No. 180 NAI DFA 119/48

Extracts from the annual report from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe
(S.J. 19/5)

St Jean de Luz, 2 May 1938

ORGANISATION and ACTIVITIES of the IRISH LEGATION in SPAIN (temporary headquarters St. Jean de Luz) for the year ended 31st MARCH 1938


My last similar report from Madrid related to the period ended 31st March 19361. Perhaps, therefore, it may be desirable to record briefly the following events.

On 17th April 19362 I sent a report from Madrid on disturbances in Spain in which I stated that the use of violence was creating an atmosphere of civil war and that the existence of a spirit of civil war was very manifest.

On 18th May 1936 I fell seriously ill. On 8th July I left Madrid on sick leave and Miss Donnelly3 was entrusted with the charge of the Legation during my absence. The Spanish civil war broke out on 17th July. On 13th August, acting on imperative instructions, Miss Donnelly closed down the Legation and left Spain. I was convalescent until the end of 1936. It was decided that I should not return to Madrid but establish temporary headquarters in St. Jean de Luz, about 8 miles from the French side of the Spanish frontier, whither most of the Diplomatic Corps have moved from San Sebastian on the outbreak of the civil war. I reached St. Jean de Luz on 8th February 1937. I re-established contact with the heads of other diplomatic missions accredited to President Azaña in Madrid but stationed temporarily in France. Henceforth my activities were chiefly concerned with the observation from outside of political events in Spain and reporting on their development.

In March 1937 I proceeded, on instructions4, to Salamanca for the purpose of securing material for a full report to enable the Government to come to a decision with regard to the eventual recognition of the authorities there.

On 13th March I reported the result of my investigations, pointing out, however, that we should neither anticipate the capture of Madrid in the early future nor a war of short duration.


The temporary official address of the Legation since 8th February 1937 is the Golf Hotel, St. Jean de Luz, (B.P.), France.


My first direct contact with the insurgent or nationalist authorities was established by my visit to Salamanca; subsequent channels of communication were the Viscount de Mamblas (an agent of General Franco with headquarters in Biarritz), Sr. Sangroniz, at one time head of Franco's Diplomatic Cabinet and now Introducer of Ambassadors in Burgos, and, more recently, Franco's Minister for External Affairs in Burgos.

The Spanish Government (with headquarters in Madrid till May 1937, subsequently in Valencia till November 1937, and since then in Barcelona) has no liaison agent in this part of France; consequently, there is no effective contact between the Legation and the Spanish Government, which has never sent any written communication to me here; it must be mentioned, however, that the Spanish Government recently addressed to the Irish Legation in Madrid a Verbal Note acknowledging receipt of a Note sent by the Legation in St. Jean de Luz in relation to the murder of an Irish national in Spain.
[matter omitted]


The following requisites were obtained locally or supplied from home:

  1. Typewriter,
  2. Despatch Cases for storing the Madrid archives which were delivered to the Legation in St. Jean de Luz on 17th February 1938.
It was deemed unnecessary to purchase Filing Cabinets for the Legation files, which are kept in a cupboard.


The following books were supplied from home:
         1 Spanish Dictionary,
         1 English-Irish do.,
         1 Irish-English do.,
         Thom's Directory.


I have here as assistant Miss Donnelly, whose services as clerk-stenographertypist were dispensed with after the temporary closing down of the Legation in Madrid and who was re-employed in a similar capacity when it was decided to open temporary Legation premises in St. Jean de Luz.


I have not been called upon to discuss any matters affecting trade between Ireland and Spain. Under existing circumstances no trade between the two countries would be possible otherwise than on a basis of barter or by means of a clearing agreement; payment for Irish exports to Spain could not be assured otherwise.

The question of Irish accounts outstanding in Spain for goods exported to that country before and after the outbreak of the civil war was the subject of correspondence with the Department (reference numbers 107/40, 107/98 and 115/288). The total amount claimed is relatively unimportant but, even in those cases in which the importing firms make no difficulty as regards payment in Spanish currency in Spain, official restrictions render it impossible for the debtors to acquire the necessary foreign currency for the payment of these accounts in Ireland. No solution for this difficulty is likely to be found until such time as trade negotiations with Spanish authorities may be renewed.


Steps were taken by me for the protection of a number of Irish nationals in Spain.

I made representations to the authorities in Salamanca for the withdrawal from the danger zone and eventual repatriation of various minors serving as volunteers under General O'Duffy, and was assured at an early stage that latter agreed to the withdrawal from the danger zone of those whose names had then been put forward but did not approve of their being sent home; I was subsequently informed that in the majority of the cases submitted by me the persons concerned were opposed to their removal from the front; their return to Ireland did not take place until the main body of the volunteers returned with General O'Duffy5.

