A small group of Limerick men who fought against Franco and fascism in the Spanish Civil War are to be honoured in their native city 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 the leader of the Irish contingent, Frank Ryan from Knockainey, Co Limerick, will be honoured with the unveiling of a specially commissioned piece of sculpture at Limerick City and County Hall on Merchant's Quay.
Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust spokesman, Ger McCloskey told The Irish Times that in addition to the charismatic Frank Ryan, the other Limerick men to fight fascism included Jim Woulfe from Athea and Emmet Ryan from Catherine St who both died in Spain.
All three, together with Gerard Doyle from William St, Paddy Brady from Thomondgate and Joe Ryan from Mungret St, will be remembered when their names are inscribed on the monument designed by local artist, Simon Donnelly.
"Tom Collopy and myself attended a commemoration at the site of the Battle of Jarama outside Madrid three years ago and we heard from people there about the great speech that Frank Ryan gave to rally the troops which, in effect, helped save Madrid," said Mr McCloskey.
"We also heard about Jim Woulfe who died at Belchite fighting with the Canadian MacKenzie Papineau battalion of the XV International Brigade during the Republican offensive in 1937 and how he is commemorated in a memorial in Ottowa in Canada.
“We came home with the idea that these men are commemorated all over the world but not in Limerick and we looked at Limerick’s history in relation to this whole struggle and we set about getting a memorial here to these brave men and their ideals.”
Mr McCloskey acknowledged Limerick had been among the most conservative cities in the Ireland of the time and Limerick City Council had pressed De Valera all through the war to recognise Franco and even went so far as to send Franco flowers after the fall of Republican Barcelona.
Limerick City and County Council have supported the plan to remember those Limerick men who fought for the democratically elected Spanish government against fascism, donating a site within the grounds of Limerick City and County Hall for the memorial to honour the six Limerick born brigadistas.
The unveiling of the memorial next Sunday by Frank Ryan's grandniece, Charlotte Ryan Wetton marks the culmination of a weekend festival which, organised 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 Limerick men who fought in Spain, an essay on Kate O’Brien about her time in Spain during the Civil War as well as some very other interesting essays about Limerick’s links with 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 afield as the US, Canada and Australia as well as some 40 members of the International Brigades Memorial Trust coming from the UK and Spain.
For further information on the programme of events, please visit www.facebook.com/libmt