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BRENDAN BEHAN STAND UP… (extract)
By Tom O’Brien
The lounge of the Chelsea Hotel in New York BRENDAN BEHAN enters singing, a bottle and glass in one hand. He pours the drink
My name is Brendan Behan
I’m the leader of the banned
Now that Borstal Boy
Is banned throughout the land
Banned in me own country.
I read that they banned it in Australia too.
But hey can’t fucken read there!
But me own country…
Sure the place is full of begrudgers. Dublin is a jealous
city. It’s hard to find a writer to admit that a fellow
writer can put two words together. Beckett was right
when he said he’d rather France at war than Ireland at peace
any day of the week. Maybe it’s time to move on.
I was thinking maybe New York.
(sings) New York…New York…
I love New York. New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment, a place where you’re least likely to be bitten by a wild goat And New York likes Irish people. Not like England. But to be fair to the English, they only dislike some Irish – the same Irish that the Irish themselves dislike, Irish writers. Well, the ones like meself anyway – the ones that think (more drink) Well, feck the begrudgers, that’s what I say…
Do yous know one British critic asked me? “Mr Behan, what message is in
your writing.”“Message”, says I. “What the hell do you think I am, a bloody postman!”
Although saying that, Spain takes the biscuit. The only time I ever visited that kip
I was mobbed by a pack of hyenas – well, reporters.
Anyway, one of them, asked me what I would most like to see on my visit. Franco’s
funeral, says I. Well, before you could say Hiel Hitler, the Fascist bastards threw me
in goal. And then threw me out’a the country
(takes a swig) I saw a sign the other day which said ‘Drink Canada Dry’. Well,
I‘m off there next week to give it a go.
(sings) On the eighteenth day of November
Outside the town of Macroom
The Tans in the big Crossley tender
Were driving along to their doom
But the boys of the brigade were waiting
With hand grenades primed on the spot
And The Irish Republican Army
Made shite of the whole bloody’ lot
Aren’t the Brits wonderful itself? First they put me in jail and then they made me a rich man
I done me porridge in England.And what for? I didn’t get very far in Liverpool, did I? All I was going to do was stick a few Peggys Legs down the funnel of a battleship in the docks and pretend it was Guy Fawkes night. The peelers nabbed me before I even left me room. Three years Borstal. I went in a boy and came out a man. And an atheist to boot.
They said that the ruination of my country has been caused by our over-fondness for drink. As a nation, I mean. I can think of many things that caused the ruination of our country – and they had fuck-all to do with the gargle. Cromwell, The Penal Laws, Partition, to name but a few.
‘To Hell or to Connaught’. That was Cromwell’s advice to all Irish Catholics.
”Under penalty of death, no Irish man, woman, or child, is
to let himself, herself, itself be found east of the River Shannon after May 1st 1654′
Ah yes, a very civilized nation the English were back then. Not that they had improved much by 1916 – or 1946
Any country that can send a gunboat up the Liffey, to defeat six hundred men, when she already has thirty thousand soldiers pounding the bejaysus out’a them, can’t call it cricket. With a few more guns ourselves we’d have riveted a lot more of their brave boys to the railings around O’Connell Street.
Did I not tell yous I was in the IRA? The Dublin Brigade. The elite of the Irish Republican Army. We might not have fancy guns and uniforms, but bejasus we wiped the smiles off a lot of faces with what we did have. The ould conjurers trick of potash, chloride and sulphuric acid worked wonders…
Then I had that bit of bother in Glasnevin and I lost touch for with real life for another few years. It was my jailing for the attempted murder of a Special Branch man in Glasnevin cemetery during the Easter Rising commemoration service.
I did fire a couple of shots at the Special Branchers, but jaysus, they were firin’ at me! I went on the run, but me own side weren’t too happy. I’d taken the gun with me you see – IRA property – and I heard that they sentenced me to death in me absence. I sent them a nice letter asking them could they carry out the sentence in me absence too!
Ah, it all blew over eventually.
Now, where was I?
Oh yes, the oul’ religion. My ould fella wouldn’t be seen dead inside a church. But he’d call us every Sunday morning; ‘Go out and meet your God you lazy pack of hounds’
Once a priest called to get up a collection for the Fascists in Spain – and we starvin’ with the cold and hunger ourselves. Da fecked him off and the priest told we’d burn in hell for eternity. ‘At least we’ll be bloody warm’, Da shouted.
All that talk about damnation. We were damned all right – like all the poor in this country. Damned with hunger.
Prayer and masturbation. The Catholic Church’s answer to promiscuity. Well, they’re fifty percent right. Sex and religion, that’s what has Ireland banjaxed. Not enough of the first and too much of the other Or is it the other way round? Ma, now, she had no interest in sex. All she did was lie back and count the pawn tickets.
During my Borstal Boy days the prison chaplain wouldn’t let me attend Mass if I didn’t renounce the IRA. I told him to shag off. Wasn’t I in good company. Weren’t the rebels in 1798 excommunicated, wasn’t De Valera and ten thousand others ex-communicated in 1922 – me own father included?
The Bishops of Ireland would ex-communicate their own mothers, given the chance – the poxy bloody druids.
They say my plays are a disgrace and a slander on the Irish people. I just hope ‘they’ paid for their seats. They also say I had no right to put prostitutes on the stage – when veryone knows there’s not a prostitute in Ireland. I suppose St Patrick drove them out too – like the snakes!
(Takes a drink) They also say I’m a writer with drinking problems. But they’re wrong. I’m a drinker with writing problems. (he waves the naggin) This is my oxygen. If I can’t have it, I’ll suffocate.
Ya know…there’s only one thing worse than dying, and that’s thinking about it.
(sings) Never throw stones at your mother
You’ll be sorry when she’s dead
Never throw stones at your mother
Throw bricks at your father instead..
(Takes a swig from his bottle) Up the Republic! Up…my arse. D’you know something? I have no politics. I make them up as I go along. Communism, Socialism, Rheumatism – they’re all the fucking same..(Swigs again) Up Dev!
Ah yes, De Valera, the bloody Spaniard. I spent four years in the Curragh at his pleasure.
The scrawny bastard. It was because of him we were neutral in the war. Where England
is concerned, Ireland can never be neutral. You’re either for them or against them.
Dev should have contacted his friend Mr Hitler and asked to borrow a couple of his
doodlebugs. Then a couple of us could have dropped them on the House Of Commons
under the cover of darkness and blown the shaggin lot to kingdom come.
They say De Valera fought against the English. But he fought against his own people too. Should we praise him for that? Brother against brother, father against son. Ireland lost some of her finest sons in that little disagreement.
Do you know what, instead of executing Pierce, Connolly and the rest of them they should have charged them with disturbing the peace and given them seven days, and that would have been the end of the republican movement…