Repeated efforts have since been made to secure the liberation of one minor who remained behind as a volunteer in the Spanish Foreign Legion, but who has not yet himself made the necessary application to the military authorities to be released from the engagement voluntarily subscribed by him.

During the period under review, representations were made by me to the Spanish Government with a view to the repatriation of a minor serving, as a volunteer with the Government forces, under Frank Ryan, but these representations met with no response.

In May 1937 the authorities in Salamanca, in reply to a request made by me on behalf of any Irishmen who might have been made prisoners at the same time as a batch of British prisoners, gave me the names of two such Irishmen who had been given their liberty.

A question of the liberation from custody by the Spanish nationalist authorities in Irun and the eventual repatriation of a certain Miss Cronin6 was the subject of considerable correspondence but, in the absence of any request from this person for repatriation, and in view of the fact that information supplied by her as to the date of her birth was found to be incorrect, her repatriation has not taken place, nor has it been possible for the Spanish authorities to give effect to the expulsion order issued against her seeing that she holds no passport and is, consequently, refused admission into France.

The assassination on the 16th June 1937 of Miss Bridget BOLAND, an Irishwoman who held a British passport, was the subject of investigations which I made in Bilbao on 1st July and which eventuated in the presentation of claims for reparation on 15th February 1938.

Efforts to secure the release of Miss Muriel INGRAM, an Irishwoman holding a British passport, who was arrested by the Franco authorities in Bilbao after the capture of that city, occupied the attention of the Legation, more especially when it was learned that she objected to any British intervention on her behalf; she was released in November 1937.

Successful efforts were made on behalf of John G. de PRENDERGAST, an Irishman who had been fighting on behalf of the Basques and who was subsequently arrested on returning to Spain from France in August 1937; there was reason to fear that a death sentence might be passed on this Irishman if it became known that he had held the rank of officer in the Basque forces. He was released and crossed the French frontier on 23rd December.

The question of the repatriation from Bilbao of a Miss Mary T. BUCKLEY arose for consideration but this person subsequently withdrew her application.

The attempted torpedoing of the S.S. 'CLONLARA' on 19th January 19387 was the subject of a note of protest addressed to the Spanish Nationalist authorities and acknowledged by them in a Verbal Note from Burgos on 11th February.

At the request of one of her relatives in Ireland, I offered the assistance of this Legation to a Miss GUINEY, employed as a governess in Segovia, who was alleged to be destitute and without means of returning home; as a result of my intervention Miss Guiney's employers undertook to pay her some salary and to pay her fare home at some later date.

At the request of a Miss GREALLY, who was anxious to get in touch with a Spanish family whose whereabouts were unknown to her, latter's address was ascertained, this Spanish family being desirous at the same time of discovering the whereabouts of Miss Greally who was thus able to enter their employment as a governess in San Sebastian.


No application for registration of Irish nationality was received, nor is it to be expected that any such application will be addressed to me until such time as the Legation may be re-opened on Spanish soil.


No passports were issued by this Legation during the past year. The passport of a Miss GUINEY was made valid for a journey to Spain by the Irish Legation in Paris, on the suggestion and at the request of this Legation and on instructions from the Department. The passport of a Miss MANNIX was similarly endorsed by me, on instructions from the Department. The passport of a Miss ROONEY was also so endorsed by me.


No occasion presented itself for the discharging of work of this description. Advice was, however, given to an Irishwoman in Bilbao with regard to the execution of a Power of Attorney in the presence of the British sub-agent in that city and, through the instrumentality of this Legation, the signature of the British agent was subsequently legalised by the British and American Consular authorities in Barcelona, the document being required for the American courts.


I enclose herewith a list of 75 reports on the political position in Spain submitted by me during the year8.


389 letters were received and 454 despatched by the Legation.

[signed] L.H. KERNEY
Aire Lán-Chómhachtach

1 See DIFP Volume IV, Document No. 329.

2 See DIFP Volume IV, Document No. 332.

3 Mary Elizabeth 'Maisie' Donnelly, born Wexford, 1910, resident in Barcelona with members of her family since 1928. Clerk, typist and stenographer at the Irish Legation in Madrid. Donnelly was let go after closing down the Legation in Madrid and later reemployed when the Legation opened at St Jean de Luz.

4 See document No. 34.

5 O'Duffy's volunteers returned from Spain in June 1937.

6 See document No. 315.

7 The Clonlara (1,203 tons), of the Limerick Steamship Company, was commissioned in 1926 and intended for cattle trade between the west of Ireland and Liverpool. Following the attempted torpedoing, the vessel suffered slight damage in July 1938 when docked at Valencia during an air raid. On 22 August 1941 the Clonlara was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of eleven of her twelve crew when en-route from Cardiff to Lisbon during an attack by U-564 on Gibraltar-bound convoy OG-71.

8 Not printed.

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