BORSTAL BOY, CENSORSHIP AND AN IRONIC TWIST – by Donal Kennedy


Some of you will have read my Blog “BRIEF ENCOUNTERS” which recalled an encounter with Brendan Behan and the advice he gave me on choice of newspapers which surprised me.  The Blog was accompanied by a photograph of Behan guaranteed to surprise many of his detractors, pietistic or secular zealots, and by some of his admirers

.When I met him I’d never been to see THE QUARE FELLOW, nor read BORSTAL BOY but enjoyed his IRISH PRESS columns each Saturday.

BORSTAL BOY, like many excellent works was banned in Ireland, but I borrowed a copy from  a friend and enjoyed it. A couple of years later, on my first visit to London I bought a copy for two bob on a stall in Burnt Oak. On my way home via Dun Laoghaire I put  under a newspaper, tucked nonchalantly under my oxter and had it confiscated by a Customs Officer.

As it happens, on release from Borstal Brendan Behan also went home via Dun Laoghaire. His fare was paid by the British Home Office and he presented his Exclusion Office, issued by the same authority to a sympathetic Customs Ofiicer who took his hand and greeted him thus –

“Cead mile failte sa bhaile romhat”  to which he smilingly answered “Go raibh maith agat.”

The Officer, said Behan “looked very serious, and tenderly  enquired  ‘Caithfidh go bhfuil se go h-iontach bheith saor’  ”       ( “It must be wonderful to be free”)

“Caith go bhfuil.”  (” It must be” he said)

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