June 2012        

Frank Conroy: Kildare communist killed in Córdoba, 1936


Christy Moore paid tribute to the Irishmen of the International Brigades with his poignant song “Viva la Quince Brigada!” In the final verse he names Frank Conroy, his fellow-Kildareman, “who fought and died in Spain with the International Brigade.”
     Frank Conroy, who came from Fair Green, Kildare, was an IRA activist who fought with the working class against the fascist Blueshirts in Cos. Kildare and Dublin during the hungry 1930s. Like many republicans, he joined the Republican Congress and the Communist Party. He volunteered to fight with the republican leader Frank Ryan in the 15th International Brigade to defend the Spanish Republic against Franco.
     A report from Spain written by Dónal O’Reilly was published in the Republican Congress newspaper, the Irish Democrat: “May, Fox and Conroy can’t be stopped taking down and cleaning their machine gun. A comradeship of heroes. The company forms and moves to the attack. The fire is terrific, bits of guns fly and we think we’re all hit. Kit Conway is fair bursting to get to grips, but first must lend two of our best gunners—Mick May and Frank Conroy—to the French battalion.”
     On 26 December 1936 Conroy was in action again with the 15th International Brigade and was sent to the front at Andalucía in the south of Spain. Frank and his comrades advanced towards the village of Lopera, a few miles west of Andujar. The fighting there was fierce; they came under shell and machine-gun fire, and casualties were heavy. The Irish lost nine killed, including Frank Conroy. Frank Ryan wrote of Frank Conroy, “who fought like a hero the same day.”
     The people of Dublin demonstrated their solidarity with the international brigade at a packed meeting on 19 February 1937. A huge banner bearing the names of Denis Coady, James Meehan, Daniel Boyle and Frank Conroy was displayed, with the inscription We salute the memory of these Irish Defenders of Democracy killed fighting on the Spanish Front.
[MH]

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