Back in April of 2017, we brought you a story we found in The Irish Times telling the story of Jack Prendergast, the Irishman who left his homeland to join the militias of the Basque Nationalist Party fighting against fascism in the Basque Country.
At the time, we tried to situate this person in his historical context, because the Ireland of 1937 was decidedly more in favor of the rebels. As we wrote:
In Ireland, the sympathies towards the sides that had formed after Franco’s fascist insurrection were divided. On the one side, the Irish Brigade was made up of 700 followers of Irish fascist Eoin O’Duffy, who joined Franco’s troops. On the other hand, a smaller group, led by Frank Ryan, joined the International Brigades that fought along the different Spanish fronts.
But there was a third group of Irishmen. Well, Irishman. Irish Republican Jack Prendergast decided to participate in the fight against fascism on the side of Basque nationalism. So, he joined the militias that the Basque Nationalist Party was creating in the first days of the war, and then joined the Euzko Gudarostea, the unified Basque army, which acted throughout the war under the command of Lehendakari Agirre.
Jack Prendergast only wanted to fight with the Basques in defense of the Basque people’s cause, as he clarified in a letter he sent to The Evening Herald in 1939, where he revealed that he hadn’t fought with the International Brigades, but as a soldier in the Basque Army, where he stayed “in order to fight with the Basques until the last inch of Basque territory had been taken”.
He was part of the Irrintzi “Infantry Accompanying Machines” (MAI) Battalion, where he reached the rank of Captain. Interestingly, his superior was Gabino Artolozaga, a nationalist born in Chile in 1899, who completed his military service as a artillery sergeant on the coast. We say “interestingly” because this Basque-Chilean, between 1914 and 1920, basically during the First World War, first belonged to the Sokotz group in Yugoslavia, and then to Sinn Fein in Ireland.
So, our admired friend (and we say that wholeheartedly) Jack Prendergast was a person worthy of a novel or a film. But, even more so, he is worthy of being remembered and recognized by all Basque patriots, for whose cause, the Cause of the Basque People, he risked his life, shoulder to shoulder with the other gudaris, defending the Basque homeland from the hordes of fascism.
After returning to Ireland, his commitment to the Basques did not wane, and he stood firm in his support for the cause of the Basque people, denouncing the incongruities of the fascist régime.
Earlier, we cited his letter to The Evening Herald, explaining his participation in the fight against Franco’s rebels.
This letter was part of a letter debate Prendergast began, denouncing the jailing of Basque priests by Franco, and that sparked a debate between him and a group who enthusiastically defended the fascist rebels. By the way, we can’t help imagining that behind some of those signatures (or noms de plume) are some who worked at the embassy the Franco régime set up in the Republic of Ireland. One of those noms de plume even got a direct message from the newspaper, telling him or her that they would not publish without a name and address (we wish modern social networks were so dedicated). Interestingly, “Ebro” never got back to them.
Special thanks to yours truly, for digging through the archives of The Evening Herald to find these letters (and translating them into Spanish). That means we can bring them to you here.
Take this article as an homage to this amazing Irishman, and as proof that the ways and “reasoning” that the enemies of the Basque Country have not changed in the slightest.
The Evening Herald 1939