From London daily The Morning Star:
A great survivor
(Sunday 27 August 2006)
Brigadista by Bob Doyle
(Currach Press, £9.99)
ROBERT GRIFFITHS learns of the life and times of Ireland’s last surviving International Brigader Bob Doyle in his autobigraphy.
Like many other children, he was flogged without mercy by the well-remunerated nuns of County Wicklow, as his father toiled at sea and his mother languished in a mental asylum.
“Most of the time, we had religion – Irish and Catholic nationalism.
The nuns were severe and sadistic,” he remembers of his school days.
Young Bob was also taught to hate Jews for the death of Christ, although he unlearnt that lesson early in his life-long fight against fascism.
Reunited with his family among the tenements of Dublin’s Stafford Street, his teenage education came from overcrowding, football, the unemployed “corner boys,” swimming in the Liffey and clan brawls broken up with enthusiasm by the police.
In the early 1930s, he joined other anti-unemployment protesters in standing up to the fascist “blueshirts” led by former Dublin police chief Eoin O’Duffy.
He also enrolled in the Dublin Battalion of the IRA, doing his military training in between upholstery work and job-seeking trips to Liverpool.
Recoiling from his initial participation in the Jesuit-inspired siege of Connolly House in 1933, Doyle followed his mentor Kit Conway into the Republican Congress and the Communist Party of Ireland.
They had concluded that Irish nationalism alone would not put bread on the table in Dublin’s slums.
As a volunteer, Doyle saw the struggle to defend the democratically elected republican government of Spain as an extension of his street battles with O’Duffy’s gang.
Under his own steam, he arrived in Cadiz without documentation, where the British consul told him that the International Brigaders were “hiding around Spain like rats,” before ordering him back home.
Returning once more to Cadiz, undaunted, Doyle saw the docked German and Italian battleships which, according to the British and French governments with their policy of non-intervention, did not officially exist.
In December 1937, he crossed the Pyrenees to become a weapons instructor with the International Brigade.