3rd Annual Frank Conroy Commemoration
Sunday 9th November 2014
Speaker: Harry Owens Spanish Civil War Historian
2011 JARAMA COMMEMORATION
The weekend following the Charlie Donnelly commemoration in Tyrone a major Intenational event, commemorating the battle of Jarama, took place in Madrid. This event from the seeds sown by Bob Doyle Seve Montereo Harry Owens Anna Perez and the support of AABI has taken root and grown into the the largest annual International Brigade commemeoration on the calender
Friday night, Feb 25, saw the launch of the Spanish translation of Joe Donnellys “Even the olives are bleeding”. Sponsered by AABI (Madid Friends of the Intenational Brigades) and translated by Eliza Retana Vallely the launch took place in the Madrid Ateneno whose auditorim was packed to capacity. This prestigious buildings historical connections to the defence of freedom of thought and expression (one its presidents was Manuel Azana President of the Republic 1936-39) was a fitting setting for the occasion.
The launch was presented by the current president of the Ateneo Carlos Paris, who welcomed the the translation of the book into Spanish. He then went on to talk about how important it was to keep the memory of the Brigaders to the fore. Eddie Oneill from the Friends of Charlie Donnelly spoke next (speech attached) Justin Harman the Irish Ambassador to Spain speech then followed. Neil Donnelly nephew of Charlie then spoke of how proud the Donnelly family were of Charlie,(speech attached)
Agustín Lozano de la Cruz, Secretary of the AABI then spoke on the history of the Brigaders and how they choose to stand with the Spanish democrats in their fight against Fascism.
Saturday saw the 9th Jarama battlefield event take place . Around 400 hundred people set out in glorious sunshine to walk the area where the X1 Internatinal Brigade fought .This brigade included the German Battalions. Among the many nationalities present were members of the Friends of those who fought in the Thallman and Edgar Andre battalions. At various points throughout the 3hr walk significant aspects of the battlefield were explained. Again with all areas of the Jarama battlefield, it is a sobering thought that one threads on ground where the remains of 20000 who died in the defence of freedom lie buried
At a point close to where the X1 and the XV Brigade areaa overlapped, high above the area where the Lincoln Brigade command post was located,Rosemary Donnelly, the niece of Charlie Donnelly, read Charlies poem “The Tolerance of Crows”
From there the the walkers continued on to a moving ceremony held at the IB memorial. From there they moved to the restaurant and museum Meson el Cid. Many of the 35+ Irish in attendance took the opportunity to visit the cemetery in Morata where many of the early casualties from the XV Brigade were buried, among them Kit Conway
The days events concluded with a wreath/flower laying ceremony and speech at the Charlie Donnelly monument
For everyone this was a day never to be forgotten and those of us from Ireland are indebted to the AABI, as they allow us, through their dedication to the preservation of the IBs memory, the means to be part of the celebration
NEIL DONNELLYS SPEECH IN MADRID ATENEO FEB 25 2011
President of the Ateneo, Mr Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once again, I am happy to be here in Madrid to speak on behalf of the DONNELLY family. My mother, Kay, sends apologies for not being able to attend.
The family is especially honoured that the AABI have chosen to translate into Spanish my father, JOSEPH DONNELLY’S book, CHARLIE DONNELLY, THE LIFE AND POEMS and I hope it will enjoy success here in Spain. We are also greatly honoured that this Spanish translation is being presented here in the Ateneo de Madrid, an institution that has represented many of the principles that my uncle Charlie believed in.
I want to honour my father, Joseph Donnelly who died three years ago, for his commitment and dedication to his brother, Charlie’s memory. Indeed, little would be known about Charlie but for my father’s efforts in recording and researching his life. Following Charlie’s death, attempts had been made to write a Memoir on Charlie by his friends Donagh McDonagh, Leslie Daiken and Montague Slater. They had gathered poetry and writings but, for various reasons, one of which was the conservative political climate in Ireland at the time, nothing could be done. Unfortunately, in the process, some material, especially the poetry, was lost. Having failed to publish in Ireland, Leslie Daiken sent a manuscript with the remaining poetry to a New York publisher where it lay for 30 years before being returned to my father in 1970. It was at this time that my father began his own research towards writing this memoir of Charlie.
Charlie was gifted with a fine intellect, capable of independent thought which is evident in his poetry, which, in turn, was never partisan. His spirit, on the other hand, was motivated by a strong commitment to social justice having witnessed the sufferings of the poor of Dublin. This led him to seek answers through political means, having met people like Peadar O’Donnell, George Gilmore and Frank Ryan who were of like mind. He joined the Republican Congress and on leaving Ireland, continued this work in London also becoming involved in the British Labour movement.
