They formed to recount the radical history of Glasgow through song and ponder what and where hope might lie in the city.

Now a band of academics and musicians are set to release their debut single, dedicated to a University of Glasgow student who died in the Spanish Civil War. 

A Passion Flower’s Lament is the first single from The Tenementals debut album, which will be released on Strength in Numbers Records in the autumn.

The track is written from the perspective of the statue of Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (La Pasionaria), the Clydeside monument to Glaswegian members of the International Brigades who died fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and converses with those who come to celebrate her past.

Ibárruri Gómez was a major figure on the Republican side during the conflict. She is credited with coining the phrase “¡No pasarán!” in the early months of the war and for a speech to the departing International Brigades in November 1938.

READ MORE: Scots band to have debut track housed at German concentration camp archive

The song, though, asks what we should do with the thornier aspects of Spanish Civil War history.

David Archibald, Professor of Political Cinemas at the University of Glasgow and frontman for The Tenementals, said: “Sitting on the banks of the Clyde, the statue has become an iconic part of Glasgow’s city scape. It rightly celebrates the courageous men who travelled to Spain to fight fascism with the International Brigades, and paid with their lives. The city is right to hold a special place in its heart for the memory of these men.”

The song is dedicated to former University of Glasgow chemistry student Bob Smillie, who died in Spain in very murky circumstances.

Hailing from Larkhall, Smillie was an activist in the Independent Labour Party, of which his grandfather, miners' leader Robert Smillie had been a founding member.

The young Bob Smillie gave up his studies in Glasgow to travel to Spain, where he fought with the POUM militia alongside George Orwell. 

The Herald: The track is written from the perspective of the statue of Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (La Pasionaria) in GlasgowThe track is written from the perspective of the statue of Dolores Ibárruri Gómez (La Pasionaria) in Glasgow (Image: Newsquest)

Smillie, though, was caught up in the internal conflicts on the Republican side. In Barcelona in May 1937, what has become known as the ‘civil war within the civil war’ took place, with anarchists and socialists pitched against Soviet-supporting Communists over the direction that the struggle should take. 

Smillie had been attempting to return to Scotland to conduct a speaking tour to rally support for the revolutionary cause. But he was arrested by the forces on his own side and transferred to a prison cell in Valencia where he died soon after. The official diagnosis was appendicitis or peritonitis; however, many people at the time thought that he had been beaten to death. 

About the dedication in song, Prof Archibald added: “The Tenementals are not interested in cut and dried, easy histories. We are interested in complexity and the messiness of the past.

“Our song poses the question of what we should do with the troubling aspects of the Spanish Civil War. Do we need to worry too much about the details of the death of Bob Smillie when, as we say in the song, ‘Once more the jackboot seeks to recruit?’

"The sons and daughters of Franco, or the grandsons and granddaughters of Franco, are on the march again and these are worrying times.

READ MORE: Academics form band to recount radical history of Glasgow through song

“We dedicated the song to Bob Smillie because it is fitting that he be remembered alongside the members of the International Brigades.

“Moreover, although his life was cut short, he was fortunate to have been in Barcelona at that moment of revolutionary possibility. In remembering him, we focus not on his death but on his life.

“At a time when fascism once more rears its head, our return to the Spanish Revolution is not to rehash old debates over the tactics of the republican left; but to remember that moment of revolutionary possibility. If it happened once, it can happen again.”

The Tenementals will launch the single at a special performance in Webster’s Theatre on May 1, hosted by the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Trades Council’s May Day Festival.

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