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The Road to Madrid

Diary of Donald Gallie, Member of the Scottish Medical Aid Unit, Serving in the Spanish Civil War, September–December 1936

Transcribed and edited by his daughter, Nina Stevens

Nina Stevens is a retired beauty therapist who at the age of 60 embarked on a solo trip around the world. Nina lives in Hampshire, near to her children Jane and Chris and their families. Publication of her father’s diary is an important milestone for her family.

Introduced by Linda Palfreeman, author of the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies (editor Paul Preston) trilogy: Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances: British Medical Units in the Spanish Civil War; ¡Salud! British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Service during the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939; and Spain Bleeds: The Development of Battlefield Blood Transfusion during the Civil War

When a failed right-wing military coup provoked civil war in Spain, in July 1936, the Spanish government made a worldwide plea for help. In Britain, Aid Spanish Committees sprang up nationwide. Nowhere was empathy more keenly felt for the working people of Spain than among the people of Glasgow, which became the hub of the Scottish Aid for Spain movement. Glasgow was also home to an enterprise which was to make a significant contribution to the Spanish Republic – the Scottish Ambulance Unit (SAU). The Unit was the brainchild of a wealthy Glaswegian philanthropist, Sir Daniel Macaulay Stevenson (1851–1944).

The Unit’s valiant and tireless work soon earned it an excellent reputation among Republican forces and as news of its remarkable work spread, volunteers became affectionately known as Los Brujos – The Wizards. However, the off-duty activities of some of the SAU’s members earned it an altogether different kind of reputation, and the Unit was soon to become immersed in scandal which tarnished its good name. Donald Gallie was a member of the first SAU team to arrive in Madrid (there would be three successive expeditions). He was 24 years old when Civil War broke out. His family shared a strong sense of commitment, and this, together with Donald’s love of travel and adventure, is what impelled him to volunteer for service. His skills as mechanic would prove invaluable in the aid and transport given to casualties. His Diary is a remarkable document, and its publication a significant event in the historiography of the Spanish Civil War.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-029-3
Paperback Price: £12.99 / $19.95
Release Date: September 2019
Page Extent / Format: 64 pp. 210 x 297 mm
Illustrated: Yes


Introduction by Linda Palfreeman                                                                                                                                   

The Diary

Appendix I: Three articles from the Glasgow Herald                                                                                                 
Appendix II: Donald's overview of the situation in Spain                                                                                        
Appendix III: Donald's appraisal of some of the members of the Unit                                                               

Appendix IV: Letter to Donald's girlfriend, Karin, in Sweden

Gallie’s diary represents the only surviving source of its type written by a Scot in Spain. In that sense, a particularly Scottish perspective being published by an English press is a welcome sign of changing times.
Reviewed by Fraser Raeburn, University of Edinburgh, in the Bulletin of Spanish Studies (Spring 2020)

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