The Inistioge George Brown Memorial Committee
Chairperson: Tom O’Neill
Secretary: Joseph Doyle
Treasurer: John Walsh
Public Relations: Amanda Richards
Committee: Terry Bannon, Davy O’Dwyer, Martin Gahan, Michael Harkin, Jerry Malone.
The Spanish Civil War raged from 1936 to 1939 between the supporters of the democratically elected government and elements of the army under the leadership of General Franco. The opportunity was seized upon by the Fascist powers in Europe as a theatre of experiment for the greater struggle to come. This clash of ideologies between Democracy and Fascism and an unwillingness of European democratic powers to intervene ensured that private individuals from many European countries and from other parts of the world would flock to Spain in defence of the republic. One such man was George Brown.
George Brown, whose father and mother came from Inistioge and Tullogher respectively was born in Inistioge in November 1906 but raised in Manchester to where his parents had emigrated. Like most working-class children George had an ordinary elementary school education and from the age of fourteen had a variety of jobs with spells of work in factories, with Manchester Corporation and as a labourer on a number of building sites, along with intermittent bouts of unemployment characteristic of the period. It was the General Strike of 1926 that consolidated his interest in politics and led to his joining the British Communist Party. As he grew in political maturity, so he grew in popularity and soon he became a well known figure in the Manchester Labour Movement. On a number of occasions he was one of the Communist candidates at the Municipal Elections. In the 1934 elections his election agent was an attractive young woman, Evelyn Mary Taylor. By the time George left for Spain in January 1937, they had married.
Brown was one of more than five hundred Volunteers from Britain who went to Spain. After some rudimentary training he was posted to the front line as a soldier in the Fifteenth International Brigade and made the ultimate sacrifice at the Battle of Brunete on 6 July 1937 along with almost three hundred other British Volunteers. In recent years the sacrifices of many of these International Volunteers have been recognised not only by the Spanish Government but also in their native countries. In this Ireland has been no exception. Monuments have been erected to individuals killed in action such as Tommy Patten on Achill Island, to Mick Lehane in Kilgarvan, to Kit Conway in Burncourt (Tipperary), and to the poet Charlie Donnelly in Coalisland. Recognition has also been given to those Volunteers from Belfast and Dublin, and, closer at hand, to the eleven men from Waterford who served in Spain. The efforts of these private citizens to uphold democratic rights when governments in their own countries thought it more expedient to look the other way are at long last being acknowledged.
It is against this background that the Inistioge George Brown Memorial Committee was formed. A number of projects were quickly agreed upon. A donation of six olive trees was made to the gardens at Woodstock. These were planted as a small grove in the area between the restored glasshouse and the tea-rooms and a plaque in the grove commemorating George Brown and three other Kilkenny Volunteers – Michael Brown, Seán Dowling and Michael Brennan – all of whom returned from Spain was unveiled by Committee Chairman, Paddy Murphy, on 30 January last. It is planned that on the weekend 27-29 June a number of events will take place in the village to which all are invited, with surviving members of the International Brigade and dignitaries from Manchester along with local politicians expected to attend. A number of lectures on the Spanish Civil War will be given, a monument will be unveiled, a commemorative booklet will be produced, and social events will be organised. The Committee is conscious of the fact that much remains to be done in the short time available and would welcome offers of help from all interested. Recently, three members of the Committee visited the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, Manchester and uncovered much hitherto unknown material on George Brown. This will help the planned publication provide new and useful insights into the man and his times. Most poignant among this material were the letters of his mother, Mary Lackey, formerly of Tullogher, who wrote: ‘I am proud of my son and the only thing that is keeping me up is that he died for the cause of freedom and anti-Fascism, in which he believed till his last breath’.