Small ripples make big waves

The search for Frank Conroy’s birthplace and family

On 13 December 1936 Frank Conroy, a member of the Republican Congress and the Communist Party of Ireland, sailed on the Holyhead ferry, alongside Frank Ryan, determined to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist rebellion. This Spanish Civil War hero died on 28 December 1936 fighting with the 15th International Brigade.

With no clue to when or where Frank Conroy was born or any trace of his family, and with only a few snippets of information about his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the Frank Conroy Commemoration Committee organised its first event on 16 December 2012 at the Republican Memorial in Kildare.

The historian James Durney, who attended this first commemoration, said that, while all historical references to Conroy mention that he was from Kildare, it’s not clear if he was from the town or from Co. Kildare. It had been said that he came from Fairgreen in Kildare, but the 1911 census has no record of a family of this name living in Fairgreen at the time.

Two years later, however, Durney wrote that he had found Conroy’s birthplace: Kilcullen, Co. Kildare. This is where Frank was born, on 25 February 1914; but new information tells us that he grew up in Irishtown, Dublin. That indicates that the Conroy family moved back to Dublin.

What’s more, in 2016 came information from the son of another International Brigader, Gerry Doran. This was to the effect that Conroy crossed into Spain with Doran on 14 December 1936, under the guidance of Frank Ryan.

Conroy and Doran fought at the Battle of Lopera, where both were wounded. Frank died from gunshot wounds to the body and shrapnel wounds to the head; Gerry Doran received similar wounds but survived.

Small ripples from 2012 continued to make big waves when contact was established with a niece of Frank Conroy who lives in America, and with news of other relatives living in Ireland.