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Plaque unveiled to ‘Envoy’ editor, John Ryan

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Article by Alison Wells © 22 May 2018.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Author Brendan Lynch and Senator David Norris have unveiled a plaque at number 4 Duke Street, Dublin to commemorate artist and writer, John Ryan, who died in 1992. He was founder of Envoy literary magazine, and benefactor to Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and many impoverished writers of the 1950s. He launched the first Bloomsday celebration with Flann O’Brien in June, 1954.

Brendan Lynch remembered: ‘In the late-1950s, I lived in the heart of Dublin’s Bohemia in Upper Mount Street. Bohemia is said to have been bordered on the north by cold, on the west by hunger. It was an accurate description. The climate could not have been more inimical to creativity. Barefoot children shouted ‘Herald a’ Mail’ at street corners, Georgian homes sank into tenement dilapidation. The Censorship Board ensured that John Broderick, Austin Clarke and John McGahern followed Sean O’Casey into exile.

‘Yet a golden age thrived. Flann O’Brien, Ernie Gebler, James Plunkett, Behan and Kavanagh and poets John Montague, Thomas Kinsella, John Liddy and Paul Durcan.  Liam Miller’s Dolmen Press, Alan Simpson’s Pike Theatre, the unforgettable Parsons Bookshop.  Hard-working artists such as John Behan, Nevill Johnson and Pauline Bewick – who lived in a Kilmainham caravan.

‘And at the heart of this flowering was John Ryan, whose largesse and encouragement  nourished so many of them.  And whose Envoy campaigning helped to finally end cennsorship. John was also very helpful to me when I was preparing my books on literary and Bohemian Dublin. We had many a chat, as I wheeled him around Donnybrook’s Royal Hospital before his untimely death at the age of 67.’

Among the large attendance were John Ryan’s widow, Dee and her family. Also, Frances Kiely, widow of novelist, Ben, and the family of the Pike Theatre’s Alan Simpson. And Philip Donleavy, son of Ginger Man author, J P Donleavy, whose first story John Ryan published in Envoy magazine.

Brendan Lynch expects to publish his own next book, Princess of the Orient, in August.


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Alison Wells runs the Random Acts of Optimism blog and lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow with her husband and four children. Her short fiction been published in many magazines and online and print anthologies and she has been featured on Sunday Miscellany. Shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, Bridport and Fish Prize's she has just completed a themed short story collection Random Acts of Optimism and a literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities. To read Alison's full blog, visit Head Above Water. Find out in her Random Acts of Optimism how she manages to juggle writing, children and life.

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