Brian Inglis (1916-91)


Life
b. Malahide, Co. Dublin; gs. of J. R. Blood on his mother’s side and prob. descendent of Col. Thomas Blood of ‘Crown Jewels’ fame; cousin to the Findlater and Park families; ed. Shrewsbury, TCD and Magdalen College, Oxon.; spent summer in Germany and encountered anti-semitism and war-preparations, 1938; worked seven months on Irish Times under Smyllie while waiting to join RAF; received flight-training in Rhodesia; served in Coastal Command in Gambia (where he saw action) and Gibraltar, and acted as trainer in Enniskillen; mentioned in RAF dispatches, but agreed with an Irish friend to go on strike if the British attacked the Irish ports; demobbed as Squadron Leader; resumed work on The Irish Times, ‘Features, Specials’, 1945; applied, successfully on the second attempt, for Forces Grant scheme to take PhD in history at TCD, supervised by T. W. Moody and examined externally by Asa Briggs, 1948;
 
contrib. short story, “Tricolour” to Envoy early issue; ed. of The Leader (Dublin) when Patrick Kavanagh unsuccessfully sued the paper for a profile of him, 1952; published Freedom of the Press in Ireland (1954), based on his doctoral work; issued The Story of Ireland (1956); head-hunted for Daily Sketch by Stuart McClean of Assoc. Newspapers and moved to London on completion of degree, 1953; joined The Spectator, 1954, and edited it 1959-62, recruiting Bernard Levin (as “Taper”), Cyril Ray, Robert Kee and occas. Brendan Behan and Katharine Whitehorn; became television presenter with What the Papers Say; staff-writer for Granada’s modern British history programme All Our Yesterdays (1961-73); m. Ruth Woodeson (“Boo”), 1958, with whom a son Neil b. 1962, half-br. to her dg. Diana by a former husband; sep. after some years; issued West Briton (1962; rep. 1989); enjoyed friendship with Rosemary Delbridge (d.1981);
 
wrote the script and supplied the voice-over for Jeremy Isaac’s The Troubles (Granada TV 1963); issued Private Conscience, Public Morality (1964); became a founding-member of the British-Irish Association [latter BAIS], Cambridge 1973; issued Roger Casement (1973), widely-considered the best biography on the subject; issued Natural and Supernatural (1978), a historical study of the paranormal contesting ‘promissory materialism’; formed KIB Foundation with Arthur Koestler and Instone Bloomfield, 1980; found happiness in 1980s with Margaret van Hattem, pol. corr. for Financial Times; issued Downstart (1990) a further gathering of memoirs; he is known to have been offered and refused the post of Director of RTE, knowing that a high-profile returning Irishman would be mauled by the Irish media (See RIA Dict. of Irish Biog.). DIW OCIL

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Works
Freedom of the Press in Ireland [IHS] (London: Faber & Faber 1954). BIBL, ‘Irish Double-Thought’, in The Spectator, 188 (7 March 1952), p.289; ‘Smuggled Culture’, The Spectator, 188 (28 November 1952), p.726; The Story of Ireland (London: Faber 1956); ‘Moran of the Leader’, in Castleknock Chronicle (1956) [text of Thomas Davis Lecture]; ‘Moran of the Leader and Ryan of the Irish Peasant’, in Conor Cruise O’Brien, ed., The Shaping of Modern Ireland (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1960); Fringe Medicine ([q. pub.] 1964) Roger Casement (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1973; Purnell Bk. Service 1973); and Do. [rep. edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1993), 462pp.; West Briton (London: Faber and Faber 1962; rep. 1989) [ded. For Margaret, 1948-1989]; Natural and Supernatural (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1978); Downstart: The Autobiography of Brian Inglis (London: Chatto & Windus 1990), 298pp.

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Commentary
Terence de Vere White reviews Downstart, the autobiography of Brian Inglis, in Sunday Tribune, 31, Dec. 1989, recounts that Inglis was born in Malahide, a pretentious ruin of a spa that failed; his maternal grandfather, J. R. Blood, was one of those who established the private and very unionist golf-links; West Briton reviewed by Cyril Connolly who was annoyed by the amount of attention paid to class (noting Hiberno-English pronounciations anglice Westm’land St. as WestMOREland St. in Dublin); joined RAF; mentioned in dispatches, but agreed with an Irish friend to go on strike if the British attacked Irish ports; worked in Fleet St. on the Daily Graphic; editor of the Spectator for three years from 1959; television presenter with What the Papers Say, and All Our Yesterdays; absorption in fringe medicine and paranormal; the best book on Casement; ded. for Margaret, 1948-1989.

