso de Campo, and Guadarrama trenches. We were also wit the division attacking Cordoba, but Jarama was the toughest fighting I ever saw.

“Artillery, while pretty accurate on both sides, is not intensive in Spain – 3 or 4 field pieces to a battalion is the custom. The machine-gun fire was terrific, and then there were mortars, tanks, and aeroplanes. Old Great War veterans with us tell me the machine-gun fire was more intensive than in 1914-’18. We were fighting German and Italian regulars. They were dressed in corduroy uniforms.

“They made many mistakes, particularly by attacking us in mass formation. In one machine-gun nest of five men I saw five German passports taken from the pockets of the dead men.

“I saw letters in Italian taken from Fascist infantry the same day. I must admit those Fascist s fighting at Jarama were good fighters and were well officered. They were obviously picked troops, for the section is the key to Madrid.

“If the Fascists succeeded there, Madrid is isolated. Need I tell you our casualties were terrific? The 1st Company of the Unit led the attack. After the first day’s fighting it was reduced from 143 to 58 men.

“My Company O/C, Kit Conway, of Dublin, my right-hand man, was killed in this battle. Our Unit O/C was wounded, and it looked like I was the only officer that would be left. At dawn of the second day, this machine-gun fire drove us back, so I let the men retreat a mile. They were decided on another attack, and went forward again, and meeting desperate fire, we reoccupied our positions.

“On the fourth day of the fighting (which was continuous – there were occasions when there were only 300 of us in one long line between the Fascists and the Madrid Road); I got a flesh wound in the left arm from a bullet that went through the head of a chap beside me. Again a shell exploded beside our temporary trench, something hit me in the left hip, it must have been a stone, because it made me lame and bruised my leg but made no cut.

“I felt OK, and we decided to dash ahead of the barrage to better our position. Shortly after we gained this position, I received a bullet in the left shoulder which, I am told, hurt a muscle and wrenched a tendon. A French doctor has just told me that I will have to rest for quite a while. I expect to be back in the trenches the end of May.”

While Ryan was fighting in the front line trenches he did not forget that there were other battlefronts where the war against Fascism was being carried on. Home in Dublin, he undertook to aid the Republican struggle through the establishment of a weekly publication, the Irish Democrat. He recently broadcast the following appeal to Americans on behalf of the Democrat.

“At home in Ireland during my brief stay I found that the greatest need is an organ which will voice the thoughts of the plain people and organise all anti-Imperialist elements into one united Republican movement, North and South. To fill that need we founded the Irish Democrat. I appeal to America to help it.

It deserves the support of all lovers of liberty both in Ireland and throughout the world. The cause it fights is the same old cause that has made the name of Ireland great. As a bulwark against world Fascism, the Democrat should become one of the most important organs if liberal thought.

“Returning to my duty in Spain, I express the hope that later on I may come to America to thank your great people, personally, on behalf of the Irish Unit, and to work there in the great cause of the freedom of the human race.”

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 31st July 1937

They died in defence of democracy

The Irish Democrat announces with sincere regret that it has received confirmation of the deaths of the following members of the Irish Unit of the Spanish Government forces:

Charles Donnelly, Dublin
Thomas Woods, Dublin
M L Russel, Ennis Co. Clare
Hugh Bonar, Donegal
William Tumilson, Belfast
W H Fox, London-Irish
John Scott, Liverpool Irish
Leo Green, Dublin
Samuel Lee, London-Irish

Although many of these brave men were killed in the fighting of some months back, publication of their deaths in these columns was withheld until definite word reached us.

Along with hundreds of their fellow-countrymen these men answered the call to battle against Fascism in Spain and to save their country's name and great traditions from being dragged in the mud by the Fascist adventurer O'Duffy.

These men have given their lives for a noble cause, the cause of democratic liberty against Fascist tyranny. They gave their lives on Spanish soil because Spain today is the front-line trench of the world-wide fight against Fascist dictatorship.

We mourn their loss and realise that the forces of Irish Democracy are the poorer because of their deaths, but we feel proud that they gave their lives for such a noble and great cause. They have not died in vain, for the cause of Republican liberty will triumph over Fascism.

On behalf of the readers of the Irish Democrat and all lovers of liberty, we tender deepest sympathy to the relatives of these men.

