I had the honour of meeting the late Bob Doyle on two seperate occasions, the first time was at the commemoration to the end of the battle of the Ebro at Corbera del Ebro a few years ago. The last time was when in 2005 he unveiled the commemorative monument to his dear IRA friend and comrade Kit Conway in the small Tipperary village of Burncourt County Tipperary. Bob was the last surviving Irish combatant on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War when he died.
Bob Doyle passed away in London on Thursday, aged 92, after a short illness.
Doyle was born in Dublin on February 12, 1916, shortly before the Easter Rising, and became politically active himself in the 1930s, joining the IRA after being beaten up in street fights with the Blueshirts which left him with permanent damage in one eye.
But he quickly became more interested in social issues and, in 1937, decided to volunteer for the International Brigade, motivated in part by the fact that his former flat-mate Kit Conway had been killed in action at the Battle of Jarama on Doyle's 21st birthday.
He was foiled in his initial attempts, arrested and expelled from Valencia after he had stowed away on a boat. Undeterred, he eventually made it back to Spain later that year by crossing the Pyrenees.
Initially deployed to train new volunteers, as a result of his IRA experience, he disobeyed orders in order to join a group heading for the front line. After engaging in battle at Belchite, he was taken prisoner by Italian fascist troops on the Aragon front in March 1938, along with Irish International Brigade leader Frank Ryan.
He was imprisoned for 11 months in a concentration camp established in the disused monastery of San Pedro, near Burgos, where he was regularly tortured by Spanish fascist guards and interrogated by the German Gestapo and, once, taken out to be shot.
Released as part of a prisoner exchange deal, Doyle enlisted in the British Merchant Navy for the duration of the Second World War before settling in London with his Spanish wife Lola.
Active until the very end, Doyle was a regular visitor to both his native Ireland and to Spain for International Brigade commemorations and, in 1996, along with all other survivors of the Brigades, was offered Spanish citizenship. He delivered his last speech at the rededication of Belfast’s International Brigade memorial on November 8.
He published an account of his experiences in Brigadista – An Irishman's Fight Against Fascism in June 2006, launched by Michael D Higgins and Ronnie Drew.
Since Michael O'Riordan's passing in May of that year, Doyle had been the last surviving Irish combatant in the International Brigade
Bob Doyle is survived by his sons Bob and Julian, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE LATE BOB DOYLE...
Bob’s Funeral will be held in LONDON at GOLDERS GREEN CREMATORIUM, HOOP LANE NW11 on Tuesday, 10th February, at 11.00 a.m.
The family have requested no flowers, but donations in Bob’s memory to be sent to the International Brigade Memorial Trust, which is very good of them.
Following that, family members plan to come to Dublin where on Sat 14th Feb we will
celebrate the lives of Bob and his comrades of the International Brigades, starting at
12 noon from the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square,proceeding down O'Connell Street, and turning left along the Liffey to Liberty Hall, where a wreath will be laid at the plaque with the names of 60 Irish Brigaders who died in Spain.
Liberty Hall is booked , in the centre of Dublin, for a reception, with speeches,
songs and music, hopefully a film or two, and the gathering of all the many friends and
relatives of Bob and his comrades. Speakers from Madrid are expected, and we ask
all coming to bring your banners.
Please pass on this message to all interested,