- 09 Feb 23
To mark the centenary of the birth of Brendan Behan, we're revisiting a selection of comments and quotes about the iconic Irish writer – taken from a wide variety of interviews and features from the Hot Press Archives...
On the differences between his Love/Hate character Fran and Brendan Behan – who he was playing in a production of Borstal Boy at the Gaiety.
“Fran and Behan are completely different characters. Behan was seen to be a criminal and arrested for bringing explosives to England. He got caught up in a cause. It’s not comparable to Fran who, without doubt, is a 100 percent psychopath. He grew up surrounded by criminality and saw an opportunity to make money. He probably had no other choice. Then he grew into something a lot more vicious and menacing than Behan could ever be.
"Brendan Behan, in his heart, was a very loving person and free spirit, Jim Sheridan was saying the other day that, when his father knew him, and when he’d meet him down the street, Behan had this energy. He was nearly always performing. That grew from his love of people.”
“I think my last big fight was with, probably, someone like Behan. Though neither of us threw a punch in the end. We had a row in Davey Byrne’s or somewhere and went out onto the street to sort it out. And Behan said to me, ‘No-one’s come out of the pub to watch us fight – so why the hell should we bother?’ So we didn’t! Behan was full of charm.”
“[Brendan's] brother Brian was my granddad, so the connection was always there. I think his gift is just a great love of words, and a confidence around words. It was expected that we could make art and we didn't feel that we had to get permission to do it. There's a lot of irreverence and romanticism and rebelliousness that comes from that side of the family, and from the Behan women too. My auntie Janet Behan wrote a play called Brendan At The Chelsea that had Adrian Dunbar in it, and my mother, Ruth Behan, has just started writing and had a short story published in the Irish Times called Stalin On The Mantlepiece. Everybody's creative. Ireland seems to be good like that, there's much less of a class system and people seems to be in touch with arts and culture. We're all fairly loud too!”
“Anyone who knows Dublin knows there is a really vicious destructive side to the city. For Yeats it was a city where slanderous gossip is chewed as though it was the best of Bewley's brown bread. For Brendan Behan it was a city that filled a man with loneliness, but deprived him of solitude."
Fiachna Ó Braonáin
"One which I always put on when I've had a few drinks late at night is a Brendan Behan spoken word record, which is brilliant. It's just him in his studio talking and singing songs, anecdotes, stories, songs, blowing his nose - it's one of my all-time favourite records. He starts off pretty sober and ends up not nearly as sober - you can hear him tiring out."
When it's put to Sheridan that, if the drink hadn't killed Brendan Behan, the Good Friday agreement probably would have, he responds:
There's no way of knowing how his outlook would have developed, but his brain was so sharp that he had that Wilde-like ability to say in one sentence what other people took an hour to say. And he always said the terrorists are the guys with the little guns and the little bombs. Meaning, of course, that the Americans and the Russians had the big ones. And you must remember, it was about 1956 when he said this it was so far-out and at the same time so spot-on.
He was, though, somebody who came to a position of believing that violence didn't work even though he never lost his political convictions and would have always been, y'know, an IRA man at heart, he kind of thought (pause)... I've just been thinking about this a lot, cause the movie is on my consciousness.
When he went to England with the bomb in '39, and he was caught and it didn't go off. About a week after he arrived in England, a woman was killed in Coventry with her kid, at a post-box, while she was posting a letter. An IRA bomb. And Brendan was haunted by this for years, he had severe nightmares about it. Even though it wasn't his bomb. I remember his wife Beatrice telling me that for years, he was haunted by the mental picture of the woman and the child being blown to bits, and he felt guilty by association.
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 04 Dec 23