Let us pay tribute to all the Irishmen who have died for democracy in Spain, let us show our appreciation for the Irishmen who are still in the front-line trenches, let us build up and unite the forces opposed to fascism and capitalist slavery here in Ireland. This is the way we can bring victory to the cause for which these men died. This is the tribute they would ask of us.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 31st July 1937

Tommy Woods - An Appreciation

We regret to announce that Fascism has claimed another victim in the Irish Section of the International Brigade in the person of Tommy Woods, Buckingham Place, Dublin. Woods was a young Republican worker who volunteered in December last year. From the age of seven he was a member of Fianna Eireann and afterwards of B Coy, 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA.

Young Woods carried in his person the traditions of a fighting family who had made heavy sacrifices in the cause of Irish freedom. His uncle, Patrick Doyle, was executed by the British authorities at Mountjoy in 1921, and another uncle, Sean Doyle, was killed at the Custom House, Dublin, in the same year. Tommy followed in the footsteps of his martyred uncles.

Writing to his father and mother from Albacete, Frank Ryan states;

'He was wounded on the Cordoba Front on December 29 last. I was talking to two comrades who brought him to the dressing station. He was hit above the left knee and then as they were bringing him in, he and one of his comrades was hit again. This time the bullet hit Tommy in the head, but the two lads with him thought it was only a graze as he was conscious all the time. He was brought to Andujar Hospital and the first report from there was very favourable, then we could get no more news of him. It is only now that we have found out why.' Frank goes on to say that the name of Woods was confused with that of Wools, a Dutch comrade who was there. It now transpires that Tommy Woods died in this hospital.

Frank Ryan states: 'His comrades here wish to be associated in rendering you their sympathy. Tommy was universally liked during the time he was with us here. I want to emphasise that his life was given in a great cause. He did not come looking for adventures nor for reward. He believed in the cause for which the people of Spain, helped by men such as himself, are fighting. He has given his life not only for the freedom of the people of Spain, but of the whole human race and he will be remembered and honoured equally with those who gave their lives for freedom in Ireland.'

In a letter to his mother, when leaving for Spain, Tommy Woods said: 'I am going to Spain to fight with the International Column. I left a message to be delivered to you on Sunday. We are going to fight for the working class. It is not a religious war, that is all propaganda. God bless you.'

To his parents and relatives the sympathy of all readers of the Democrat will go out, together with the resolve that each and all will redouble their efforts for the triumph of the ideals for which Tommy Woods and his comrades have given their lives, the triumph of democracy and the defeat of fascism.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 31st July 1937

Finished with the Generals

The split in O'Duffy's 'Brigade' raged in the open at a meeting held in Dublin last Thursday. The 'rebels' against O'Duffy and the 'generals' led by Mr J C Maguire, called a meeting of their own to organise collections. O'Duffy was challenged to attend but refused and wants all collections run by himself.

Mr Maguire said 'they were now finished with the Generals.' Shortly after this the lights went suddenly out and the meeting broke up in disorder.

Belton, licking his sores, was present, foaming at the mouth because of the questions he is being asked about the £30,000. He point blank refuses to say how he came to get hold of the money. 'This country has gone definitely to the Left in the past three months,' he shouted, smarting under his licking at the polls, and the demise of the 'Christian Front.'

O'Duffy had a meeting of his wing of the 'Brigade' last Sunday, in secret. No statement was issued to the Press.

Such is the outcome of the O'Duffy-Belton Fascist adventure 'on behalf of Christianity!'

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 31st July 1937

We shall miss Charles Donnelly

An appreciation by Montague Slater, from the London 'Left Review'

Charles Donnelly, a poet and a contributor to 'Left Review', a member of the Irish (James Connolly) Company of the American (Lincoln) Battalion in Spain has been reported missing for several months, and is believed to have been killed. I remember clearly one day in 1935 when I met Donnelly for the first time. He had come over a short time before from Dublin, where he had been at University College. His joining the Communist Party had given offence both to his parents and given offence to his parents [the university], and he had abandoned his studies.

In London he supported himself at first with the sort of jobs young Irishmen usually get hold of. I think he was either a barman or a dishwasher. He must have been twentyone. He had already made a great impression on audiences at Marx House, lecturing on the building of capitalism in the Free State. He saw affairs in his own country with such a fresh eye that conversation with him was a voyage of discovery.

He had the critical judgement of political questions of the sort one sometimes finds in very young people, confident and flexible and what used to be called in children 'old fashioned.' I never met in anyone so young the same boldness of political vision, and I remember wondering whether it was what we ought to expect in the new generation now coming of age, though I hadn't found it in the run of his contemporaries.

