Thursday, 1 December 2011

Blue plaque honour for Ashton's Spanish Civil War local hero!

James Keogh, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, was only a young lad of 22 years when he killed near the small town of Calaceite, in the province of Aragon, in the north of Spain. As a member of the 15th International Brigade, he was one of a number of people who were killed in March 1938, when they ran into a column of Italian tanks and infantrymen, who opened fired on them, as they made their way to assist General Lister. Like many other people who died during the Spanish conflict, we know little about what happened to James, or where he lies buried.

James lived at 105 Wellington Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, and was the eldest son of James Keogh and Clara Howard. After leaving school, he started work as an apprentice at 'Pikes' Tailors on Stamford Street, Ashton-under-Lyne. We know that James was not a member of a trade union or a political party and that he was one of a number of local people, who volunteered to go and fight to support the legally elected Republican government in Spain, against the nationalists led by General Francisco Franco, who sought to overthrow the elected government with the support of the Fascists dictators Hitler and Mussolini.

Apart from an article that appeared in the Ashton Reporter in June 1937, which shows the only extant photograph of James Keogh, there remains very little physical evidence today of James, apart from family memories, a few hand written letters, and a picture postcard sent from Marseille, where he sailed to Spain on the 'Barcelona', which was sunk by a submarine which resulted in the loss of many lives.

Having sacrificed his life at a young age, fighting for democracy on foreign soil, members of the Tameside Trades Union Council, nominated James Keogh for a blue plaque which was unveiled by Councillor Jackie Lane, on Friday 25th November at Tameside Central Library, Old Street, Ashton-under-Lyne. Attending the ceremony was his sister Joyce Harrison and other family members.

Those who spoke at the ceremony last Friday, were Mike Harrison, a nephew of James Keogh, Councillor Jackie Lane, Assistant Executive Member for Heritage and Tourism, and Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside Trades Union Council and Charles Jepson, of the National Clarion Cycling Club. Members of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, were also present.

No comments: