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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Double Take

Double Take: The humble Dublin house that was home to one of Ireland's greatest writers

“I took up writing because it’s easier than house painting.”

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JUST BEFORE CLOGHER Road meets Kildare Road in Crumlin, Dublin 12, is the place where one of Ireland’s best-known writers and poets, Brendan Behan, grew up.

While the legendary poet and man behind the much-loved sing-song tune The Auld Triangle is remembered worldwide – and immortalised in the form of a well-visited statue on Dublin’s Royal Canal – the circumstances of Behan’s life were modest, and started with him growing up on a nondescript council estate. 

In 1937, at the age of 14, after living on Russell Street in the city centre since his birth, Behan and his family moved to 70 Kildare Road.

The renowned poet lived there with his brothers, Dominic and Brian, his mother Kathleen and his father Stephen, according to Behan’s biographer Ulick O’Connor,

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Behan lived in the two-bed house until 1939 when he moved to Liverpool, where he was sentenced to three years in a borstal for being found in possession of explosives. He detailed his time in the detention centre in Borstal Boy, published in 1958.

Following his release in 1942, Behan was “deported to Dublin“, and shortly after he was jailed for the attempted murder of two gardai. He was released under a general amnesty in 1946.

In between arrests and jail time, returns to Number 70 were “frequent for the writer”, according to Come Here To Me. In the coming years, Behan moved between Ireland and France before settling down in Dublin in the early 1950s.

Behan is said to have spent some of his last days in the Kildare Road home before dying on March 20, 1964. A plaque was placed above the front door in 1977 with an engraving of Behan’s face, his name and the years of his life. 

The property went on the market in 2009, while O’Connor called for it to be declared a national monument.

“Behan is getting bigger and bigger every day. He is still an icon and a legend,” he told The Herald at the time.

Today, the home is yet to be declared a national monument, but the plaque commemorating Behan holds pride of place above its bright red front door. 

More Double Take: The handmade stone sign in Donegal that helped WWII pilots find their way

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