In Ireland there is a place called Morley’s Bridge and it is located
on the border between County Cork and Kerry. At this remote spot there
is a plaque in memory of a local man.
In memory of Michael Lehane, a member of the International Spanish
Brigade, who gave his young life at seas that the underprivileged of
all nations would enjoy a happy and prosperous existence.
Michael Lehane from Morley’s Bridge died tragically too young but he
had lived an action packed life dedicated to fighting fascism and
promoting socialist ideals.
Michael Lehane was born on September 27th 1908 and at the age of 19
he left Morley’s Bridge for the agricultural college in Clonakilty.
Lehane had to drop out due to financial strains and he then went to
Dublin where he found employment as a labourer.
During this time, an economic depression was sweeping the world while
across Europe fascism was on the rise. In Dublin, Lehane became a
member of the United Builders Labourers Trade Union. He was
politically aware of what was brewing across Europe and what was
happening in Spain where fascist army generals led a coup against the
democratically elected republican government. Appalled by the actions
of right wing rebels in Spain, Lehane joined the International Brigade
in December 1936 to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
Lehane’s first taste of war came on Christmas Eve when he saw action
on the Cordoba front where nine of his fellow Irishmen fell.
Lehane survived the bloodshed at Cordoba and a month later went on to
fight in the Battle of Los Rozas de Madrid. Shortly afterwards he
travelled back to Ireland.
Lehane picked up where he left off in Dublin and went back working on
building sites around the city. In April 1937 a builders strike was
called and all tools were downed. This gave Lehane the chance to
re-volunteer for the International Brigade.
By willingly returning to take part in what was unfolding in Spain as
an utterly vicious civil war, is testament to Lehane’s steadfast
character. He was determined to fight the good fight and so he left to
join up with the International Brigade once again.
Lehane made his route back to Spain by undertaking an arduous trek
over the Pyrenees mountains in order to evade authorities. Lehane then
took part in the Battle of Brunette which lasted throughout the
sweltering month of July. During this battle, Lehane and his comrades
found themselves under heavy fire from a machine gun that was manned
from a church tower in the town. Lehane managed to rescue many of his
injured comrades from a hail of bullets before being struck down
Lehane recovered from his injuries and by the Spring of 1938 he was
back in Dublin again and working as a labourer. The call to arms was
too much for Lehane to resist and by July he was back in Spain
fighting Franco’s Fascists.
On July 25th the International Brigade crossed the Ebro River to
advance on the town of Gandesa but a hill, known as Hill 481, stood in
their way and it was heavily controlled by Franco’s troops.
The International Brigade suffered heavy losses against the might of
Franco’s army on Hill 481 and Lehane was one of a number injured
By mid December Lehane and his comrades left Spain for the last time
as the war was coming to a close and Franco was proclaiming victory.
Lehane arrived back in Dublin on December 21st 1938 but his stay
would not last long before he left in the new year to go live with his
brother in Birmingham England.
Lehane’s political convictions did not wane while in England and
authorities viewed this Irish man, who was involved with The Daily
Workers newspaper, as nothing more than a subversive, so his brothers
house became the scene of police raids during his few years lodging
When the war against fascism took on a whole new form in World War II,
Lehane made the decision to continue his fight against it. He would
not join the British army and wear the uniform of what he saw as an
imperialist force so instead he enlisted in the Norwegian Merchant
Lehane was registered as a fireman aboard the Norwegian steamer ‘Brant
County’ on October 2nd 1941. In March 1943 he went down with the ship
when it was attacked in the mid Atlantic by a Nazi submarine. Along
with Lehane, 24 crew lost their lives.
Lehane was just 35 years old when he met his end but in his short
life, the man from a wildly remote part of the Cork and Kerry border
fought non stop against fascism, so that the underprivileged of all
nations would enjoy a happy and prosperous existence.