Sunday, June 06, 2021


There I was ploughing through my emails when I saw one from a total stranger. Regan Hutchins was making a radio programme on Irish literary censorship since the foundation of the State and he wanted me to take part in it.

He had seen online a permit I got in 1967 to import banned books and thought it might contribute to a finale in his programme.

Well, you know me and radio. It was not long before Regan turned up on my doorstep with an impressive array of sound recording equipment. He stood in the garden, I stood in the porch, he pointed his big fluffy microphone in my direction and away we went. And then away he went.

Regan Hutchins

Needless to say I was dying to hear the programme and, of course, my bit in it. It went out on Newstalk last Sunday at the unearthly hour of 7am and I have to say it was worth getting out of bed for.

Regan had assembled a magnificently wide variety of contributors, contributing on a wide variety of angles, much of it original material. It is a very engaging programme and really tells you all you ever needed to know about the history of censorship since the foundation of the state and it does this in a most engaging way.

For instance, I never knew that John McGahern cried the whole afternoon on the day he was sacked from his Belgrove teaching job at the behest (on the orders) of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, Dublin's Ayotollah of the day.

Had it been a film or a tv programme I'm sure the above cartoon from Gordon Brewster, from May 1928, would have figured somewhere in it. The cartoon is no exaggeration. You only have to listen to Regan's contributors quoting material to realise how bad it really was.

Total insanity, paranoia, disappointment, sexual repression - a whole textbook of all this stuff. I know all about it. This is the environment I grew up in during the 1940s and 1950s.

We were living in a confessional state where the cleric was king and his lay acolytes were not far behind him. Listening to the programme (3 times up to now) brought me back into this terrifying world where your mother would go to Hell unless Holy Mother Church intercepted her en route.

The whole thing is totally inexplicable to a Millennial (whatever that is). They would no doubt class it with the vampires and other scarey fiction. But, by Christ, it was real to those of us who had to live through it. The pieces are still being picked up by today's society.

Click on image for a larger version

And my import permit? You can read it above. I read it out on air towards the end of the programme.

Link to the Podcast

And just in case you haven't got 50 minutes to spare, silly you, my contributions can be heard in a 4 minute cameo here.


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