George Brown – Portrait of a Trade Union Leader

George Brown was born in Ballyneale, Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland in 1906 to his parents Francis Brown and Mary Lackey. Economic circumstances, as for hundreds of thousands of Irish over the previous half-century and more, forced them to emigrate. In the case of the Browns, their adopted home was Salford in the Greater Manchester area. Here George was reared, educated and found work. Poverty and exploitation, which was the lot of many workers at that time, greatly influenced George in his attitude to life.

At a young age he had already established a reputation as a fearless workers’ activist in the Manchester region. While ceaselessly striving to improve the conditions of workers and to tackle the widespread poverty, George Brown was at the same time developing a broader understanding of the conflict between Capital and Labour, Dictatorship and Democracy, and in particular their international dimensions. Not surprisingly, when the infant Spanish Republic was threatened by the forces of Fascism, George Brown was among the first to volunteer for service in the International Brigade. From early 1937 he saw front-line service and he paid the ultimate price in the defence of democracy when killed at the Battle of Brunete in July of that year.

Since 2008, the Inistioge George Brown Memorial Committee has honoured the memory of George Brown in his native Inistioge through an annual series of lectures and commemorative events held on the last weekend of June. Given the fact that George Brown spent almost all his life in Manchester, and that it was in this city that his political beliefs were fashioned, the committee is anxious to maintain and further develop links with those in the Manchester area who wish to explore the influence of Irish emigrant radicals from the early nineteenth century onwards on the development of a working-class consciousness, and to commemorate in a fitting manner their contribution.

If you are interested in finding out more about George Brown you can attend a free talk on the subject, which is going to take place at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill on Friday 9th March. The talk will be given by Harry Owens, Spanish Civil War historian, and is due to start at 8pm lasting for 2 hours.

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