Tim Buckley (1863-1945)

CriticismCommentary


Life
[Tadhg Ó Buachalla; “Tim the Tailor”]; b. Kilgarvin, Co. Kerry; lived in Garrynapeaka, nr. Gougane Barra with Anastasia (‘Ansty’); masterful teller (seanachie) of fireside tales of matchmaking, marriages, wakes and inquests, and the history of their black cow, all narrated by the Tailor occasionally egged on by earthy rejoinders from his wife, for the delectation of a growing fireside audience in their remote cottage; caused mixed delight and furore on its appearance in book form as Eric Cross’s Tailor and Ansty (intro. Frank O’Connor (1942); banned in 1943 as ‘being in its general tendency indecent’ under the Censorship Act of 1929, and so to remained so up to 1963 [var. 1948];
 
for fear of supplying pornographers with ‘smut’ for publication, extracts were not permitted to be read into the Dáil record during a debate sparked by its banning; only Sir John Keane protesting against its treatment in the debate, in which he was opposed by Prof. William Magennis (arguing that English crime was due to ‘unfettered reading’: Keane’s motion defeated 34 to 2; Buckley was forced by three officious priests to burn copies of the book in his own fireplace and admit its indecency; for a time his notoreity necessitated police protection in his home though he was defended by Fr. Traynor, a local priest; Ansty died in 1947; both bur. at Gougane Barra, under a stone designed by Seamus Murphy;
 
a collection of seanchas (or tales) which Séan Ó Cróinín of the Irish Folklore Commission collected from Buckley in 1942 was edited and published by edited by Aindrias Ó Muimhneacháin as Seanchas an Táilliúra/The Tailors Stories (1978); a full account of Buckley is to be found in Frank O’Connor, My Father’s Son (1968) while his death is the subject of Seán O’Faoiláin’s story “The Silence of the Valley” (1947); Cross's book was successfully adapted for the Abbey by P. J. O’Connor (1967), chiefly as a monologue on the part of the Tailor, with Eamon Kelly and Brid Lynch in the title roles;
 
Anstey played by Maura O'Sullican, Kelly's wife, on the death of Lynch; revived by the New Theatre Dublin in 2005, and played at Gougane Barra, in succeeding seasons (2005, 2006, 2008) with Ronan Wilmot as the Tailor and Nuala Hayes as Ansty (also directing); taken to the Old Red Lion Th., London, July 2008, where the Times reviewer judged it ‘probably poignant’ when performed beside the Buckley’s cottage but ‘sweet but slight’ outside that context; played again at Fota House, [on Fota Island], Co. Cork, July 2009. DIH

See also under Eric Cross, q.v..

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Works
The Tailor and Ansty
, intro. by Frank O’Connor (London: Chapman & Hall 1942; rep. edn. 1964), 223pp., and Do., [rep. edn.] (Cork: Mercier 1970), &c.

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Criticism
Seán McMahon, ‘Tailor-Made’, in Éire-Ireland, 5, 3 (Autumn 1970), pp.134-42; James Cahalan, ‘Tailor, Tim Buckley, Folklore, Literature, and Seanchas an Táilliúra’, in Eire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies, 14, 2 (Summer 1979), pp.110-18; Caleb Richardson, ‘“They Are Not Worthy of Themselves”: The Tailor and Ansty Debates of 1942’, in Eire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies (Winter 2007), c.p.151.

See also James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (1983), and Cahalan, Irish Novel (1988), p.181.

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Commentary
Frank O’Connor, Foreword to The Tailor and Ansty, by Eric Cross (London: Chapman & Hall 1942), calls the Tailor a ‘leprechaun of a man ... sort of rural Dr Johnson ... absence of accurate information ... Lacking Irish, I think one misses the cream of the Tailor’s talk. Let no one imagine him existing in an irresponsible Anglo-Irish world, merely as the village joker. This traditional world of which he is part is a pretty terrifying affair ... the whole religious life of West Cork and Kerry has never been studied ...’. O’Connor recounts his conversations with the Tailor. The text begins with the Tailor’s grandiloquent version of his own address, ‘In the townland of Garrynapeaka, in the district of Inchageela, in the parish of Iveleary, in the barony of West Muskerry, in the county of Cork, in the province of Munster’. [11] Note also: O’Connor writes: ‘Literally he was a man who did not know what century he was living in.’ (Book of Ireland, all eds., p.135). Note that in The Backward Look (1967) O’Connor called the Dail debate ‘a long swim through a sewage bed.’ (p.226.)

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Sam Marlowe, in The Times (14 July 2009): ‘A tailor’s stories, with their gentle comedy and mildly irksome sexism, are neither revealing nor funny.’ (Review of New Theatre Dublin production of The Tailor and Ansty, in by P.J. O’Connor's 1967 adaptation of Eric Cross's 1942 book, played at the Old Red Lion, Angel, London.)

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A. N. Jeffares, Anglo-Irish Literature (London: Macmillan 1982): ‘It contains a mixture of information about and comment on marriage customs, funerals, and orgies inspired by them, the whole irradiated by a philosophical dislike of modern civilisation.’ (p.238.)

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Quotations
Glac bóg an saol agus glacfaidh an saol bóg thú (Take life fine and easy and life will be fine and easy on you.)’
 
‘I don’t blame the English people, you can’t judge people by their government.’ (Quoted in Sam Marlowe, review of The Tailor and Ansty, in The Times (14 July 2008 )

Bulling: ‘She didn’t know a bull from a cow. That is what started me thinking. Thon amon dieul! but I swear the world’s gone to albastery. It’s queerer it’s getting every day. Would you believe it that there are people nowadays who don’t know wheat from barley and yet eat bread ...?’ (Tailor and Ansty; quoted in Alan Warner, A Guide to Anglo-Irish Literature, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1981, p.30.)

Stone mad: ‘Many’s the time that I have measured a man’s body for a new suit of clothes, but I never though that the day would come when I would be measured for a new head’. (Eric Cross, The Tailor and Ansty, Chap. 14; p.125).

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Notes
Portrait
: a photograph of the Tailor is to be found in Frank O’Connor, My Father’s Son (1968), p.108 [facing].

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