Help needed to salute the Spanish Civil War ‘lions of Rotherham’

A THEATRE director working on a play saluting “the lions of Rotherham” is hoping veterans’ families will be able to help fill in the blanks in her research.

Karen Mulcahey’s Breakout Arts has been granted funds to examine the lives and history of four men from the town who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

The aim is to put on a celebration event at Clifton Park Museum in October and produce a play with professional actors, which would be toured nationally.

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Geoffrey Allsop, Joseph Maiden, Chris Smith and Tommy James (pictured) all left Rotherham to fight General Franco’s Nationalists in the late 1930s.

James is the most celebrated, having also been president of the Rotherham Trades Council, and a blue plaque was unveiled for him in All Saints’ Square last year.

One family history site lists Allsopp as having been aged 34 when he died in Spain in March 1938, while Chris Smith survived into old age, before recounting his experiences for inclusion in the collection of the Imperial War Museum in 1992.

A memorial event for the four was held in 2017 at the Rotherham Peace Garden in St Ann’s.

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Now Breakout are keen to tell all the men’s stories on stage.

Karen said: “We are working with young people aged seven to 25 to explore the local history of the four men from Rotherham who fought in the civil war.

“We have a team of researchers trained in oral history from the University of Sheffield, a team of artists gathering information and anecdotes on the men and their families and friends, and young people are gaining skills in research, archives, local heritage, visual arts, media and drama.

“The celebration event at Clifton Museum will include a short performance by young people, a visual art exhibition that will be open for a month, the screening of an educational film that will then be shared with all schools doing Key Stage 2 and a premiere of the new play.

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“We will be adding any new information and oral histories to the Rotherham Archives.”

Karen said the project was still in the research stages and she was keen to hear from anyone with any knowledge or experiences of any of the four men or their families.

“Rotherham has a proud history of resilience and fighting back or for strong beliefs and this local heritage is part of that,” she said.

“Many young people know nothing about it and we want to put Rotherham's heritage on the map.

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“We have had amazing help from interviewees and Rotherham Friends of the International Brigade and are excited to see what is unearthed as we investigate further.”

You contact Karen by email at [email protected] or call her on 07947 861284.





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