It was no chance flash as some readers of 'Left Review' will know for themselves. Two of his articles in 'Left Review' are well worth looking at again, the first, 'Portrait of a Revolution', Vol. 11, No. 1, October 1935, is an account of a meeting with one of the exiled German leaders. In it Donnelly pays a modest and imaginative tribute to one who had gone through the furnace, and he tries to look with the eye of a novelist into the subject's character. The second is one in which we collaborated, an article on Casement and Connolly, (Vol 11 No 7, April 1936), consisting of a resume of Bernard Shaw's draft speech in defence of Casement with Casement's annotations, and an historians judgement written by Donnelly of James Connolly as a revolutionary and as a man. It is a fine piece of eloquence, and had what I thought was, for us, a new note. He wrote regularly at this time in Irish left-wing papers, and had some very good articles in 'International Press Correspondence.'

It is the natural history of many of us for the emotional life to find it hard to catch up with intellect. Latterly, Donnelly wrote about politics less directly, was writing verse, had begun a novel and studied military science with a sort of romantic enthusiasm. He was moving from one to another of comparatively short-term jobs, as journalist, office worker, and so on, going though the usual struggle.

When the Fascist rebellion broke out in Spain he plunged into all available material, particularly Napier's 'Peninsular War,' and produced a memorandum on strategy in Spain which I have not seen, but I believe it was shown to military experts whose interest was aroused. When the International Brigade was formed, he said it was ridiculous to spend all this time on military theory without experiencing the practice, but he waited till the Irish company was ready, saying he would only fight beside people he knew.

He went to Spain just before Christmas, and in his last days here wrote a great deal of verse in which his emotional and intellectual life were beginning to find fusion. Some of this may be rescued. I am reminded of something Upward says in 'The Mind in Chains' that only 'in revolutions and major wars do fundamental realities come to the surface of life.' For Donnelly public and private living had come together and were to be fused in dying.

I have said enough to show that I believe a mind of rare delicacy has been sacrificed. The lessons of history are not cheap, and the price this time was the maximum. Donnelly paid with cool understanding and all the letters from Spain speak of his gallantry in the fighting.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 7th August 1937

Irishmen in Action in Spain
Take part in capture of Villaneuva de la Canada

During the recent offensive of the Spanish Republican forces on the Madrid (centre) front, the Irish Unit, under Frank Ryan, went into action, and participated in the capture of Villaneuva de la Canada and the heavy fighting at Brunete.

Elsewhere we report the deaths of two members of the Irish Unit, who were killed during the fighting. Among the members of the Irish Unit wounded in this fighting were: Paddy Duff, Dublin; Jackie Power, Waterford; Paul Burns, Boston; Marin Hourihan (Irish American); J Tierney, Dublin, and Ben Murray and Tom Murphy of Belfast.

Frank Ryan in a letter says he has visited the wounded and they are all progressing favourably.

Readers of the DEMOCRAT could show their appreciation of the courage and heroism of these brave men by sending subscriptions of money or cigarettes to Mrs H S Skeffington, Women's Spanish Aid Committee, 7 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin. Readers who wish to send cigarettes or papers direct can send them c/o Frank Ryan (Irlandesa), Chambre 5E, SR1, Albacete, Spain.

At any rate, don't delay, send your Subscription right away to either of the addresses given above.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 7th August 1937

Roll of Honour

In the recent heavy fighting on the Madrid front, two more members of the Irish Unit fell. They were:

Michael Kelly, Ballinsaloe, Co. Galway.

William Laughran, Belfast.

Michael Kelly was very well-known in Irish Republican circles in London, where he played an active and leading part in the work of the Republican Congress groups. He was 38 years of age.

He was killed on July 8, when he was one of an advance patrol pursuing retreating Fascists, following the capture of Villaneuva de la Canada. He came unscathed through the heavy fighting of the previous day, and shared the joy of his comrades at the victory over Franco’s fascists, but fell in a minor encounter with the retreating fascists.

William Laughran, of Belfast, was killed in the fighting preceding the capture of Villaneuva de la Canada, on July 7. Along with many other Belfast men he volunteered his services last December, to fight against the fascist attack on Democracy in Spain. And in this great fight they joined with their brother Irishmen from the South.

With his life William Laughran has demonstrated his loyalty and sincerity to the struggle for democratic liberty.

All Irishmen and women, who love freedom and hate hypocrisy, will join with us in tendering sincere condolences to the relatives of these brave men, worthy and noble sons of revolutionary Ireland.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 7th August 1937

Today they are fighting For Republican Liberty

‘Volunteer in Spain’ by John Sommerfield (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 2s 6d): ‘Spain,’ by W H Auden (Faber and Faber, London, 1s).

It is interesting to note the individual types who have taken sides in the present conflict in Spain. Franco’s allies, the German Nazis, Italian Fascist, the Foreign Legion and the Moors, have given us examples of the culture they intend to impose on humanity.

