John Smith (1906 – 1938), Irvine born miner who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War.
Born in 1906, John McDougall Smith was one of a family of five brothers and five sisters who resided at 43 Clark Drive, Irvine, with their parents Mr and Mrs Peter Smith. Married in January 1933 to Elizabeth Bell, John, a miner, was tragically widowed nine months later when Elizabeth died giving birth to a stillborn baby.
John was the only Irvine man to join the International Brigade, and on 1st January 1937 he was sent to Spain and was fighting there a fortnight later. Prior to enlisting he took part in organising support for Spain in Irvine.
In March 1937, John wrote the following letter to his mother from hospital in Valencia:
“I have had tough luck, got a bullet wound in the leg and so I am in hospital, but there is no need to worry as I am getting along alright. We had a terrible time for two days and there were a lot of my comrades killed. If this does not make the Labour Party do something, nothing will. We were held because the German Moorish fascists had the stuff to fight with: rifles alone will not do against good machine guns. Nurses and doctors are the best here so it will not be long until I am back at the front doing my stuff again. Hope dad and all at home are OK.”
In July 1938 John’s parents received a report from the International Brigade in Spain that their son, who had by this time been with the Brigade for eighteen months, had been posted as missing. Their fears were soon to be allayed by the receipt of a letter from John who said he was alive and well.
Tragically, three months later, The Irvine Herald reported the news that John had been killed in action in Spain on 8th September on the Ebro front. In September 1988, on the anniversary of his death, John Smith was honoured by Cunninghame District Council who erected a plaque in his name at Irvine Library, on the instigation of Irvine Trades Council. A memorial service was also held at Knadgerhill Cemetery where a family stone records John’s death.