Binns Bridge/Brendan Behan

Binns Bridge

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As was customary at the time many of the bridges were named after directors or major shareholders. John Binns who was one of the principal supporters of the Royal Canal and had previously been a director of the Grand Canal Company, has the unique distinction of lending his name to a bridge on both the Grand Canal (at Robertstown, Co. Kildare) and the Royal Canal (at Drumcondra, Dublin).

The progress of the Royal Canal was perhaps hindered rather than helped by the elite who constituted its board of directors. One of the most notable was Napper Tandy who, it later transpired, was more interested in winning Continental support for Irish Wolfe Tone’s rising, than digging a canal across the midlands. Less well known but almost as notorious as directors were John Binns who was branded a ‘a jobbing demagogue’ and William Cope who was nicknamed ‘the shoemaker’ (apparently a satire on his lowly origins). When the canal excavation reached Mullingar the directors were dismissed and Binns and Cope financially ruined but not before they had managed to get their names inscribed on canal bridges which remain to this day.

Brendan Behan

Brendan Francis Behan (/ˈbiːən/ bee-ən; Irish: Breandán Ó Beacháin; 9 February 1923 – 20 March 1964) was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both English and Irish. He was also an Irish republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. Born inDublin into a republican family, he became a member of the IRA’s youth organisation Fianna Éireann at the age of fourteen. However, there was also a strong emphasis on Irish history and culture in the home, which meant he was steeped in literature and patriotic ballads from a tender age. Behan eventually joined the IRA at sixteen, which led to him serving time in a borstal youth prison in the United Kingdom and was also imprisoned in Ireland. During this time, he took it upon himself to study and he became a fluent speaker of the Irish language. Subsequently released from prison as part of a general amnesty given by the Fianna Fáil government in 1946, Behan moved between homes in Dublin, Kerry and Connemara and also resided inParis for a period.

In 1954, Behan’s first play The Quare Fellow was produced in Dublin. It was well received; however, it was the 1956 production at Joan Littlewood’sTheatre Workshop in Stratford, London, that gained Behan a wider reputation – this was helped by a famous drunken interview on BBC television. In 1958, Behan’s play in the Irish language An Giall had its debut at Dublin’s Damer Theatre. Later, The Hostage, Behan’s English-language adaptation of An Giall, met with great success internationally. Behan’s autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy, was published the same year and became a worldwide bestseller.

He married Beatrice Ffrench-Salkeld in 1955. Behan was known for his drink problem, which resulted in him suffering from diabetes, which ultimately resulted in his death on 20 March 1964. He was given an IRA guard of honour which escorted his coffin and it was described by several newspapers as the biggest funeral since those of Michael Collins and Charles Stewart Parnell.

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