Saturday, 14 June 2014

'No Pasaran!': A West Country Declamation

This is the eulogy read at the performance at Whiteway in early June, as part of the Laurie Lee Festival. These are the names I discovered when researching this, around 1998, covering the Bristol-Swindon-Gloucestershire area; these are the names of people who contributed to the anti-fascist cause, either in Spain or in our neck of the woods. There may be more, of course.

We remember Bill Morrissey of Elmore,
Gloucester vehicle builder and keen cyclist,
He crossed the Pyrenees by night,
To fight fascism at Teruel.

We remember Percy Williams of Swindon,
GWR engineer and then the 15th Brigade,
A young man killed at Caspe in machine gun fire.

We remember James Albrighton,
A young student from Wiltshire,
First protecting Madrid, then wounded at Brunete.

We remember Stafford Cottman,
Attacked by Blackshirts in Bristol,
He volunteered straightway at the age of 17,
To join the POUM and sleep in caves,
Then fight on the Aragon Front;
He escaped from Barcelona to pay tribute
To the International Brigade at Jarama.

We remember the Bristol Brigaders,
Who lost their lives:
William G. Boyce, January 1938, Teruel;
John Burton, February 1937, Jarama;
Lesley Huson, May 1938; E. Stephens, July 1938.

We remember Ralph Bates of Swindon,
Out on Barcelona Docks, then defending Madrid.
And then directing mountain troops in the Pyrenees.

We remember Winifred Bates, writing pamphlets
At the Ministry of Information,
Coordinating medical volunteers,
Then working in the French camps.

We also remember Ronald Bates of Swindon,
Fighting with the anti-tank unit at Teruel.

We remember Thomas Duncombe,
Of Wotton-under-Edge,
Killed at Gandesa, April 1938,
Trying to stop Franco reaching the sea.

We also remember Margaret Duncombe,
Gallant nurse,
International Brigade Medical Services.

We remember Laurie Lee,
Writer, poet, labourer and ant-fascist,
Walking out from Slad with his violin,
Crossing the Pyrenees to fight Franco.

We remember Wogan Phillips from Colesbourne,
Driving his Ford to Barcelona,
Helping Stephen Spender;
Ambulance driver in the Segovia Offensive,
Demanding compensation for British ships
Bombed by Franco,
Then organising a refugee ship for Mexico.

We remember Ted Fletcher,
30 Regent Street, Stonehouse,
Ambulance driver;
And Michael Johnston of Great Rissington,
He fought all the way from the Jarama to the Ebro;
Wounded, he then worked as a transport driver.
We remember the Minchinhampton naval rating,
Dive-bombed by Stukas in his frigate off Alicante.

We remember Alfred Brooks of Bream Labour Party,
Cinema manager in the Dean,
Shielding his six Spanish refugee children
From the Pathe newsreels of Spain,
By keeping them busy in the projection room,
Or dancing flamenco in the Dean.

We remember Mrs. Phelps,
Saluted by a Spanish refugee
Saluted by a Spanish guard of honour,
At her wedding at Holy Trinity, Stroud.
We remember Harry Clements,
Nellie and Bert Mardell, Nellie Shaw,
Mary Robert, Marcel Morand and Joy Evans,
All of Whiteway,
Who helped the refugees feel at home and find work.

We remember the Stroud greengrocer,
With his gifts of food to the refugees,
The local fundraisers,
Mr E.G.Hobson,
And the Stroud Committee to help Spanish democracy.

We remember Paul Ruiz,
Rowed by his dad to a waiting ship,
11 years old, bound for Gloucester;
Paul would later marry a local girl,
Not returning to Spain until after the death of Franco.
We remember Lawrence Baxeda of Catalonia,
His children taken by their mother to Mitcheldean,
He stayed with his brother to fight Franco;
Under a death-sentence, they escaped to France,
Surviving the Nazi occupation,
To be reunited with family in 1949
And find work in Cinderford Saw Mills.

Finally, in this eulogy,
We remember once more,
Laurie Lee,
Writer, poet, labourer and ant-fascist,
Walking out from Slad with his violin,
Crossing the Pyrenees to fight Franco.

We shall remember them all:
‘No Pasaran!’

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