The Tolerence of Crows
Death comes in quantity from solved
Problems on maps, well-ordered dispositions,
Angles of elevation and direction;
Comes innocent from tools children might
Love, retaining under pillows
Innocently impales on any flesh.
And with flesh falls apart the mind
That trails thought from the mind that cuts
Thought clearly for a waiting purpose.
Progress of poison in the nerves and
Discipline’s collapse is halted.
Body awaits the tolerance of crows.
I’m not cheating here; I know Charlie Donnelly wasn’t a Dub, but he lived here for many years, and studied at UCD as JayCarax covered here in his Hidden History Blog. He was a complex character; a college drop-out, political activist and member of the national executive of the Republican Congress. And a poet. A very good poet.
And for while we have a history of revolutionary poets in this country, most of them fought in the years 1916 to 1922. Charlie wasn’t born in time for that revolution but travelled to London in 1936 where he joined the International Brigades. On the 23rd December of that year headed to Spain where he fought on the republican side against Franco’s Counter Revolution.
On the 27th February, 1937, in the rank of Field Commander, he was sent with his unit to launch a frontal assault on the Nationalist positions on a hill named Pingarron. They were pinned down and Donnelly was hit by three Nationalist bullets- One to his right arm, one to his right side and an explosive bullet to the head that killed him. He uttered his oft repeated words “even the olives are bleeding” during that assault. His body lay prone for four days before it could be recovered by Irish brigadier Peter O’Connor. His body was buried in an unmarked grave. He was only 23 years of age.
His story, along with the stories of so many others who fought and died in that war never cease to move me; Absolute selflessness from people united against Fascism. While Spain is a stones throw across the water now with it easier (and probably cheaper) to get a flight there than a taxi home from Dame Street on a Saturday night, back then it meant getting a boat to England, and then another one from there to France and then the long trek down by train, bus and foot. Yet you wonder would people do it these days.
Right. The reason for the article. On the 27th February this year, family and friends of Charlie Donnelly unveiled a beautiful memorial to him in a park in Rivas. The story of how the memorial came to be is one could not do justice to, but you can read about it here. The memorial consists of a stone from the 32 counties of Ireland and was paid for by donations not only from Ireland but from across Spain also. Next Friday, in the Teachers Club on Parnell Square, sees the launch of a DVD that tells the story of the project and promises to be a night to remember. Titled “Stones to Remember: Charlie Donnelly and the XV Brigade” there will be music, song, poetry and I’m sure, plenty of tears. Admission is €5 and it kicks off at 8.30. I hope to be in attendance to pay homage to the man himself.
Details and the poster for the event can be found at: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/96544