Over the weekend of 30 June/2 July the picturesque village of Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny will again play host to the annual George Brown Commemoration. George Brown, whose roots were in Inistioge and Tullogher, grew up in Manchester in the early decades of the twentieth century, and from an early age displayed a sense of keen political awareness. He became a committed member of the British Communist Party, joined the International Brigade fighting in the Spanish Civil War in defence of the fledgling republic and died at Brunete in July 1937.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of his death and for the past ten years his sacrifice has been remembered in his parents’ native place. And while the two founding members of the Inistioge George Brown Memorial Committee – Paddy Murphy and Seán Walsh – have both sadly passed away over the course of the last year or so, the resolve of the committee to continue their work has not dimmed. If anything this year’s event explores new approaches in restating its message – George Brown did not die in vain! Let us work together to fulfil his objective of a world free of economic, social and political tyranny.
Chairing the lecture sessions in St Mary’s Church of Ireland will be Jack O’Connor, General President of SIPTU and Jimmy Kelly, Irish Region Secretary of UNITE. Topics covered will include the Experiences of the Returned Waterford Brigadistas, Confronting the Rise of the Right, and Poverty in Ireland of the Recovery. The last of these topics will be aired by Brendan Ogle.
A novel element on the Friday evening will be a commemoration in song and story of the involvement of Irish people in war and conflict in other lands – The Wild Geese, service in the British Army, the Napoleonic Wars, and much more.
Saturday afternoon is centred at the Olive Grove in nearby Woodstock Gardens where the late Seán Walsh will be commemorated with a tree-planting ceremony. Afterwards, visitors and locals will be entertained by the Graiguenamanagh Brass Band who will be playing in the Millennium Gardens.
This year, for the first time, the festival extends to Sunday. Anyone who is interested in the history, flora and fauna of Woodstock is welcome to join in a walking tour starting in the car park at 11.30 a.m. The guide will be Michael Tennyson, a local history enthusiast and agricultural advisor.
There is even something for the bibliophile and student of political history. On sale on Friday evening and Saturday morning will be a range of second-hand books relating to the Spanish Civil War and, more broadly, the history and politics of the Left.