¡No Pasarán! An evening at the Oval Tavern, Croydon, 7 July 2016

Post date: 09/07/2016

This blog is written by Paul McNamara, one half of the folk duo na-mara, and is taken from the blog on na-mara’s website ( 

To the casual eye, modern day Croydon, with its mid-rise office blocks, its fancy shopping centres and its busy commuter station, feels like many towns in south-east England. It is interesting then to note its various links with the Spanish Civil War.

For example, it was from Croydon Airport, early on July 11th 1936, Captain Cecil Bebb and his navigator Major Hugh Pollard took off in a bi-plane on what appeared to be a tourist jaunt with Pollard’s daughter and her friend as passengers. However, their true purpose was to collect fascist General Franco from the Canary Islands and fly him to Spanish Morocco to initiate a right-wing Nationalist military coup of Spain’s democratically-elected government and begin the Spanish Civil War.

East Croydon also became the home of International Brigader, George Wheeler, whose book about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, ‘To Make them Smile Again’ provided the inspiration for our song tribute to the International Brigades, ‘The Bite’.

Croydon was also where Basque child refugees Jésus Caireles and José Mari Martínez attended Art School, earned their Diplomas, and went on to exhibit their work in the Archer Gallery in London in the mid 1940s.

So, on a warm July evening, in a busy private event in the bar of The Oval Tavern in Croydon, as part of the approaching 80th anniversary of the inception of the war, Rob and I were invited to take part in an event entitled ¡No Pasaran! to recount a brief history of the Spanish Civil War, the role played in it by the International Brigades and to tell the story of the Basque Children, 4,000 of whom were evacuated from Bilbao in 1937.

In ‘the ukulele and other machines’, Croydon possesses a lively musical club run by Carol Ann Whinnom, Neil Woodcock and others. So, Neil began the evening by recounting the subterfuge that surrounded the Bebb and Pollard flight to the Canaries to pick Franco up. Carol, with colleagues from the music club, then played some songs from the Spanish Civil War period along with other songs referring to related issues. She also showed a eries of photographs of her recent visit to the battlefields near Madrid and Zaragoza.


We then took to the stage to present in words and music on the war, the International Brigades and the Basque children. We did this in two 35 minute periods. The feedback from audience members at half time and at the end was all very positive.

Many thanks to Carol and Neil for the invitation to perform at this commemorative event, and to Gavin who worked wonders for us on the p.a. We wish ‘the ukulele and other machines’ well for the future and hope our paths cross again in the not too distant future.

 Posted 10 July 2016

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