The rise of Fascism in Europe in the 1930’s was a matter of great concern to him and the outbreak of war in Spain affected him deeply. His sense of justice was not confined to local or national politics
but also had an international dimension. Thus, he fully committed himself to the defence of the Spanish Republic by joining the International Brigades. His commitment was total and this led to his making the supreme sacrifice of his life.
Charlie’s life was a source of inspiration to my father and he was proud of Charlie’s fight for justice in Spain. Despite the tragic loss the family suffered, it is good to see that Charlie continues to inspire so many together with all those who died for the cause in Spain.
On behalf of the Donnelly family, I would like to thank all who made both the translation and this event possible, namely, Carlos Paris, President of the Ateneo, Ambassador Harman, Agustin Lozano and Seve Montero of the AABI and Elisa Retana Vallely who has made an excellent job of the translation. I would also like to acknowledge again our friends from Ireland, Harry Owens and Eddie O’Neill
EDDIE ONEILLS SPEECH ON BEHALF OF THE FRIENDS OF CHARLIE DONNELLY MADRID 2011
Primero, quiero agradecerles, mis amigos espanoles, para el honor y el privilegio de permitirme dirigirles mis pocas palabras en este lugar tan simbolico de la libertad de pensamiento.
Last year I had the privilege of been part of the group known as the friends of Charlie Donnelly, who built the memorial here in Madrid to the Irish poet and socialist revolutionary Charlie Donnelly.
The construction of that monument was assisted by the Donnelly family, the AABI, Rivas Vacciamadrid council and many other people. The erection of the monument finally pays tribute to Charlie and all the other Irish brigaders who died in defence of the Spanish republic.
Later, on the day of the unveiling, the large group of Irish, English and Spanish retired to a local pub for a beer and some songs. Throughout our stay in the pub, we were constantly asked by a middle aged man why we remember the Spanish Civil War. “Why do you remember?” was his critical protest. For us it was not difficult to answer.
What is happening in Ireland, and elsewhere in the world at present, and what was happening in the 1930s, have a shocking similarity.
We live in a world where big business, that is, Capitalism, has usurped the democratic political process. That political process is used as a veneer to mask tyranny.
Today we live in a country where its people and their future generation are in bondage to the ECB, and the IMF. Such a scenario was unfolding prior to the Spanish civil war.
An economic crisis, banks collapsing in Europe, and mass unemployment. The response then, as now, is to make the poor pay. The means to enact that philosophy in the 1930’s, were the politics of Hitler and Mussolini.
Against this wider backdrop, the hopes of the poor in Spain were been dashed by the overthrow of its fledgling democratic republic. Little help was given by western democracies. Indeed, by their non intervention pact, Spain’s fellow democracies handed victory to Franco and his German and Italian allies.
It was left to Russia and Mexico to help Spain, and from this sprung the IB. In Ireland, as in many countries, there were also fascist movements and thus an awareness among many that fascism itself must be challenged.
Many of Irelands leading socialists and republicans enlisted in the fight in Spain, to defend democracy. Their view was that a blow struck against fascism in Spain was a blow struck for universal freedom. Indeed, when asked why he was going to fight in Spain, Tommy Patten replied “that the bullet that took him wouldn’t get a Spanish worker.” Tommy died in the battle for Madrid.
The West’s response led to the triumph of Franco, and his allies, Hitler and Mussolini. It became their stepping stone to World War 2. That war obliged the Western democracies into an alliance with the Soviet Union which finally defeated fascism.
A pact which, at an international level, was the same Popular Front that the Spanish republic represented. It was the Spanish peoples’ tough luck to have been the first to fight that battle.
70 years after the war in Spain, IB veteran Bob Doyle asked at Jarama: “Did my comrades die in vain?” Though fascism was defeated militarily in World War Two, its operative philosophy continues. (the total control of the media by a handful of individuals, the burgeoning of private security services interlinked to the state security services are indications that that fascism today is a more subtle process,)
And this present danger, this daily reality, is why we must remember. We don’t forget, we cannot forget, for we are now living through the very same stage of Capitalism’s crisis that the Spanish Republic, and the IBs had to live through.
We, like them, have a duty to defend real and effective democratic control of wealth and of government in our society today. If we fail, we shall be more culpable than those who failed to answer the call, to defend democracy and freedom, in the 1930s, because unlike them, we have seen it happen before.
As Bob Doyle ended, so do I –“La Lucha continua!”