Ireland meets Malaga for St Patrick's Day

Robert Boyd's name is engraved on this monument to Torrijos and his men in the Plaza de la Merced, Malaga.
Robert Boyd's name is engraved on this monument to Torrijos and his men in the Plaza de la Merced, Malaga. / SUR
  • Robert Boyd and George Campbell are two examples of the city's links with the Emerald Isle

Irish people all over the world will be celebrating St Patrick's Day this Sunday 17 March. While the most spectacular events will be in Ireland itself, Malaga will be commemorating its own connections with the country and its people.

The rebel

In 1831 King Ferdinand VII was the ruler of Spain. Known by his opposition as 'the Felon King', Ferdinand certainly did not have the country's full support. Rebellions began throughout Spain and along the Costa del Sol, led by General Torrijos.

Among his ranks of rebel soldiers was Robert Boyd. Born a Protestant in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Boyd had previous tendencies to support rebel causes. At 19, he left home to join the Bengal Army of East India, and is said to have helped in the Greek War of Independence.

It is understood that Robert Boyd met Torrijos in England, after the general settled there and created an association in support of freeing Spain. Coming from a wealthy background, Boyd played an important part in the funding of the rebellions.

In December of 1831 an attack was planned on the Costa del Sol. The hope was that the rebels could defeat the Royalist troops in Malaga, and then the rest of Spain would fall.

On the approach to the city, the boats were attacked and the rebellion failed in its first attempt. Finding refuge near Mijas, Torrijos, Boyd and the rebels continued to plan for their next attempt. Torrijos was in contact with an informant named 'Viriato', who was later revealed to be General González Moreno, a royalist soldier.

The rebels were forced to surrender, with Torrijos and Boyd among those who were executed. They are now seen as heroic martyrs of the liberal movement.

Robert Boyd was buried in the English Cemetery in Malaga. His name is also among the 49 other revolutionaries who tried to free Malaga, engraved on the monument in Plaza de la Merced.

A tribute to Robert Boyd will be held on St Patrick's Day (17 March), organised by the Asociación Histórico Cultural Torrijos 1831.

The artist

Alongside Robert Boyd in Malaga's Irish connections, is George Campbell. Born in Arklow and raised in Belfast, Campbell believed that in his previous life he had been a Spaniard.

Spending much of his adult life painting in Dublin and around Andalucía, the Irish artist is said to have visited Malaga 27 times throughout his life.

His interest in Spain came shortly after World War II. He met a group of Spaniards living in Dublin, and when he was in London he painted visiting Spanish dancers in their traditional costumes. He also learned to play the flamenco guitar.

Campbell is said to have finally visited Spain in the early 1950s, and spent much of the last 25 years of his life here.

The year before his death in 1979, the Spanish government made him a Knight Commander of Spain.

Much of his work was inspired by the landscapes of Andalucía and the Spanish people he encountered both in Spain, England and Ireland.

The inn

The Venta Galwey is a popular restaurant on the Colmenar road through the Montes de Málaga natural park. Its name is pronounced wrongly by the local people, unfamiliar with the letter w, and even appears written on 19th century maps, as 'Galbei'.

Little is known about the origins of this establishment, but it is understood that it belonged to Eduardo Galwey Molina, the grandson of John Galway of Ireland.

According to Antonio Montañez, whose family has run the restaurant since 1993, after the wars in Ireland in the 1700s, Spain played host to many Irish exiles. John Galway, who was made a knight of Carlos III, was one of them. Being in Spain, the family needed a second surname, and so Galwey was invented. Some believe that Galway helped in the construction of San Telmo aqueduct in Malaga.

The Galwey family has a mausoleum in the city's San Miguel cemetery.


More information will be provided at the Torrijos tribute about the Robert Boyd Prize to be awarded by the University of Malaga's María Zambrano Centre for Transatlantic Studies. Along with two other prizes in the names of fellow Irish nationals George Campbell and writer Kate O'Brien, the Robert Boyd Prize will recognise research works focusing on the relations between Ireland and Spain.


The Gerald Brenan Cultural Association joins forces with the Irish Cultural Circle of Malaga to celebrate St Patrick's Day with the screening of the film The Quiet Man. The British writer and Hispanist, Gerald Brenan, spent periods of his childhood at his mother's family home near Belfast, explains the association's president Lola Ortega. He shares his Irish origins, as well as his birth year (1894) with The Quiet Man director John Ford.