On February 24, 1937, the Republican mayor of Palma, Emili Darder, was executed. Even by the absence of standards and humanity during the Civil War, his shooting was a particular abomination. He was gravely ill, so much so that he had to sit on a stone as he couldn’t stand. Then they fired their bullets into him.
Darder’s name is the one most associated with the executions of that day. There were four in all in the cemetery in Palma. One of them Antoni Maria Ques Ventayol.
He was born in Alcudia in 1889. His father knew the father of Joan March. This connection was to lead to Antoni Ques becoming an associate of March. He was closely involved with the shipping company Trasmediterranea and with Banca March.
He was a shareholder in Trasmediterranea. This was partly how he amassed a great fortune. He spoke French and was based in Algeria for a time, representing March’s tobacco business. He became a member of March’s Liberal Party, but with the establishment of the Republic in 1931, he broke off his connections with March.
A pacifist, he was president of the Rotary Club. His political leanings evolved and in 1934 he was one of the founders of the Esquerra Republicana Balear (ERB) - the Balearic Republican Left. He was on the party’s executive committee and acted as its accountant. After the Civil War broke out, he was arrested.
A Council of War tried him. The prosecution had called for a twenty-year sentence and a financial penalty. He was instead sentenced to death.
He never sought to hide the fact that he was a member of the ERB or that he helped with the party’s funding. The charges against him centred on his having been one of the plotters behind the so-called Lenin Plan.
This, it was claimed, was a plan to assassinate various people in Mallorca and impose a Moscow-style dictatorship. A witness, who was to later be sent to an asylum, alleged that Ques had acquired 200 pistols which were to be used in the Lenin Plan massacre and the “Bolshevik revolution”, as the Council of War maintained.
The pistols were never found. Another accusation, that he was a man of great financial influence to bolster the Republican state, was likewise fanciful.
He was wealthy, of that there was no doubt, but he was not some sort of powerbroker, unlike his one-time associate, Joan March. The charges were trumped up; there was no evidence. At half past six on the morning of February 24, he was shot.
The Obra Cultural Balear has registered a proposal with Alcudia town hall to initiate the process for declaring Antoni Ques a favourite son of the city (Alcudia is officially a city).
It is a proposal that comes at a time when there are still the rumblings of controversy in Santa Margalida about Joan March and his status as illustrious son.
Emili Darder is an illustrious son of Palma, as is Alexandre Jaume. Antoni Mateu, who was the mayor of Inca, is an illustrious son of that town. Antoni Ques was the fourth man who was executed on that day in 1937.