Identity Statement for Eugene Downing
- Reference code: IE UCDA P55
- Title: Papers of Eugene Downing (1913-2003)
- Dates: 1937–43
- Level of description: Item
- Extent: 15 items
Eugene Downing was was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, having enlisted in the 15th International Brigade in 1938. From a Republican background, he remembered being raised during the War of Independence and Civil War with the 'sound of bombs and bullets' in his ears.
Downing was born in September 1913 at 2 Cuffe Street, Dublin. He was educated at Francis Street CBS and qualified as an electrician at Kevin Street Technical College. He spoke Irish fluently from an early age. He was drawn to Marxism after reading the Communist Manifesto and James Connolly's Labour in Irish History, which convinced him of the centrality of class struggle to politics. And the empathy of Marx and Engels with the Irish cause strengthened his belief in their theories.
The next logical step was to join the Revolutionary Workers' Groups, the forerunner of the Communist Party of Ireland. Unable to find work as an electrician, he helped with the production of the party weekly, the Workers' Voice. He also wrote for the paper and sold it door-to-door. He helped to organise meetings for the unemployed and distributed leaflets in opposition to the Blueshirts.
In early 1938, he decided to join the fight in Spain. He took the boat to Liverpool, telling his parents that he was going to the Aintree Grand National. He went to Paris, travelled south and crossed the Pyrenees at night.By July, he and his comrades were camped near the river Ebro, trained in the use of arms and ready for battle. He fought in the Battle of the Ebro and was wounded in the unsuccessful attempt to capture the town of Gandesa. He was taken to hospital in Mataro. The wound had been infected and a below-the-knee amputation was necessary.
Returning to Ireland in December 1938, he was unable to find work so he went to London where he was emplyed by the International Brigade Association. He moved around over the coming decades working in Middlesex, Dublin, London and retiring to Wicklow in the early 1980s.
Downing died in July 2003.
Letters and other items, including photograph relating to Eugene Downing's period in the International Brigade in Spain; money sent to Downing from the International Brigade Association via the British Red Cross for Fred Stark; Downing's hospitalisation in and departure from Spain.