Inistioge native George Brown, who fought and died in defence of the Spanish Republic, is being commemorated in his adopted Manchester on this the 75th anniversary of his death.
As part of the Manchester Irish Festival, a lecture “George Brown: Forgotten Hero of Irish Manchester” will be delivered by Spanish Civil War historian Harry Owens on March 9. Fifty thousand brochures promoting the meeting and the festival have been distributed across the UK and on all Irish Ferries crossings during February and early March.
The meeting and talk will highlight the significant work achieved by George Brown and Mancunians in the war against fascism in Spain. It will be followed by a short film and talk about the Spanish Civil War.
George Browne was born in Ballyneale, Inistioge in 1906. As with hundreds of thousands of Irish over the previous half-century and more, poverty forced the Browns to emigrate. In the case of the Browns, their adopted home was Salford in the greater Manchester area. There George was reared, educated and found work.
As a young man, he became involved in the campaign for the betterment of the rights of workers and their families and by the early 1930s was regarded as the leading member of the British Communist Party in the Manchester region. George’s commitment to working-class activism and democratic principles led to him growing increasingly concerned at the rise of fascism throughout Europe. In 1936 when the Republican government in Spain was threatened by Franco’s fascist coup, George Brown was one of the first to enlist in the International Brigades that came to Spain’s aid. He arrived in Spain in January 1937 and quickly saw action. He was killed at the Battle of Brunete in the defence of Madrid in July 1937. He was 30 years of age.
In Inistioge, as in Manchester, this is regarded as a year of special significance and plans are well advanced for the Fourth Annual George Brown Memorial Weekend on June 29-30 – an event that was described last year as “Kilkenny’s Summer School Event” by now-President Michael D. Higgins.
President Higgins officially opened last year’s weekend accompanied by Deputy Ann Phelan.
The numbers attending the annual memorial event in Inistioge have also increased year on year, and it is expected that the Manchester Irish Festival event will give a further boost to attendance. Commemorative plaques can be found in St Colmcille’s graveyard and at the Olive Grove in Woodstock Gardens on Ireland’s International Brigades ‘pilgrim’ route.