Sommerfield and Auden present the picture of those who have gone to fight for the Spanish republic and of the ideas and aspirations they are defending with their lives.

There is one particular passage in Sommerfield’s book that sums it all up. He is describing the German Thaelmann Brigade going up to the front singing a marching song. ‘It was the voice of Free Germany, and they were singing it again going up to the front and knowing better than any of us what they were fighting against. There was a big red flag at the head of the column and each company had a red banner. It was a brave sight. It had all the glamour and excitement the governments can use to make men forsake their homes and die on a foreign soil for foreign markets, but it was ours, it was our army, and the glamour was real, and they were going to fight and die for the only things in the world that were worth fighting and dying for.’

This is only one of the many vivid and stirring episodes that happened in Spain, but he does not set out to glorify war; on the contrary he shows the ghastly horrors that are attendant on it and of what men will endure to preserve the ideals they cherish.

Auden, in his stirring poem, shows he flow of events, of men’s achievements and what is intended to be realised in the future. This beautiful verse conveys the idea finely:

‘Tomorrow the hour of the pageant-master and the musician,
The beautiful roar of the chorus under the drums;
The eager election of chairmen
By the sudden forest of hands.
But today the struggle.’
It is worth mentioning that Auden’s profits from this poem will go to the Spanish Medical Aid. Read the book and the poem and really understand why men have taken rifle sin their hands to defeat the wild beast, Fascism.

Kit Conway and Charlie Donnelly of our Irish Unit are representative of our best and bravest; they realised that Fascism must be fought to the finish and bravely laid down their lives for the inalienable right of a people to self-government.

The fight in Spain is the fight of every liberty-loving Irishman and woman.

Malachy Grey

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 7th August 1937

Defeat O’Duffy’s Stunting

O’Duffy and his discredited Fascist officers are engaged on a new stunt. They have organised a flag-day collection for this weekend. They are carrying out this stunt in opposition to the wishes of the rank and file, who have no trust in the ‘General.’

The real motive is to get public display for Fascism on the streets and attempt to exploit the hardships of the misguided which he railroaded to Franco-Spain and back. O’Duffy has let the cat out of the bag by announcing he is going back to Spain to get the remains of those killed (by Franco’s forces as is revealed now) and bring them back to Dublin.

These latest Fascist stunts will meet with the same reply as always from the masses of the people.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 21st August 1937

Frank Ryan’s tribute to Michael Kelly

Below we print a letter which some friends in London have received from Frank Ryan, from Spain, in which he pays tribute to Michael Kelly, of Galway, and who was well known in Irish Republican circles in London.

In our last issue we announced his death in the recent heavy fighting near Brunete.

Again we call our readers attention to the need for support for the Irishmen fighting in the cause of Democracy in Spain. Every day they risk their lives in defence of this great cause.

In a practical way show your support and solidarity for the men still in Spain and for those who have been invalided home. Send donations to the Women’s Spanish Aid Committee, c/o Mrs H S Skeffington, 7 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin. Make your subscription as big as possible, but don’t delay, send it right away.

Frank Ryan’s letter is as follows: Your parcel and letter of June 98 was given to me when I came back to the base yesterday. I am very sorry to announce that Michael Kelly is dead. He died as he would have wished, twenty kilometres behind the original Fascist lines, after we had broken through on the Centre Front on July 6. He was one of an advance patrol which was making contact with the retreating enemy on the morning of July 8. IN an exchange of fire, he was killed outright.

For two days and nights previously we had been engaged in very heavy fighting in broiling heat in very exposed positions. Michael participated in the capture of Villaneuva de la Canada – which was twenty-four hours of hell and culminated in desperate hand to hand fighting in the streets. He got through that, and through a period of hot strafing from avions without a scratch, and then in a brief and comparatively trivial engagement, got killed.

Everywhere there are expressions of regret for him. He was so full of energy, so tireless in his efforts on behalf of his comrades, and always so cheery. His loss is a bigger one. I had a last chat with him the morning the attack opened. It was typical of him that his thoughts were about Ireland. He regretted that we hadn’t that banner he asked you to make! I’m afraid my comments weren’t very tactful. Anyway we hadn’t a row over it.

We have had a few others killed and a fair number wounded – but considering the intensity of the fighting all units engaged came off very lightly. And when your casualties are incurred in an advance, you don’t feel it quite so badly – though Mick’s loss, under any circumstance, is to be deeply regretted.


