Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Books

Stamp of approval on Flann O'Brien's centenary

By Ken Sweeney

"The truth is that our stamps are, and always have been, deplorable: and, as the pavement artist would say, they are all our own work."

So wrote Brian O'Nolan, alias Myles na gCopaleen, in his 'Cruiskeen Lawn' newspaper column in 1959.

One wonders then what O'Nolan, better known as novelist Flann O'Brien, would have made of a new 55c stamp unveiled yesterday celebrating the centenary of his birth.

The charcoal portrait featured is the work of his brother, artist Michael O Nuallain (83), who revealed how he had created the likeness without the great satirist's permission around in their Blackrock home.

"When I first asked him to pose, he wouldn't hear of it, so I did it anyway without him knowing, drawing him as he worked away on his typewriter.

"When he did finally see it, he was impressed, but told me that I was wasting my time doing portraits of him and should instead concentrate on fat bishops," Mr O Nuallain told the Irish Independent.

Born in Strabane, Co Tyrone, on October 5, 1911, O'Nolan studied in UCD before entering the civil service, where he worked in the Department of Local Government, serving as private secretary to three successive ministers.

His first novel 'At Swim Two Birds' was published in 1939; his other books and plays include 'The Third Policeman' (1940), 'Faustus Kelly' (1943); and 'The Hard Life' (1960). Following the sudden death of his father in 1937, O'Nolan took on much of the financial responsibility for his mother and 10 siblings. He remained close to his family all his life before his death in 1966, aged just 56.

Wearing a patchwork suit -- once owned by legendary expressionist painter Pablo Picasso -- Mr O Nuallain said he was delighted now that the likeness he used subterfuge to create, had found its way on to a postage stamp.

"A reproduction of my work can now be purchased for 55c," he joked.

Among events taking place to celebrate the centenary of his birth is 'The Bother With The Brother', which was adapted by Val O'Donnell and features actor Aidan Jordan.

The performance is running at Bewley's Cafe Theatre, Dublin, until October 15.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph