Civil War heroes remembered

RELATIVES, historians and politicians will stand together at a service to commemorate men and women from across the Lothians who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Today's event is the first of its kind in the Capital since 1996 and marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the battle which saw Scots join with Spain's republican movement in a war against fascism.

Relatives of those who fought were due to join historians, city politicians and the Spanish Consul at the war memorial in Princes Street Gardens East in what is hoped to be the first of many annual celebrations of Scotland's contribution to the war.

Edinburgh-based historian Daniel Gray, a Spanish Civil War expert and author of Homage to Caledonia, said: "We're making a commitment to hold a service every year and keep the legacy of the people from across the Lothians who fought alive. The baton, in this sense, has certainly been passed to my generation."

There were 40 men and women from across Edinburgh and Leith who volunteered to serve in the Spanish Civil War (July 17, 1936-April 1, 1939), ten of whom fell on the battlefields. Many of them were only in their teens when they left the Capital for Spain, most having never before been out of the city, or the country.

Among them was Jimmy Rutherford, from Newhaven, who was only 20 when he was executed for his involvement in the battle.

He sneaked back into the country after previously being deported – committed to helping the republican cause – only to be recognised and executed.

On returning to the country, he told his father, "If all the young men had seen what I saw out there, they would be doing what I am doing".

He was joined by Edinburgh shoe repairer Harold Fry, who died on the battlefields, never seeing his son who was born after he set off for Spain.

Other volunteers included nurse Annie Murray, from the Royal Infirmary, who witnessed children being blown up after opening sweet tins filled with explosives dropped by the Italian air force.

The last Scottish survivor of the Spanish Civil War was Steve Fullarton, from Edinburgh, who died last year in his late 80s.

Event organisers are adamant that owing to there now being no living volunteers, younger generations must endeavour to make their contributions to the battle forever known.

Leith councillor Gordon Munro, who will today introduce the service, said: "There were a few services in Edinburgh in the 1980s and one in 1996, but that is all.

"It is vital not to forget, particularly as we do not have any 'living legacies' any more. We have to honour our dead – unfortunately many people do not even know there is a commemorative memorial in Princes Street Gardens."

Today's service will include the singing of Jarama Valley, to the tune of Red River Valley, words from the relatives of volunteers and a reading of all those who lost their lives in the cause.

SCOTLAND'S VOLUNTEERS

MORE than 500 Scots volunteered to fight for the republicans in the Spanish Civil War – a bloody battle against General Francisco Franco and his fascist force.

The war broke out in 1936 and raged until 1939, with British leaders ignoring the battle, instead pursuing a policy of appeasement.

It began when a group of military generals rose up in a bid to overthrow the elected republican government.

The fascist governments of Italy and Germany sent help to the right-wing rebels, but despite pleas from the Spanish government, Britain, France and other democracies decided not to interfere.

Those Scots who volunteered to fight for what they passionately believed was morally correct were offered no support from the UK Government and were often blacklisted for their involvement on return, preventing them from getting jobs or joining the Army.

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