Third Annual George Brown Memorial Weekend
Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny 25/26 June

George Brown was the son of Francis Brown from Inistioge and Mary Lackey from Tullogher. George was reared in Manchester during the early decades of the twentieth century. At that time it was an urban area of high unemployment and appalling poverty and deprivation. As a young man, he became very 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 with the rise of Fascism throughout Europe. When the fledgling Spanish Republic found itself under threat from the forces of Franco, backed by German and Italian military might, he was among the first to enlist in the International Brigade in defence of Spain's democratically elected government. George Brown arrived in Spain in January 1937 and quickly was to see action. In his efforts to stem the tide of Fascism he paid the ultimate price. He was killed at the Battle of Brunete in the defence of Madrid in July 1937. He was thirty years of age.

The previous two commemorative weekends were most memorable occasions. In 2008 we were joined by Bob Doyle, the last surviving member of the Connolly Column and Jack Jones, the leading British trade unionist of the 1970s, a fellow member of the International Brigade, and, adding extra poignancy to the occasion, the man who had married George Brown's widow, Evelyn Taylor. The key-note addresses were delivered by Manus O'Riordan, son of another Irish 'Brigadista', Michael O'Riordan, and Spanish Civil War historian Harry Owens. Regrettably neither Bob Doyle nor Jack Jones lived to take part in the following year's memorial celebrations. Central to this occasion was the attendance of the Cuban Ambassador, Noel Carrillo who spoke engagingly on the struggle of the Cuban people in the fifty years since the Revolution to maintain their independence and to promote the common good in the face of unrelenting American hostility.

The format for this year's celebrations is along similar lines to those of the previous two. On Friday evening, 25th June, at 7.15 a.m. A wreath will be laid at the George Brown Memorial in St Colmcille's Graveyard. The focus then shifts to nearby St Mary's Church where Kilkenny-man, Michael Lanigan, Director of Irish Medical Aid to Palestine, the Palestinian Ambassador, His Excellency Dr Hikmat Ajjuri, and Senator David Norris will speak on various aspects of the Palestinian Question. To mark the hundredth anniversary of the celebration of International Women's Day, committee member, Amanda Richards will host a celebration in poetry and song. The evening concludes with an evening of music and song in O'Donnell's lounge. Again St Mary's is the venue for the Saturday morning lectures. Beginning at 11 a.m. Jack O'Connor, President of SIPTU, and Jimmy Kelly, Irish Secretary of UNITE, will speak on the legacy of George Brown, while Spanish Civil War historian, Harry Owens, whose lectures on the previous occasions, have enraptured listeners, will address the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in Franco's Spain. Following this, the centre of attention switches to the Olive Grove in Woodstock Gardens. This was planted by the committee in 2007 and commemorates the four Kilkenny volunteers who served in the International Brigade. As in previous years, there will be musical entertainment by the 'Hatchery Folk' with the highlight of the occasion being a tree-planting ceremony in the vicinity of the Olive Grove. The official celebrations conclude with a return to the village square where entertainment will be provided by the Graiguenamanagh Brass Band.

This event has been well-supported by locals, people from all over Ireland, and visitors from Britain and Spain. It is expected that this year's celebrations will be even better attended. All told, it has the makings of a great weekend.

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