Backup information on Robert Brennan, from the Enniscorthy Echo, January 2000. Copied here with permission of the author, re-typed from a photocopy. Errors are likely my typos. -Steven
Admiration of Dev in Brennan’s wordsDan Walsh, In Our Time
Normally at this time of year there is the quiet post-Christmas famine in the publishing business. But like the mild winter we are all enjoying, the joy of two new books will brighten up the months ahead.
Bob Brennan is a Wexford-born writer, diplomat and patriot who is well remembered in his native county, mainly through the publication of his autobiography Allegiance, which was published in Dublin in 1950, and recounts his accidental discovery of the Gaelic Revival movement and his meeting with Douglas Hyde.
But very shortly a renewed interest in the life and work of Brennan will emerge. Two of his manuscripts, which were serialized in the Irish Press between 1956 and 1958, are about to be published and launched in the next few weeks.
This is an exciting prospect in publishing and the work is sure to get a great reception from non-fiction readers. Already the writings of Bob’s famous literary daughter, Maeve Brennan, is receiving renewed attention and her novel ‘The Visitor’ is getting rave reviews.
Brennan was born in Wexford town on July 22nd 1881, married Una Bolger of Coolnaboy, Oylegate on May 6th 1909, and was a reporter with the Echo from 1909 until 1918.
After leading the 1915 Easter Rising in Wexford, he was imprisoned at various intervals over the next three years, and at one stage in 1917 he went on hunger strike in Cork Prison, and three years later Eamon de Valera appointed Brennan as Under Secretary for External Affairs for Dail Eireann.
Brennan came to admire de Valera. And the story will be told soon with the publication of Eamon de Valera; A Memoir. The original was written for the Irish Press, probably in 1958.
Bothered by the worsening vision, de Valera was about to step down as Taoiseach. Shortly after the memoir appeared, de Valera became President of Ireland, but in the interim Brennan felt compelled to write a memoir justifying his mentor’s achievement on behalf of Ireland.
Brennan’s memoir of Dev makes no effort at objective history. Instead it offers us a glimpse of Dev in times of crisis, anecdotal evidence of his political genius, of his absolute devotion to the cause of Irish independence, and of Brennan’s warm admiration for the man.
Here we see important decisions that de Velara made at moments when those who did not know him misunderstood him. Brennan writes as a friend, a colleague, and as a loyal supporter, not as a political analyst.
Whatever Eamon de Valera’s final position is in the judgement of historians, no one can doubt the allegiance and the loyalty that Brennan shows in the book.
Brennan became General Manager of the Irish Press in 1931. Many of his achievements were in no small way influenced by de Valera while the great Statesman was in the ascendancy.
Having been appointed to the Irish Legation in Washington in 1934, four years later he was appointed Irish Minister to the United States. In 1947, on his return to Dublin, he became Director of Radio Eireann.
The second book about to be published is called Ireland Standing Firm; My Wartime Mission in Washington that was serialized in the Irish Press during April and May of 1958.
Early during the 1939-’45 war, Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to pressure Ireland into joining the alliance against Germany, Italy and Japan, but Brennan, upon instruction from his government, resisted.
In 1942 Brennan vigorously protested against the stationing of American troops in Derry. He found himself in a difficult position during wartime, and now the book tells the story.
In the next few weeks the name of Bob Brennan is about to find new support. A chapter of history in the foundation days of the State are about to be unfolded before a new readership.
Bob’s daughter, Maeve, who was a brilliant writer in her own right, is also hitting the headlines. So, perhaps, the future is beginning to reflect on a family that achieved so much literary acclaim in the past.
Maeve Brennan died in 1993 aged 76 years. Her father left his legacy on November 13th 1964. both are dead, neither is forgotten. In Bob’s case the next few weeks will reawaken his memory.
In the introduction to the publication, Richard H. Rupp, poses a few worthwhile suggestions. “Perhaps Robert Brennan himself is due a reassessment”, he writes.
“A modest monument to his memory in Wexford would be a good place to start. I have enjoyed getting to know the man through his work, and I hope that you will too”, the introduction tells us.
And so say all of us. In its centenary year, perhaps, Echo Group of Newspapers is the place to start in encouraging a public monument to Bob Brennan, once an employee, albeit under different management in different times, but not only did he assist in securing the future of the country, but on a personal level he rose to astonishing heights in the newspaper industry and in the diplomatic corps.