Spanish Civil War veterans honoured

By Linda McKee, in the Belfast Telegraph, July 19th 2006

Twenty Ulstermen who died in the Spanish Civil War are to have their sacrifice immortalised in memorials across the province.

Men from across the political divide travelled to Spain 70 years ago to fight the Franco forces who were supported by Hitler and Mussolini.

The war broke out on the night of July 17, 1936, when the Spanish army rebelled against the Second Republic. By the conflict's end in April 1939, 325,000 people had died in battle and from disease.

The International Brigades Commemoration Committee (IBCC) said 79 men from Northern Ireland, from all religious and political backgrounds, went to Spain to fight Franco's troops.

Of these, 20 were killed. Their sacrifice will be marked with memorials planned for Belfast, Londonderry and Craigavon.

The first Ulstermen to take part in the conflict were Joe Boyd and Fred McMahon from Belfast, who travelled to Spain as medics in September 1936.

IBCC researcher Ciaran Crossey said the pair were captured and held as prisoners of war by Franco's troops until they were expelled through Portugal.

"Also taken as POW was the fate of the last local man in Spain, Jim Haughey of Lurgan, who was eventually released in May 1939," Crossey said.

"Men from the Shankill, Henry McGrath, Bill Beattie and William Laughlin, all shared the fate of Lower Falls men, Dick O'Neill and James C Domegan - all killed in battle fighting fascism," he added.