Members of the local community, community activists, veteran’s relatives and SIPTU activists from across the community attended the unveiling of a memorial plague to William Tumlinson from East Belfast on the 16th of April. The event was organised by Teach na Failte, Lower Castlereagh Community Group and Charter NI.
On what is the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War the unveiling of the plaque to William Tumlinson, a volunteer in the International Brigades holds a special place in the history of the working class of Belfast. Local historian John Quinn gave a speech on Tumlinson’s journey from an East Belfast lad living in Thorndyke Street to his eventual participation as a volunteer in the International Brigades and death fighting the fascists during the Ebro offensive of 1938.
William Tumlinson was an East Belfast protestant who imbued and emboldened by his belief in socialist politics went to fight in Spain in what is often termed the “Last great cause” in defence of the Spanish democracy against the rising tide of fascism. His experiences in Belfast were set against the backdrop of Outdoor Relief Riots, unemployment and depression. Experiences which would shape and confirm for him and many others that went to fight in Spain that it is class and not creed that matters.
William Tumlinson was a true working class hero and deserves to be remembered in the collective memory of the working people of Belfast, he is part of a hidden and often unsung history that transcends the sectarian divide and can be shared by all. The diverse attendance at the memorial was testimony to this.