Sunday, 22 February 2009

There's a valley in Spain

February 24th 1937

On that date just outside madrid a 25 year old Scot climbed out of a trench and went to pick up a wounded comrade who had been shot by a fascist machine he bent over to pick up his wounded comrade another bullet passed through the base of his spine.

his name was George Dickie and he was my father's younger brother, although on that hillside at Jarama he was known as Jack Brent and was registered as a Canadian.

He had not been long at the front but was considered an asset within the International Brigades,he had previously been a Cameron Highlander and thus had some experience of military life and handling weapons.
But not very much.

Geordie was part of the Canadian battalion,MacKenzie-Papineau who were attached to the American's-the Abraham Lincoln battalion and they were ordered to the front lines to replace the legendary Dimitrov's,who had been holding out against the fascist surge since February 11th.

Like so many other young men of the time Geordie had left his village school in Whithorn with little real education and little real prospect of work in depression ridden rural Scotland.A butcher's boy was not really a long term career move.

He had run off to join the army,and he stuck it for a couple of tears, but the bull and bullshit did for him as it did for many others.He was based near Invergordon so its possible that he heard about the 'mutiny'by the sailors on that base.After all the baldwin government were cutting the wages of the ratings whilst upping the salary of the officers.
Geordie was put in charge of the stores for a while, he and a mate 'liberated' a couple of suits and with a used train ticket went on the run to London.

He became Jack Brent while passing through Brent in North London.It's always been a family joke that he was lucky that Willesden Junction dodn't catch his eye that day.

He spent years drifting aeound London,taking odd jobs here and there,living in doss houses,living the life so graphically described in Orwell's book 'Down and out on London and Paris'
That was the period that he learned his politics, not in a university college but under circumstances of poverty and hardship.I suppose he could have gone any which way.

But seeing some blackshirts beating up a Jewish girl convinced Geordie that there was only one way as he waded in to help the girl and batter the fascists.

Probably the event that made the man who subsequently found himself on that Spanish hillside that cold February day.
Working class history is full of heroes and heroines largely un-named and unknown, but at least we know of the men and women who went to Spain.
There are only a small handful left today,perhaps most notable 93 year old Jack Jones.
He's worth a thousand mediocre Labour ministers and every second rate union leader ledt to whimper in his paid for union limo!

By the way you can read my columns that don't get on this blog every Wednesday in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo or on

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