Homage to the Irish volunteers in Andalusia

Post date: 10/04/2016

Address at Belalcázar, on 8 April 2016 by Manus O’Riordan, Ireland Secretary of the IBMT and executive member, Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland.

Before the actual formation of the International Brigades, there were already three Irish volunteers fighting in defence of the Spanish Republic, two of whom would give their lives in defence of Madrid. But it was here in Andalusia, as the James Connolly Section of the British Saklatvala Battalion, that Irish brigadistas first went into action as a group. Nine of them gave their lives on this front, and three were wounded. Six of those killed in action were from the first organised group of thirteen who had accompanied their leader Frank Ryan into Spain on December 14, 1936.

I particularly want to welcome the presence at this commemoration of children of three of the survivors of that first group: Sean Edwards, son of brigadista Frank Edwards, Anna Monks, daughter of brigadista Joe Monks, and Geraldine Abrahams and Anne O'Hara, daughters of brigadista Gerry Doran.

Here today I wish to pay tribute to the seventh member of that first Irish band of brigadista brothers, who would give his life in the struggle against Fascism at a later date. His name was Michael Lehane.

After fighting here on the Andalusian front, Lehane went on to fight on the Madrid front at Las Rozas. In February 1937 he was wounded during the battle of Jarama. Following a brief period of recovery in his native Ireland, Lehane volunteered to climb back over the Pyrenees, and fought in both the July 1937 battle of Brunete and the July 1938 battle of the Ebro, where he was once again wounded, and carried to safety by my own brigadista father, Michael O’Riordan.

During the Second World War, Michael Lehane volunteered to serve in the Norwegian Merchant Navy on the perilous trans-Atlantic convoys. Michael Lehane was killed at sea on March 11, 1943, when his ship was hit by a Nazi German torpedo.

It was in memory of my father’s comrade-in-arms, Michael Lehane, that I translated, into both his native languages of Irish and English, the following poem by that great Spanish Republican and Andalusian poet of the sea, Rafael Alberti:

Si mi voz muriera en tierra
llevadla al nivel del mar
y dejadla en la ribera.

Llevadla al nivel del mar
y nombradla capitana
de un blanco bajel de guerra.

¡ Oh mi voz condecorada
con la insignia marinera:

sobre el corazón un ancla
y sobre el ancla un estrella
y sobre la estrella el viento
y sobre el viento la vela !

(Alberti in Irish):

Má fhaigheann mo ghuth-sa bás ar thalamh
Beir síos é chun na mara
Agus fág é ar an trá.

Beir síos é chun na mara
Guth nach bhfágfar balbh marbh
Más captaen é ar long chogaidh bhán.

Ó bíodh mo ghuth-sa gléasta
Le suaitheantais mhairnéalaigh:

Le hancaire ó mo chroí-se
Gus é ceangailte la réalt
As a n-ardóidh séideadh gaoithe
Faoi lán seoil - mo ghuth nár éag!

(Alberti in English):

If my voice should die on earth
It’s from the sea it may be heard
If you leave it on the shore.

So take my voice down to the sea
That a captain it may be
Of a white ship of war.

Oh let my voice be decorated
With the emblems of a sailor:

With an anchor from the heart
That anchor reaching for a star
And from that star the wind will rise
With wind to sail - my undying voice!

Salud y Victoria!
Viva la Republica!


Families and friends of the International Brigades assemble amidst the olive groves to remember the Battle of Lopera on 9 April 2016. Photo: Richard Baxell


The first organised Irish unit of International Brigaders that crossed the Pyrenees into Spain on December 14, 1936, and comprised the following 14 volunteers:

Frank Conroy, killed in action, Andalusian front;

Gerry Doran, wounded in action, Andalusian front;

Frank Edwards, wounded in action, Las Rozas de Madrid;

Tony Fox, killed in action, Andalusian front;

John Goff, wounded in action, Andalusian front;

Leo Green, killed in action, Andalusian front;

Michael Lehane, wounded in action, battle of Jarama and battle of the Ebro, killed at sea, 1943;

Michael May, killed in action, Andalusian front;

Joe Monks, wounded in action, Andalusian front;

Michael Nolan, killed in action, Andalusian front;

Jim Prendergast;

Frank Ryan, wounded in action, battle of Jarama, prisoner 1938-1940, died Dresden, 1944;

Paddy Smith;

Tommy Wood, killed in action, Andalusian front.

The three other Irish brigadistas killed in action on the Andalusian front were:

Henry Bonar;

Jim Foley;

John Meehan.

See for "With the Reds in Andalusia" by brigadista Joe Monks.

See for a contemporary report by brigadista Donal O'Reilly.

See for more on Michael Lehane (1908-1943).

See for more on Frank Edwards (1907-1983).

See and for more on Frank Ryan (1902-1944).

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