Story of Limerick anti-fascist fighters told in new film documentary

‘The Limerick Brigadistas – from the Shannon to the Ebro’ tells story of Limerick men who went to fight Franco

"You are history, you are legend," La Pasionaria told members of the International Brigades as they prepared to depart Spain in November 1938 and now the role of six Limerick men in that fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War is remembered in a new documentary.

Entitled 'The Limerick Brigadistas - From the Shannon to the Ebro', the film is the brainchild of the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust (LIBMT) and tells the stories of six local men who were among the 240 Irish who volunteered to fight for the fledgling democratic Spanish Republic.

Their leader, the charismatic Frank Ryan from Elton, never returned to Ireland while two others, Jim Woulfe from Athea and Emmet Ryan from Catherine Street in the city died in Spain where they fought alongside their comrades, Gerard Doyle, Paddy Brady and Joe Ryan, all from the city.

Jack Bourke of the LIBMT explained that the idea to commemorate the men, who were honoured with the unveiling of a memorial in Limerick in 2014, came from a desire to show that, contrary to a sometimes popular historical perception, Limerick was not "a reactionary and conservative city".


The film was made by Cork company, Frameworks Films and producer/director Emma Bowell said that their job in telling the stories of the six Limerick Brigadistas was made much easier by the fact that the LIBMT had done a great deal of research into the six men.

"The film was about the six men but it was also about the current group, the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust and what it is that motivated them to remember these men and we tell how the group trace the stories of each of the six brigadistas in Spain and afterwards.

"The challenge was trying to figure how we would tell the men's stories in the overall context of the Spanish Civil War but at the same time, it wasn't going to be a documentary about the Spanish Civil War so that's where Spanish Civil War historian, Harry Owens came in to provide a context."

Members of the LIBMT tell in turn the stories of each of the six volunteers interspersed with interviews with Mr Owens who eloquently and passionately traces the progress of the war to provide a context for each man’s involvement in the struggle to defeat Franco and fascism.

Ms Bowell was anxious to film in Spain so people in Limerick could see where exactly it was the Limerick Brigadistas fought and in some cases died but while the filming was relatively straightforward the challenge was in the editing to interweave individual stories with the overall historical narrative.

However it’s a challenge that the film has met successfully and members of the LIBMT are more than pleased with the result as they believe the documentary is an important work that needs to be seen by as wide an audience as possible as LIBMT member, Jack Bourke explained:

"It's important that it's acknowledge that these men were on the right side of history - their struggle is timeless, you can see what happening across Europe now with the rise of Fascist groups, I think what they did was hugely significant and it's important that we remember them for that."

"The Limerick Brigadistas - From the Shannon to the Ebro" will be screened at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork as part of a series of events to remember the Spanish Civil War.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times