A small group of Limerick men who fought against Franco and fascism during the Spanish Civil War are to be honored in their hometown next weekend with the unveiling of a special memorial to those Shannonsiders who fought for the Spanish Republic.
Six Limerick-born volunteers of the International Brigades, including Irish Contingent Leader Frank Ryan of Knockainey, Co Limerick, will be honored with the unveiling of a specially commissioned sculpture at Limerick City and County Hall on Merchant’s Quay.
Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust spokesperson Ger McCloskey told the Irish Times that in addition to the charismatic Frank Ryan, other Limerick men to fight fascism included Jim Woulfe of Athea and Emmet Ryan of Catherine St , both died in Spain.
All three, along with Gerard Doyle of William St, Paddy Brady of Thomondgate and Joe Ryan of Mungret St, will be recalled when their names are inscribed on the monument designed by local artist, Simon Donnelly.
“Tom Collopy and I attended a commemoration at the site of the Battle of Jarama outside of Madrid three years ago and we heard people there talking about the great speech Frank Ryan gave for rally the troops who, in fact, helped save Madrid, ”said Mr. McCloskey.
“We also heard about Jim Woulfe who died in Belchite fighting with the Canadian MacKenzie Papineau Battalion of the 15th International Brigade in the Republican Offensive in 1937 and how he is commemorated in a memorial in Ottowa, Canada.
“We came home with the idea that these men are commemorated around the world but not in Limerick and we looked at the history of Limerick in relation to this whole struggle and we set out to get a memorial here to these brave men and their ideals. “
Mr McCloskey acknowledged that Limerick had been one of the most conservative towns in Ireland at the time and that Limerick City Council had pressed De Valera throughout the war to recognize Franco and even went so far as to to send flowers to Franco after the fall of Republican Barcelona.
The city and county council of Limerick supported the plan to commemorate the men of Limerick who fought for the democratically elected Spanish government against fascism, by donating a site within the city walls and County Limerick for the memorial to the six Limerick-born Brigadistas.
The unveiling of the memorial next Sunday by Frank Ryan’s great-niece, Charlotte Ryan Wetton marks the culmination of a weekend festival which, held as part of Limerick City of Culture 2014, includes lectures, concerts and films as well as the launch of a book.
“‘From the Shannon to the Ebro’ is an anthology with essays on the six men from Limerick who fought in Spain, an essay on Kate O’Brien on her stay in Spain during the Civil War as well as other very interesting about Limerick’s links to the fight against fascism, ”he said.
The festival has generated considerable interest both nationally and internationally, with relatives of the six men coming from as far away as the United States, Canada and Australia, as well as some 40 members of the International Brigades Memorial Trust from UK and Spain.
For more information on the program of events, please visit www.facebook.com/libmt