I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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For the Cause

John Mulqueen
Jason Gurney’s Crusade in Spain was posthumously published in 1974 and republished by Readers Union, Newton Abbot, Devon in 1976. Even The Olives Are Bleeding, a television documentary broadcast in 1976, told the story of the Irishmen who went to fight for both sides in the Spanish civil war. The film, broadcast forty years after the war began, made an impression on this author, as did Jason Gurney’s painfully honest memoir Crusade in Spain, republished the same year. In the preceding decade, when there was little interest in Ireland about this conflict, Michael O’Riordan began work on his history of the Irish contribution to the International Brigades – the volunteers from across Europe and North America, who, like himself and Gurney, fought for the elected government against Franco and his allies, Hitler and Mussolini. Gurney’s book first appeared in 1974, following his death a year previously (at a time when another general, this time in Chile, was emulating Franco’s brutality). Veterans’ recollections of the Spanish civil war, written soon after it ended, by dedicated, or, disillusioned, communists, did not impress Gurney ‑ a “farrago of nonsense”. In his view the forty thousand men who enlisted in the brigades deserved better. Writing about his personal experiences in this crusade might explain their motives and their suffering. Gurney draws attention to the presence of fascists in a Britain pulverised by the Depression (where parliamentary democracy did not collapse as it did elsewhere). Fascism had more than a little appeal there in 1936, and Moscow-led communism also had its adherents. Gurney describes a for him local scene on London’s King’s Road. “Outside the Gaumont cinema there were a couple of men in fascist party uniform, trying to sell copies of Action, but they were not very military looking and their hearts didn’t seem to be really in it. Further up, by the bus stop, a small man was offering the Daily Worker, his thin fanatic’s face opening and closing as he called his wares. But it was past the rush-hour and the few people around didn’t seem to take much interest.” The fashionable and the rich had yet to discover London’s Chelsea. In the 1930s this largely slum district comprised squalid bedsits, back-to-back dwellings and run-down lodging houses. Several hundred artists’ studios – cold and derelict – were also there, plus a flourishing art school. Writers and students joined artists such as Gurney to create a bohemian…

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