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11th Annual George Brown Memorial Event
Spanish Music, Spanish Food, a Spanish Civil War Poster Exhibition, and even Spanish Summer Weather. One could not have asked for anything more in glorious Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny at the weekend. And that was only part of it! This year’s George Brown Commemoration had something for everyone.
The event began on Friday evening with the laying of a wreath by Tom Nugent at the George Brown commemorative plaque in St Colmcille Graveyard.
Saturday was a day full of activity. Harry Owens, a Spanish Civil War historian delivered a mesmerising lecture on the course of the conflict from 1936 to 1939 and in particular the behind-the-scenes machinations of a number of the European democracies which, in effect, sealed the fate of the fledgling republic. This talk marked the opening of the Spanish Civil War Poster exhibition and Even the Olives are Bleedingdocumentary in the Cois Abhann Community Centre. In the afternoon the focus switched to Woodstock Gardens where there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Olive Grove in the Walled Garden. The wreath was laid by Alison Wainwright from Manchester who knew many of George Brown’s maternal relatives, the Reddy-Lackey family, who still live in that area of England. The poem ‘George Brown’ was recited by Sarah Tobin, a relative of the Brigadistawho was killed at the Battle of Brunete, 7 July, 1937. The annual planting of a specimen tree in Woodstock was carried out by another relative, Sharon Lackey. This year marks the eightieth anniversary of the withdrawal of the International Brigades from Spain and the farewell speech delivered by Dolores Ibarruri (La Pasionaria) is one of the stand-out speeches in modern oratory. In marking this anniversary it was delivered at the Olive Grove by Amanda Richards, a member of the George Brown Memorial Committee.
After this, it was back to Inistioge to be entertained by the Graiguenamanagh Brass Band at the Millennium Garden, a performance which is eagerly anticipated every year by locals and visitors alike. The sumptuous Spanish fare produced by Katrin Lukes at The Otter surpassed all expectations was much appreciated by all who had been on the go since mid-morning, with the atmosphere enhanced by live flamenco guitar music.
The day was rounded off with a concert in Cois Abhann featuring local group Hatchery Lane with special guest, singer-songwriter Mick Hanly, all of whom gave freely of their time and talent, as did our wizard sound engineers Mick Harkin and Michael Holden. The theme of the concert was Emigration and Parting, something which tied in with the experience of Francis Brown of Inistioge and Mary Lackey of Ballyneale who, like so many others at the time, emigrated, setting down their roots in Manchester.
For those who still had the energy a further treat was in store on Sunday. Local agriculturalist, Michael Tennyson conducted a tour of Woodstock Gardens, as usual impressing all with his grasp of local history and his detailed knowledge of the area’s flora. The highpoint of this tour was assuredly the visit to the Rose Garden where everything is in luxuriant bloom at the moment.
This year’s George Brown Commemoration showed a marked departure from the previous ten events in that there was a pronounced shift away from something which was heavy on history, politics and current affairs, to one, in which the remembrance of George Brown’s sacrifice in the cause of democracy in Spain would still remain central, but would equally promote a meeting of Irish and Spanish cultures.