Remembering the remarkable Achill men who fought fascism

The extraordinary stories of two Achill men, Pat Burke and Tommy Patten, who volunteered to join the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, are to be remembered in two seperate ceremonies on the island on Sunday.

The commemoration events are being organised by Noah Rose, a UK artist, who became aware of their history through his research for a European public art project called Changing Tracks.

“Tommy Patten’s story is reasonably well known, but Pat Burke’s story is relatively unknown and has come to light as a result of new information and previosuly unseen documents held by Tom McNamara, Pat Burke’s closest surviving relative,” explained Mr Rose.

“These documents include Pat Burke’s diary containing his handwritten list of his friends ‘killed in Spain with the International Brigade’. This is a remarkable primary source historical document and contains several previously unknown names. The actual diary will be on display at the event,” he added.

“Pat Burke travelled to Spain of his own volition in 1937 and risked his life volunteering to fight to defend the democratically elected Spanish Government against fascism and the military coup led by Franco and supported by Hitler and Mussolini,” continued Mr Rose.

“This was a journey shared by a number of ordinary men and women from Ireland and Britain as well as many other countries. The event will, I hope, be of interest to anyone with an interest in European history.”

One such high profile volunteer was Tommy Patten, from Dooega. He was one of the first international volunteers to join the fight against fascist forces in Spain in 1936.

He travelled to Madrid, before the formation of the International Brigades, and fought for the local militia in the defence of the city during the Siege of Madrid.

He became the first Irish man to die in the conflict at Boadilla del Monte on the night of December 16/17, 1936.

A monument was raised in his memory in his native Dooega in 1984.

The commemoration event for Tommy Patten takes place at 11.30 am on Sunday at this monument.

The commemoration event for Pat Burke will take place at 1pm at Slievemore Graveyard, Keel, Achill.

The event will be followed by an exhibition on Pat Burke’s life and the Irish volunteers in the International Brigades from 1.45pm at Gielty’s Bar, Dooagh.

Special speakers include Achill poet John F Deane, and Manus O’Riordan, the Irish secretary of the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

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