Breandán Ó Beacháin – Go Raibh Míle Maith Agat!

Here is a tribute to Brendan,
Short and sweet like an ass’s gallop.
Born with a head full of dark humour
That could cause needed laughter at a funeral:
“God is good and his mother is very decent,”
He seemed to roar within his whisper.
There was a fearless rebel for you,
A man always prepared to throw
The handle after the hatchet.
There is a rumour in Dublin that
He could swear a hole through a pewter pot.
As sound a judge of beer as he was of Theology –
A great Irish writer – “Jolly in God”.

(The title means : 'Brendan Behan - Thank you very much!’)

Brendan Behan (1923 - 1964) was born in Dublin during the Civil War. He reflected in his writings the vitality and macabre sense of humour of the tempestuous era. At the age of 16 he was arrested by English authorities for having explosives in his possession with the intention of blowing up Camell Laird’s shipyard. He recounts his three year detention in a reform school with uninhibited gusto in the autobiographical Borstal Boy (1958). Brendan went on to serve two more prison sentences, after the second he was deported to France.
He utilised these experiences as the basis of his two plays, The Quare Fellow and The Hostage, both being an exercise in gallow’s humour.
Besides being a great Irish playwright and wit, he was, sadly, better known for his alcoholic drinking bouts which were reported in great detail by the British and American press. He was dismissed by many as a buffoon interested only in publicity. For Behan, however, drinking was an essential expression of his approach to social realty. “I only take a drink twice a day – when I’ m thirsty and when I’m not.”

Further Reading:

Hold your Hour and have Another (1964) – a collection of Behan’s humorous pieces.
The Scarperer (1964) – published posthumously.
The Wit of Brendan Behan (1968) – an impressive compilation by Sean McCann.

: Paddy Murphy, Cardiff. Paddy’s grandfather was born 14 miles from Cork. He retired to Cardiff during the 1920s to work upon the railway after serving in the British army in India. Murphy’s interest in Behan developed through the brainwashing he received from his father, who was, after all, of the same generation as Brendan.

Published in The Green Dragon No 3, June 1997

An article by Paddy Murphy on Ned Kelly

An article on Brendan in Irish.