John Smith was born in Irvine in 1906 and was part of a family of ten siblings: five brothers and five sisters. He married Elizabeth Bell in 1933 but she died later that year in childbirth. Returning to the family home at 43 Clark Drive he joined the Territorial Army.
On 1 January 1937 he left Irvine to enlist with the newly forming British Battalion of the International Brigade in Spain. Smith was in action just two weeks later and fought at Jerama, Pennayorra, Brunette, Belchite, Aragon and Ebro. He was wounded twice and mentioned in dispatches for his high courage.
John was killed fighting at Ebro on 8 September 1938 and his parents were informed by an official telegram. His name was carved on his wife's headstone at Knadgerhill Cemetery and the Irvine Branch of the Communist Party placed a memorial to him in the Irvine Times.
Fifty years later Cunninghame District Council, with the backing of the Irvine Trades Council, put up a plaque to John Smith in Irvine Library which is still there.
Alex was one of John's brothers who was Chairman of the Dreghorn Miners' Union when John was in Spain. He was also a member of the Communist Party and became Irvine's only Communist Councillor in 1945. After five years he lost his seat to a Moderate. Smith Avenue in Irvine is named after him.
Visit the International Brigade website.
Back to the Irvine Trail