Fifty years ago this week Dublin saw one of its biggest displays of public mourning since the assassination of Collins and the death of Parnell. In great numbers citizens thronged the streets to salute one of their own, a son of Russell Street and Crumlin who gave their city what might be regarded as one of its best known and loved anthems, The Auld Triangle .
That song like the work for stage and page which achieved for Brendan Behanhis ranking among our great writers, was born out of the central experience that formed him as a writer and shaped so much of his work – his prison terms for republican activity. His two greatest works, The Quare Fellow and the autobiographical Borstal Boy , drew vividly from those penal experiences and made him one of the truest voices in “prison literature”. They also share Behan’s outstanding quality as a dramatist and prose writer: his ability to blend those twin components of great writing, tragedy and comedy, the humorous and humane.