Remembering the Wiganers who fought against fascism, 80 years on

Family and friends laid red roses, watched by gathered crowds
Family and friends laid red roses, watched by gathered crowds
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A memorial to Wigan’s Spanish Civil War heroes has been unveiled - following a long and determined campaign by trade unionists in the borough.

Twelve volunteers from Wigan and Leigh, who fought Franco’s Fascists between 1936 and 1939, have been remembered with a plaque situated between Wigan Town Hall and the baths.

Unveiling of the memorial to the 12 Wigan freedom fighters who took part in the Spanish Civil War at Southside Gardens, Ince. Irene Thompson, pictured, unveiled the memorial

Unveiling of the memorial to the 12 Wigan freedom fighters who took part in the Spanish Civil War at Southside Gardens, Ince. Irene Thompson, pictured, unveiled the memorial

The late Ron Thompson, of Wigan Trades Council, lobbied for a fitting tribute to the dozen for a number of years, before his death in 2014.

And his widow Irene, watched by ancestors of the 12, was invited to perform the launch in Southfield Gardens, on the day when Spain marks the start of their second republic.

Later Irene, of St Patrick’s Way, said: “It has been a lovely day - Ron would have loved this very much because there were so many families from Wigan who were involved in the Spanish Civil War.”

She now hopes the story of their self-sacrifice will be taught in local schools.

Flowers laid at the scene

Flowers laid at the scene

The families of two of the three local fatalities in the conflict, Michael Gallagher and Bernard Sweeney, were represented at the ceremony.

And the trades council and International Brigade Memorial Trust, after the event was publicised in the Wigan Post and Observer, were contacted by relatives on behalf of nurse Lily Robinson, Harold Croston, Tommy Degnan, Edwin Blood and Arthur Evans, with each group asked to lay a rose at the memorial.

Guests including Ian Hodgson, president of the Bakers Union, Dolores Long and Hilary Jones, daughters of British Battalion commander Sam Wild, and Ian Heyes, of Wigan Diggers, who assisted with the plaque, laid roses on behalf of fellow survivors John Connolly, Hector Coop, Pat Deignan and Benny Hoath.

Vicky Perry, trades council president, said: “This memorial celebrates ordinary people from Wigan doing extraordinary things.”

Onlookers at the memorial

Onlookers at the memorial

Hundreds turned out for the dedication, which ended with a rousing chorus of The Internationale, led by Bolton Clarion Choir.