Frank Ryan

Return to the top of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 21st August 1937 -

Friends of Spain

The Friends of the Spanish Republic (Women’s Aid Committee) makes a special appeal to readers of the Democrat for donations or subscriptions to its fund. There are now a number of volunteers invalided home wounded from service with the Irish Unit of the International Brigade in Spain. Some of them have been very seriously wounded, all are incapacitated from work for the time being. The Women’s Aid Committee have assumed the responsibility for the needs of those wounded until such time as they are fit for work again. It has, up to the present, been able to do this, but the drain on its funds is very great and these are beginning to run very low, so low that there is great danger that it will be unable to continue its good work, if the many, who sympathise with the cause for which these men fought and suffered, do not come to the rescue.

The Committee appeals most earnestly to all readers of the Democrat not only themselves to send along a donation or a weekly contribution, however small, but to get their friends to give also. Contributions should be sent to the Chairman, Mrs Sheehy-Skeffington, 7 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, Dublin.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 28th August 1937 -

Liam Tumilson - An Appreciation
By Patrick R McLaughlin

March 14 1937 was the second of three days fighting on the Jarama front for the possession of the Valencia road. Wave after wave of Fascist troops hurled themselves on our lines, especially on our left flank, in an attempt to break through. On noon of this day, our line broke to the left of us, the Lincoln Battalion, and word of this was passing along to the Commandant, Liam Tumilson, who was checking up on the machine-guns further down the line. Owing to the peculiar lie of the land our machine guns had not yet swung into action. On hearing what had happened, Comrade Tumilson came calmly and quickly on the scene, to see for himself what could be done. Standing on a little hill from where he could view the carnage below, he turned to issue instructions, but he had scarcely finished speaking when a Fascist bullet crashed through his brain and with sorrow we watched his proletarian blood flow on to the soil he fought so hard to save from despotism and slavery. That gap was shortly afterwards manned by several of our American comrades on seeing whom the Fascists turned and fled.

Along with those of his comrades who have also paid the supreme price in their resistance to Fascism, Liam Tumilson sleeps his last in the fair hills of Spain. We buried him in the English speaking section in the little town of Morata. about 20 miles south-west of Madrid. Born of Ulster protestants, Liam strove to unite the catholic and Protestant workers against their common enemy, the capitalist class, and was one of the gallant little band who defended Connolly House, Dublin, when it was besieged in 1933, by the same fascist hoodlums who were out here in the name of Christianity.

He was in his element fighting Fascism and it was typical of him, that at the commencement of his journey out here last December, being short of the necessary fare for that distance, he hitch-hiked all the way from Liverpool to London. It was typical also of the slogan we associated with him - 'Wherever the fight is, Tumilson will be there.'

To his young Irish sweetheart, Kathleen Walsh, now in England, we tender the deepest sympathy of every comrade in the XV Brigade. We feel we could not play fitting tribute to Liam if we omitted the name of the one who was the idol of his heart and who, in turn most thoroughly understood him. We have confidence, based on the opinion of our late comrade, that Comrade Walsh will become a leading figure in the future work of building a fitting memorial to Liam and his comrades in the form of a free, happy and prosperous Workers Republic.

Patrick R McLaughlin.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 28th August 1937 -

Welcomed Home from Spain

A packed audience in the Hatch Street Hall, Dublin, last Friday, gave a rousing welcome to the members of the Irish Unit of the International Brigade, who have been recently invalided home from Spain.

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Women's Aid Committee of the Irish Friends of the Spanish Republic, Mrs H Sheehy-Skeffington presiding. A letter expressing regret for being unable to attend was read from the Rev. Michael O'Flanagan.

A resolution was passed declaring that the present war in Spain is a conflict between the forces of Spanish democracy against the agencies of a brutal Fascism, Spanish and international, condemning the inhuman barbarities inflicted on the Spanish people by the Fascist forces and German and Italian intervention against the Spanish Republic, calling on the Twenty-Six County Government to re-establish proper diplomatic relations with the lawful Government of Spain, and take its stand against the foreign Fascist invasion of that country; calling on the Labour and Republican movements of all shades to unite their efforts in a common struggle against all attempts by Irish reaction to set up an Imperialist-Fascist dictatorship in Ireland and for the support of Irish democracy for the gallant fight of the Spanish people for freedom.

Terence Flanagan, Frank Edwards, Jim Prendergast, Jack Nalty and Joe Monks (all returned from Spain) gave vivid stories of their experiences at the front and their impression of the heroism of the people of Spain.

R J Connolly, John Swift and Peadar O'Donnell, supported the resolution. Peadar O'Donnell made a special appeal to the audience for support for the Irish Democrat in its present difficulties.

A collection for the Women's Aid Committee realised £7.

Irish Democrat 28th August 1937

William Laughran of Belfast

As one who knew Comrade William Laughran and his sterling qualities as an anti-Fascist fighter, not only here but at home in Belfast, I would like to pay a small tribute to him.

Comrade Laughran had all the requisites for a strong hatred of fascism and all that it stood for. He gave his experience, of which he had thirteen years in the British Army, and put it at the disposal of the Spanish People's Army.

I remember early in December of last year, when we arrived here with very few of us with any experience of arms, he spent all his time giving instruction in machine-guns, etc. And when we finally left for the front he won the respect of everyone for his coolness and ability under fire.

The Irish comrades (with whom he was extremely popular) are proud of him as they are of all the brave Irishmen who have fallen in the fight to save Spanish Democracy and the honour of their country.

The only tribute he would want paid to him would be, for the men and women at home to strengthen the campaign for support for the Spanish Democracy, and to make widely known the terrible crime that is being committed against Democracy by the farce of non-intervention.

The Belfast working class can best salute the memory of Comrade Laughran by uniting and strengthening their ranks in the fight to end the rule of Craigavon and the influence of all anti-democratic elements.

J Larmour

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 28th August 1937

Band Without Uniforms

General O'Duffy, while in Spain with his 'defenders of Christianity,' formed the opinion that 'his troops' were not able to march properly to Spanish music and bands. He had a brainwave and sent word home that he must have an Irish pipe band to lead 'his troops.'

St. Mary's Anti-Communist Pipe Band, with headquarters at Waterford Street, Dublin, answered the call and they sailed away to Franco Spain, all dressed up in nice kilts and ribbons flying. They came back with the rest of O'Duffy's braves, disillusioned and sad, after their sojourn in Franco Spain.

Since its return things have not gone too well with the band. Recently they had a public collection, but rumours are current in connection with the result. It is also rumoured that the band would find it very difficult to fulfil any engagement just now, since it has no uniforms. And we understand the members of the band and the people in Waterford Street and neighbourhood are all talking of what happened to the uniforms. They have been deposited with 'uncle,' but the band members weren't acquainted about this 'arrangement.' Of course there are lots of other things the bandsmen and neighbours are talking about, but for decency's sake we won't mention them.

No doubt many of the people in Waterford Street and around that area are now beginning to realise that the gentlemen who have displayed such great religious fervour are not so religious after all.

O'Duffy, it would seem, went out of his way to associate with his campaign 'to save Christianity' all the worst elements in the country. Or is it not nearer the truth that no other kind of people would associate with his campaign, since all honest Catholics and decent Irishmen know O'Duffy and his stunting too well.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 28th August 1937

Franco Fascists use Women and Children as Cover
Frank Ryan describes recent heavy fighting on the centre front

I have sent today an appreciation of the four lads of ours who were killed in July – William Beattie and William Laughran, Belfast; Bill Davis, London; Michael Kelly, Galway. Richard O’Neill of Belfast who was also killed at Jarama on February 14, was overlooked. Assure relatives of the safety of Michael Lehane, Lowry, Duff and Peter O’Connor, now back at the base.

Our boys were all in the big push on the Centre Front. Their first objective was Villaneuva de la Canada, a town nearly as big as Bray, Co. Wicklow. To get there they had to drive in outposts, capture a line of trenches strongly fortified with barbed wire. Break through a line of pill-boxes, and finally storm the trenches at the entrance to the town.

Paddy Duff commanded a machine-gun section. He got as far as the block-houses. While dashing between two of them he got a bullet in the ankle. (Same old leg as before!) He rolled into a shell-hole, would let nobody near him, yelled them onward and waited for the First Aid men. Great, cute old soldier, Paddy.

The final storming of the town was a desperate affair carried out just at nightfall. (The whole attack was carried out between dawn and dusk.) The Americans and ourselves were trying to find cover in flat ground a few hundred yards from the houses. Our aircraft and artillery had pounded the place well, but the church (which, of course, dominates every landscape here) kept standing. And from its tower machine-guns seriously hampered us.

Just at dusk a crowd of women, children and old men, and about 40 young men, came out the road, hands outstretched, calling ‘Camaradas.’ Pat Murphy (Sean’s old pal) and some others were behind a dung-pit. They thought the crowd were refugees. Pat got up and went to meet them, telling them to drop their arms if they had any.

