The 15th annual George Brown Commemoration was held in resplendent sun-drenched Woodstock Gardens, Inistioge.
There was open-air music, wreath-laying and tree planting.
The event, first held in 2007, commemorates Inistioge native George Brown, born in 1906 to Francis Brown from Inistioge and Mary Lackey from nearby Ballyneale. They later settled in Manchester, where George and his three brothers grew up.
George, from his early adult years, was a working-class activist and became a prominent member of the British Communist Party in the Manchester area.
In early 1937, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, George travelled to Spain where he enlisted in the International Brigades, a multinational group united in their aim to defend the democratically elected Spanish Government against the rising forces of Fascism.
George paid for his convictions with his life, killed on the battlefield at Brunete in July 1937.
The annual event, organised by the Inistioge George Brown Commemoration Committee, has attracted distinguished participants from various walks of life. Present at the inaugural commemoration were renowned British trade unionist
Jack Jones who married George Brown’s widow, and Bob Doyle, the last surviving Irish member of the International Brigades.
Speakers in the early years included Senator David Norris, Michael D. Higgins, journalist Fintan O’Toole, Spanish Civil War historian Harry Owens, and prominent trade unionists Jack O’Connor of SIPTU and Jimmy Kelly of UNITE.
Besides talks on various aspects of the Spanish Civil War and threats to democracy in the present age, the local committee also successfully staged a number of exhibitions relating to the Spanish Civil War.
The pandemic has severely restricted the scope of the commemoration over the last two years. Events in 2020 centred on a gathering of committee members for a wreath-laying at the George Brown plaque in St Colmcille’s Graveyard in Inistioge.
This year, the focus switched to Woodstock Gardens where the Olive Grove is located.
Committee members, family and friends assembled outside the recently re-opened Tea Rooms where entertainment was by Terry Bannon (banjo and vocals) and Steffi Goulde (violin).
The session finished with a song composed by Terry and his friend Jim Kelly in memory of George Brown, set to the air of The Bantry Girl’s Lament which speaks of ‘the boy from Ballyneale … who left his blood on Brunete mud, in the Civil War in Spain’.
There followed the laying of a wreath by Terry Bannon at the Olive Grove in the walled garden where the stone commemorates George Brown, his brother Michael (also a volunteer in Spain), along with two Castlecomer Brigadistas, Seán Dowling and Michael Brennan.
The event was greatly enhanced by Craig Ó Mathúna who entertained with a number of Spanish classical guitar compositions.
Undoubtedly most poignant was the planting of a Blue Atlas Cedar by members of the Doyle and Delahunty families in memory of Cáit Doyle who died in February.
Cáit, wife of Joe Doyle, committee secretary, was a Delahunty of Portnahully, Mooncoin.
This was the 15yj tree-planting to be sponsored by the Inistioge George Brown Commemoration Committee since 2008.
Members of the Inistioge George Brown Committee expressed their appreciation to all who made this such a memorable event, in particular the staff of Woodstock Gardens and Tea Rooms, musicians, and Sandra Garzon, photographer.
It is also the committee’s earnest hope that next year will see a return to the former full weekend commemoration.