MANIFEST DECENCY – THE LIFE AND WORK OF ROBERT BRENNAN by Donal Kennedy

I recently read r the Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 779 given by Robert Brennan about 1950 and now available via Google.

I first read excerpts from his memoir “ALLEGIANCE” in either the Sunday Press or the IRISH PRESS about 1950 and not long afterwards borrowed the book from Howth Library. I enjoyed it then, and again many decades later when I borrowed it on an inter-library loan  in London.

Brennan hadn’t sat down to write a memoir, but when he was Irish Minister in Washington he used regale friends, mainly Americans, on his experiences. His Secretary sat in and took notes and persuaded him they’d make a good book. She wasn’t mistaken. Among his stories is one of being deported under military escort from Dublin to London. On arrival at Euston, Londoners gathered around him and his escort in curiosity and registered their shock at British conduct in Ireland which they said rivalled the tyranny of the TSAR of Russia. On another occasion his IRB business took him to Manchester, where his contact was in the Rag Trade. The arrival of Brennan, then a young man, was greeted with saucy banter by the women, some fifty years before Coronation Street. I wonder did that series’ creator read “Allegiance” but it might have inspired some scenes in Mike Baldwin’s sweatshop.

Another episode of Allegiance had Brennan, visiting an American liner in Cobh in 1922 expecting, vainly to collect arms for the “anti-Treaty” side and then sitting down for breakfast in a hotel there, where a “returned Yank” woman was complaining that she couldn’t get a connection to Limerick because of the “disgraceful” Civil War. Not many passengers had disembarked at Cobh, to the disappointment of a waiter, who replied “Shouldn’t you be thankful, Ma’am, to have any war at all””

Brennan’s daughter, Maeve Brennan was a renowned columnist with “The New Yorker” and a great-nephew of hers, is Roddy Doyle.

Perhaps Robert Brennan’s most significant piece of writing was Sinn Fein’s Election Manifesto of 1918. Though he never indulged in the profanities of Roddy Doyle, it attracted the Blue Pencil of the British Censor.

Anyhow the Manifest Decency of Robert Brennan and many more of his friends  and cannot be denied. And I hope to draw your attention to some of them. And confound the Begrudgers!

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