Blood River

Blood River

Red River Valley is one of the saddest country songs and  no where was it more mournful than on Sunday,when around 100 ageing motley choristers   to its tune sang

There’s a valley in Spain called Jarama/Its a place that we know so well/It is here we gave our manhood/And so many of our comrades fell.

On our way to the “farmers” market to buy essential sourdough bread and olive paste we had stumbled on the 80th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Jarama. There 150 of the  British contingent of 600 died  stopping Franco’s push on Madrid.

Most of those who joined the International  Brigade were trade unionists and Fulham’s Bishops Park has a memorial to the thirty who died from the borough. The rather ugly, red marble memorial (see link)bears the immortal line-Their Eyes were Open and They Could See No Other Way. No Pasaran. Over 100 such stones now remember those from the British Isles who realised that the Spanish Civil War was the beginning of the World War  against fascism. Laurie Lee and George Orwell maybe more famous but they were not part of “the stand for Madrid that they made”.

It was windy and the blue sky had failed to break through, the rain had passed through, seagulls hovered over nearby All Saints Church. The local vicar led us off and we were all conscious of the echo of intolerance and hatred that was coming across the Atlantic. Songs were sung, poems read, history told and the colourful mayor Councillor Mercy Umeh laid one of the wreaths. One grey haired bearded fellow stepped forward, took off his beret, raised his fist and lowered his head.

And then we sung the Internationale, even me in my Hackett tweed jacket couldn’t resist belting it out and suddenly I realised my fist was high above my head.

So comrades come rally/And the last fight let us face/The Internationale unites the human race.

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One Response to Blood River

  1. Nick says:


    NIcely written, but the song link to Red River Valley is to the original North American cowboy love song version, of which the International Version is a “knock off” – same tune.

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