They came from New York, Madrid, Edinburgh, London and from across the island of Ireland to pay homage to a son of Dungannon who had sacrificed his life for liberty and democracy amid the olive groves of the Jarama Valley in Spain some eighty years ago.
The Charlie Donnelly Winter School 2017 made a triumphant return to the mid-Ulster town where the young poet revolutionary had spent his early years as a boy in the fields around Killybrackey.
Such is the esteem in which Charlie Donnelly is held throughout Ireland and beyond that representatives of local authorities in every district in which he had lived and ultimately died sent delegates to attend a school in his honour on a cold, wet, February weekend in Dungannon.
Events at the Winter School opened with a presentation and discussion on Friday February 24 in The Junction. Renowned author and historian, Dr Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh joined with veteran republican, trade unionist and former hunger striker Tommy McKearney to discuss the evolution of class consciousness during the early years of the War of Independence in mid-Ulster and the influence of radical left wing politics in East Tyrone right up until the present day. Liz Shaw, daughter of Stewartstown International Brigader, Joe Boyd, was also in attendance among the large audience.
Saturday’s proceedings opened with a poignant wreath laying and remembrance ceremony at the Charlie Donnelly Memorial near the family homestead in Killybrackey. The Chairman of Louth County Council led the floral tributes to the young republican poet while National Chairperson of Éirígí, Brian Leeson provided the main oration.
In addition to the bouquets of flowers from all the various council and parliamentary representatives, floral tributes were also laid on behalf of the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI), the Abraham Lincoln Battalion Archives (ALBA), the International Brigades Memorial Trust (IBMT), the Communist Party of Ireland, Anti-Fascist Action Ireland, the Independent Workers Union, the 1916 Societies, Éirigí and the Peadar O Donnell Forum.
An uileann piper played a fitting lament before Omeath based artist, Colm Morgan, provided a moving rendition of a Spanish Civil War song in memory of all the International Brigaders.