By Pauline Fraser
While on this year’s Jarama March on 16 February, I stopped to remember James Walsh, an International Brigader who arrived at Jarama on 4February 1937 and was killed on 12 February, just eight days later.
I was prompted to do this by Lynne Walsh, who shares James’s family name, but is no relation. She explained to me recently that she had named James ‘Adopted Comrade Brother’ some years ago, partly because of the name, but also because there is so little known about him.
I checked the list of volunteers on the IBMT website. All that we learn about James Erskine Walsh from that entry is that he was born some time in 1894, but we don’t know where, nor what James did for a living, nor his political affiliation, and that he was killed on 12February 1937.
Above: Pauline Fraser on the Jarama battlefield.
Lynne has winkled out a few more facts: that he was born in Liverpool, he was a member of the Communist Party, that he worked as a labourer, and was single.
Lynne has also found a couple of Erskine Crescents in Liverpool. Was one of them named after James Erskine Walsh?
Every year when she goes to Jarama, Lynne remembers James by raising a glass in his memory and spilling a few drops on to the Jarama earth. As Lynne wasn’t going to the Jarama March this year, she asked me if I could do likewise and I promised that I would.
Lynne discovered that she was not the only one paying tribute to James Walsh. Stuart Walsh, also not related, is a researcher at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, and has been paying tribute to James in a similar way when he visits Jarama.
I expect others who take part in the Jarama March have in mind individual volunteers they have read about, or who are family members. Perhaps it brings our heroic International Brigaders a little closer to personalise a tribute in this way.
Posted on 19 February 2019.