George Brown, Manchester Irish and the fight against fascism

 An exhibition telling the story of the fascinating and inspiring figure of George Brown, trade unionist and Spanish Civil War activist can be seen at the Irish World Heritage Centre, Cheetham Hill, Manchester, M8 0AE on Thursday 14 March between 11 am and 5 pm.

Later that day at 7.30 pm,  a talk on George Brown will be followed by a music session.  The events are free to attend, and all are welcome to find out more about a great working class hero.






Who was George Brown? 

Near the end of the 19th Century, Mary Lackey of Ballyneale in south county Kilkenny, Ireland, and her boyfriend, Francis Brown from the nearby picturesque village of Inistioge, emigrated to Manchester in search of work.

There they married May 13th, 1897, at St. Edmund’s Church, Monsall Street. Mary travelled back to Inistioge for the birth of the couple’s first three children. The third of these, George, was born November 5th 1906.  After leaving school in Manchester, a lack of regular work and a growing realisation of the causes of the endemic social inequalities, inspired a young George to join the Labour Movement.

It was the General Strike of 1926 that consolidated his interest in the workers’ struggle and led to him joining the Communist Party.  His work in the Labour Movement, his engaging personality and his ability to organise, saw him become a champion of the working class. 

In 1935, he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The rise of Fascism throughout Europe in the 1930s, with the threat to the democratically elected government in Spain being the final straw, prompted many on the Left to take a resolute and courageous stand.

In January 1937, George volunteered for the International Brigade and took ship for Spain to fight in defence of its fledgling republic.  On the eve of his departure, he and Evelyn Taylor, a daring and tenacious opponent of Fascism, were wed. George Brown paid the ultimate price for his stand against Fascism.  He was cut down at the Battle of Brunete in July 1937.

The memory of George Brown’s sacrifice has been kept alive in his native village of Inistioge.  In 2007, a commemorative committee established an Olive Grove in Woodstock Gardens in his memory, and that of three other Kilkenny-born men who served time with the International Brigade.

In June 2008, the inaugural George Brown Commemorative Event was held in Inistioge, the highlight of which was the unveiling by Jack Jones, colossus of the British trade union movement and a fellow International Brigadista, of a plaque in St Mary’s churchyard to Inistioge’s own George Francis Brown.


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