No. 100 NAI Madrid Embassy CON 4/7/22 No. 2

Extracts from a report from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(M.10/11) (Copy)

Madrid, 27 December 1939

Frank RYAN. Your 244/8B

I left for Burgos at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday 24th December, accompanied by Fr. Mulrean;1 we reached the Prison at 1.30 and remained there till 3.30, arriving back in Madrid at 9 p.m. The road from Burgos to the Prison, about 3 miles, is in shockingly bad condition, and had to be covered at snail-pace.

There were several hundred women outside the prison entrance; we squeezed our way through them and gained admission; leaving Fr. Mulrean with the Director, I was accompanied by a sub-warder to the chief-warder's office; whilst waiting for Ryan, the sub-warder told me that numerous cards had come addressed to him and he was much impressed by this; they heaped up apparently to about nine inches in height; and, referring to Ryan, the sub-warder remarked – 'Es un caballero'! (He's a gentleman!).

[matter omitted]

FRANK RYAN'S SENTENCE. Further to my telegram of 21st2 and my minute of 23rd December,3 I was given the following information on 24th December by Frank Ryan, to whom I showed a copy of his sentence, as translated by me.

  1. He left Spain on 4th March 1937, but his actual arrival in Ireland was delayed till the end of the month.
  2. He left Ireland to return to Spain on 16th or 17th June 1937.
  3. He took no part whatever in any public demonstrations against Franco whilst in Ireland.
  4. The only public meeting in which he took part during this period was an anti-British demonstration on 'Coronation Day', 12th May 1937, on which occasion he had his nose broken; that meeting did not concern itself with Spain.
  5. During the above period, he took part in two private meetings in Dublin, to which invitation was by ticket, the purpose of these meetings being to commemorate those who had been killed in Spain.

Frank Ryan's own statement will of course not be accepted as disproof of alleged 'proved facts'; any corroboration which can be obtained by you, say from the examination of newspaper files, should be of value, and might accelerate a pardon, if not revision of the sentence.

Another point is that Ryan refused to sign the confession attributed to him, because of mistakes therein; there had been an interrogation lasting 9 hours; it was inevitable that the interpreter should make some mistakes; the interpreter tried to explain this to the presiding Judge, who would not listen to him and lost his temper, whilst Ryan announced his willingness to put his signature to a true declaration. The fact is, then, that the confession is not signed by him and is not acknowledged by him as being exact.

During the trial, he was accused of having done propaganda work, during his convalescence, in London, Liverpool and Glasgow – although you will note that he was sentenced for propagandist activities only in Ireland; however, Ryan says that he paid no visit at all to Liverpool or Glasgow, and that he paid only one visit to London 'for a day or two', and did not act as a propagandist on that occasion.

I have no doubt that you are acting on the suggestion made in my telegram. Once I have whatever statement you may be able to send me, I will again see Champourcin, with whom I discussed this case from 7 till 9 p.m. on 26th December; he happens to be a friend of the General Director of Prisons, whose name (Colonel Maxim Cuervo) Ryan asked me particularly to note, and who may perhaps accede to our wishes in regard to delivery of correspondence &c.

I saw Beigbeder on 26th December but he had no fresh news to give me about Ryan's case; his chef de cabinet, Juan de las Harcehas (son of the former Under-Secretary) was Consul in Palestine till last July and had heard much there about Ryan from a friend of his, a Franciscan priest at Gethsemane,4 who had been wounded in 1916 and who subsequently entered holy orders.

[signed] L.H. Kerney

1 Official chaplain to the Irish Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

2 Not printed.

3 See No. 99.

4 Marginal note by Kerney: 'Fr Eugene'.

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