Hampstead Heath bench honouring three brothers who fought the fascists to be returned

Following audit, memorial to three brothers who fought the fascists in Spain will be replaced

Friday, 19th March 2021 — By Dan Carrier

CamdenNewJournalMarch18 Image 2021-03-18 at 09.51.53 (23)

Danny and Tommy Gibbons with Spanish Civil War comrades

THREE heroic brothers who went to Spain in the 1930s to fight against fascists will be remembered with a new bench on Hampstead Heath.

The City of London, which manages the open space, has been trying to track down the people who commissioned benches all across the Heath as many have fallen into disrepair and some may no longer needed.

A waiting list for a memorial bench has grown to 85 people.

One bench that will be returned to a spot on the slopes of Parliament Hill is a seat dedicated to Joe, Tommy and Daniel Gibbons, who were part of the International Brigade – volunteers who opposed General Franco’s revolt in the Spanish civil war.

Joe’s granddaughter Mariah Wilson, a filmmaker living in New York, told the New Journal her great aunt Kathleen Dooley was possibly the person who had commissioned the memorial.

Kathleen was the sister of Pat Dooley, a friend of the brothers who also went to Spain and is also mentioned on the original bench’s dedication. Kathleen remained politically active throughout her life.

“I knew nothing about the bench until about three months ago,” said Ms Wilson.

“I was doing some research into my family and I came across a blog that mentioned it. We learned it was in some disrepair – so we are so pleased to hear it will be replaced with a new one.”

The bench first appeared in the early 1980s by the then Heath managers the Greater London Council, but it has since been removed after falling into disrepair and has been part of the audit.

Joe Gibbons

The brothers had left their homes in the UK and the USA to go to Spain.

The three boys grew up in Scotland, but the spot was chosen overlooking the Highgate ponds as Danny lived in Camden Town alongside other family members.

Danny was wounded in the Battle of Jarama in February 1937 and returned to the UK – only to recover and head back to the war.

He had learned his brother Tommy had been killed at the Battle of Brunete in 1937, and felt he needed to return to continue the fight. Later, he was captured and after being held in awful conditions was released in 1939 as part of a prisoner exchange.

The third brother, Joe, had moved to Chicago in the 1920s and volunteered in a Canadian battalion. He was on a ship that was sunk by an Italian submarine – and saved the lives of two of his comrades who could not swim.

Ms Wilson said the City had been “super helpful” with the project, adding: “They said they were sorry they couldn’t preserve the old one – and now was the time to replace it.”

The City has confirmed the brothers’ bench will be replaced with a new one – and supports the plan to see it back in place. It has also vowed once funds are raised, it will source the seat and maintain it.

A City spokeswoman said: “The International Brigade Memorial Trust is leading a fundraising campaign to restore the memorial bench and we are supporting them in this effort.”

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