Just as he approached, a revolver barked, then grenades started to fly. For five minutes there was pandemonium, guns cracking, grenades bursting, and women and children shrieking. Pat, engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle, fell into a drain with his opponent, where he dispatched him. Beside him fell a little girl of about ten years who had been at the head of the group. ‘Lie quite, girlie,’ said Pat, and she smiled back as if she understood. A grenade burst in the drain and Pat was severely wounded in the groin.

In five minutes it was all over; the last of the Fascists was accounted for. When the lads went around to collect their own and the non-combatants, they found the little girl, two old women and three old men dead. It was at least a satisfaction that every single one of the Fascists who had driven them in front of them as cover was also dead.

A few minutes later the town was stormed from two opposite points. It was dark by then, with bursting grenades – it was almost all grenade work – to light the way. It was done so well that the two storming parties were within an ace of storming each other. The mopping-up continued through the night, the Fascists mostly dropping their guns and becoming innocent peasants, in the cellars with the women and children.

There were weird sights. In one house you went to talk to three men lolling on chairs. Not a scratch on them. They had all been killed by the concussion of aerial torpedoes. And every Fascist prisoner, if you could believe him, was either a Communist or a Socialist. It was the most People’s Front town in all Spain!

Michael Kelly was killed that day. He was a Battalion runner, and was out with the Observation Officer. He was killed instantaneously by a bullet to the head. He was a good type, always full of energy, always linking up the struggle here with the struggle at home. He was the chief organiser of the Connolly Commemoration held in the Jarama trenches last May. And he never shirked work; he was actually an embarrassment by his habit of volunteering for dangerous work for which he was not capable. His loss is universally regretted here. Unfortunately the papers he was carrying with him (he was a walking library) were lost. I have just a few things he gave me the day before.

Bill Davis, of Dublin, one of those wandering Irish fighters of whom there are quite a few here, was killed in the final rush on Villaneuva, as was Laughran. Bill was in the Irish Guards fro years, being dismissed for ‘Red activities.’ He worked with Tom Murphy, of Belfast, another ex-Guardsman, in London, where both were in the Camden Town Communist Party. Bill caught a burst of the machine gun from the church tower as he was charging forward. Tom was by his side. ‘He curled up,’ says Tom, ‘his fist shot out, clenched. ‘Salud, camaradas,’ he smiled, and died.’

Our Wild Geese of olden days went out to fight with any army that was fighting their old enemy. But our Wild Geese like Davis, and Tom Murphy and ‘Dublin’ Hayes and Dinny Holden of Carlow, learned as they wandered that there is one common enemy, and all of them who fought and those of them who fell here, have not done their wandering nor fighting nor dying in vain.

I wish that I could give you certain pictures of the fighting – and there’s some I try to forget myself. At times I saw it all like a panorama in front of me; then there were some hours when my nose stuck further and further to earth. Ludwig Renn (the German author, an officer in a Saxony regiment during 1914-19, Irish Dem. Ed.) says it was like the Somme, only a bit worse.

One sure thing is you never get inured to bombardment; used to it – certainly. But every time the torpedoes start to fall, you feel your guts contract, and the blood gets sucked up out of your body. Of all the reading matter, what should I have in my hand one such day but the story of Guernica. Then I really realised what it must have been for the women and children.

And Oh! I picked up in one of the captured villages a magazine published in Salamanca. Which had some terrifying pictures of Guernica after the bombardment. And the hounds out of hell who had done that ghastly destruction brazenly attributed it to us!

War’s hell. There’s little glamour in it when you’re there, especially when you see what’s left – after shell and the heat – of fellows that were joking with you a few hours before/ But this one has got to be done and won, so that makers of war can never again cause Guernicas and Almerias and Bilbaos.

It was on the 23rd, in the height of the Fascist counter-attack, that Beattie got killed. Hillen (also from Belfast) was wounded the same time. Pour old Beattie; he survived a report of his death last December, and he was the last man to die in this campaign.

In the last few days of the battle we were outnumbered three to one in artillery and airplanes. The more planes our fighters knocked down, the more kept coming on. And for all their bombardment – which was terrible in its intensity and duration – they only regained one village and a few square miles of territory. We hold the greater part of a wedge we drove into their lines. And we have plenty of manpower; the enemy relies on planes and artillery to make up for his poor-quality troops. The offensive is certainly a victory for us: we came best out of it by a long chalk. (That’s not propaganda; that’s for your information.)

Here is propaganda that’s true. Peter O’Connor and Michael Lehane and Jones, of Gorey, Co. Wexford, were among those who went through three weeks of hell. And on the evening we finally for out of that scrap there was a rumour that we were to go right back in again. Men, good men, were just too exhausted to stir, and those three guys I heard with my own ears complain that they were exhausted, but if they were to go back that’s just b[lood]y well do it.

