Glasgow set to host merchant seafarer memorial

Post date: 24/02/2016

Ronnie Moran writes…


I'm delighted to confirm that Glasgow City Council has identified a site for the blockade runners’ memorial on the Clyde walkway on the west side of the Jamaica Street Bridge. This is not far from the La Pasionaria memorial to the International Brigades and coincidentally across the road from the site of the old Glasgow “Pool” (hiring hall) building that the Merchant Navy operated from.


The campaign to get a site for this memorial has been a long one. Sculptor Frank Casey first approached the RMT Glasgow Shipping Branch when I was Branch Secretary some 14 or 15 years ago.


The campaign gathered pace three years ago when I attended a ceremony in Glasgow city chambers to commemorate the war dead of Britain’s Merchant Navy, The commemoration was the first of its kind in Glasgow and had been organised by Baillie Nina Baker. She has a nautical background, having been a deck officer in the Merchant Navy and had taught at Glasgow Nautical College.


Nina, a Green councillor, was on the city planning committee and when I talked about the blockade runners’ memorial she was enthusiastic. The Spanish Civil War was something she had always had a special interest in. Since that meeting RMT's Glasgow Shipping Branch, Frank and myself have been working with Nina and after three years we have a great result. We now have the formality of an application for planning permission.


The main parts of the memorial, a plaque with the Merchant Navy badge superimposed  over a map of Spain, a description of the ships’ mission taking much needed supplies to the Spanish Republican government and bringing back refugees, many of them orphans, along with a list of names of ships lost during this mission.


The other part is a figure left to the viewer’s interpretation but called  "the warning shout" by the sculptor. Both sections are complete and in Glasgow, stored in the basement of the Scottish TUC.


All that is required now is the building of a plinth to house the memorial. Once all this is done we can look forward to an unveiling ceremony.



British ships and seafarers trading with Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War suffered serious casualties. A report published by the Republic’s embassy in London in 1938 calculated that, between July 1936 and June 1938, 13 British merchant ships were sunk by enemy action, 51 others were bombed from the air, two were mined, five were attacked by submarines and 23 seized or detained by Franco’s forces. Thirty-five British seamen had been killed in these attacks and nearly 50 badly injured. The Royal Navy also lost eight killed when in May 1937 the destroyer HMS Hunter struck a mine laid by Franco’s navy south of Almería.

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