And they meant it. It wasn’t heroics. After those three weeks heroics wouldn’t fool even themselves. Some of the finest men in the world are in our little gang. (I can hear myself cheer, nearly.) [Note by CC. The lines of this paragraph were mixed up in the actual newspaper, this is how it should read.]


Frank Ryan

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 28th August 1937

Kit Conway

‘Kit’ Conway, a native of Tipperary and well known to Dublin building workers. During the Black and Tan days he was active with the Tipperary IRA. After the civil war he went to America where he joined the US Army. On his return to Ireland he resumed his Republican activities and was arms instructor for the IRA.

He went to Spain last December to join the Irish Unit. He was killed at Jarama on February 12. He held the rank of Company Commander in the XV Brigade of the Spanish Republican Army.

When the Republican Congress was formed in 1934 he became an active worker in that organisation. Later he joined the Irish Communist Party.

‘Kit’ Conway (known to many as ‘Kit’ Ryan) was popular to all who had the privilege to know him.

To get to the Start of this List of Articles

Irish Democrat 4th September 1937 -

He would have liked to have met O'Duffy in Spain

By Harry Rushmore, reprinted from the 'Daily Worker', New York.
Thomas Patrick Simms was only a little shaver in Co. Tipperary when the Black and Tans started rolling over Ireland in their motor lorries spraying the inhabitants with machine-gun bullets.

But Tom, for all his fifteen years, had learned from his father and his grandfather that there was more behind 'they're hanging men and women for the wearin' o' the green' than just a song with some nice words in it.

For generations the Simms had tilled the soil of Ireland and its sod bore the imprint of their hard work - and also their blood, spilled during the long fight for democracy waged by the Irishmen against England.

So when the British troops came into Dublin, little Tom was there behind the barricades. The big rifle he used kicked like billy hell, but it didn't spoil his aim.

This week, a 'long way from Tipperary' Tom sat in the offices of the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy and talked about the Dublin days and the Black-and-Tans. His eyes blue as the Fergus River that borders his native county, twinkled with excitement and he was tickled as a kid for Tom Simms was going to Spain.

With him were three companions. All had come down from Canada and with them they brought two shiny, new ambulances. They had helped the Communist Party of Canada to raise the money for these machines, and thousands of others toiled like harvest hands to reach the quota of £550 needed to purchase the ambulances. When the money was finally totalled, there was more than £1,000. 'I guess we're lucky,' Tom said, and he spoke for the whole group. 'There was lots of the fellows who wanted to go and do their bit and we're plenty pleased that they picked us.'

'But I'm worried about one thing,' said Thomas Patrick. 'I hear that 'General' O'Duffy is back in Ireland, I kind of hoped to meet him in Spain. 'He used to be my superior officer back in the old days. I didn't like him all too well then. And after the way he's turned fascist, any good Irishman who's proud of his country's traditions is bursting for a nice, quiet talk with the old boy.'

Tom left the island around 1924 and, bewildered and dead broke, jogged from country to country. Most of the time he served as a soldier, sometimes in India, sometimes in Borneo.

Tom had a total of two years schooling, but through his soldering, he learned that the definition of imperialism was a boot-heel on the neck and fighting was created by people who weren't called Tommy Atkins.

So Simms went to Canada. He liked the new, beautiful country and was glad to get away from the army. But he found the same thing there that he found in Ireland and India.

That's why he organised the workers of the Pioneer Mine out in the British Columbia hard-rock country. That's what made him start thinking after seeing how the strike was won, that there was a way out of all this. His development as a leader of the miners taught him the way.

So a few weeks ago when the Communist Party asked for money to buy ambulances, Tom not only raised plenty of dough in the mines, but volunteered as one of the crew.

His three companions, all Canadians, were equally ticked to get the call. Gedeon Menard, mechanic from Montreal, Victor Himmelfarb, University of Toronto graduate and Earl Rose, former member of the Royal Mounted Police round out a quartet that'll rank with any ambulance team in Spain.

They're also grateful - as are thousands of others - for the yeoman work of the Communist Party of Canada did in obtaining these ambulances.

And they're guarding the precious machines with a mother-love.

'It took pennies and nickels and dimes from people who don't have much to spare to buy these things,' the crew says.

'And they're needed in Spain,' says Tom. 'Don't worry about them not getting there.'

Looking at County Tipperary's son you got an idea that he meant just what he said.

Return to the top of this Page

Other local newspaper reports here.

Extracts from the Left press of the period

Home Page