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Hubert Butler, ‘Grandmother and Wolfe Tone, The Sub-Prefect [ … &c.] (1990), pp.71-77, essay, taking the form of a harsh review of West-Briton which provoked an exchange of letters in The Kilkenny Magazine (rep. in Grandmother and Wolfe Tone, pp.89-90) [ibid., ftn. p.77].

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Brian Fallon, An Age of Innocence Irish Culture 1930-1960 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1998), cites Inglis in the following: ‘Gaels and Anglo-Irish’ [Chap.]: ‘Inglis noted that from the start of independence many of the Anglo-Irish simply pretended that it had not happened and that nothing basically had changed, so accordingly they went on behaving more or less as they had always done. [ftn.] But while such a head-in-the-sand attitude might suit the type of persons whose activities and interests outside their offices or estates or farms were limited to bridge games and golf and watching rugby at Lansdowne Road, or to the racecourse and the hunting field, it could not possibly satisfy the more thinking Irish Protestantsof whom there were plenty, since they were an educated class with good schools and a tradition of scholarship and professional exactitude. They felt themselves to be genuinely Irish, if not Gaels, and justifiably resented the familiar “West Brit” taunt or label; they knew themselves to be 'no petty people’ (Yeats’s phrase in the Senate), fully capable of taking an objective and informed view of politics both at home and abroad; and they were often impatient with those among their fellow-Protestants to whom Churchill was not only a great statesman but a demigod who could do no wrong, while the native politicians were jumped-up peasants who had utterly no business measuring their parochial opinions against his. For the latter type, the second World War was not primarily a war to save democracy, or the struggle of the [174] Atlantic Alliance against Hitler and Fascism, but simply the British Empire against Germany plus a few dubious Continental nations such as Italy (the “Eye-ties”, as I often heard them called contemptuously in my youth. And to be fair to them, they did not flinch from fighting in it, almost always with bravery and often with some distinction. The Anglo-Irish military and naval traditions still lived on, and even today they are not extinct.’ (pp.174-75. Ftn. cites both The Story of Ireland and West-Briton, without page refs.)

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Blackstaff Books (1993 Cat.) quotes Terence de Vere White’s nominating Roger Casement (1973; rep. Blackstaff 1993) as the best book on Casement as well as Robert Kee’s calling it ‘meticulously, sympathetically, clinically unfolded, the only adequate biography of’ Roger Casement’.

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Quotations
Downstart (1990): ‘Thickness of skin must often have prevented me from realising, that Ascendancy manners, to those who had grown up into the new Ireland, could be simply bad manners. “West Moreland Street” [which he pronounced “Westm’land St”, à l’anglais] set me on what could be described as a descendancy course, to become a downstart - as Bernard Shaw had described himself in his Preface to his novel Immaturity, for taking a job as a clerk. Now, I wanted to be accepted on the paper; to “talk the same language”.’ (p.88.) Further, ‘Politics became a serious issue only once during that spell in Salisbury [with the RAF in Rhodesia]. The day after we arrived a rumour was put out over the wireless that Ireland had been invaded; not by Hitler but by Britain. Two of us were Anglo-Irish, on the course; Willy Humphrey and I got together to decide what we should do if it turned out to be correct. There was no doubt in either of our minds that we could not simply continue with our flying training as if it made no difference. An invasion would have been resisted, and even if the resistance quickly collapsed, as it was bound to do, Britain and Ireland would have been in a state of war. In that event, we knew which side we would be on: Ireland’s.’ ‘I couldn’t help realising, though, that in this company [O’Faolain, Frank O’Connor, The Bell, &c.] I was aligning myself with individuals who were considered to be hostile to the cause of an Irish Ireland, critical as we all were of the Church and the politicians over the Mother and Child Bill, the Censorship, and the anti-Partition campaign. And whereas the others could be regarded as Irish mavericks, my background put in in a different category: I was a West Briton.’ (p.189.)

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Further (Downstart, 1990): Giving an account of his mother, who was awarded the Kaiser-I-Hind medal for services as a prison visitor, he writes: ‘She could not face the possibility that in India in the 1940s, as in Ireland in thirty years before [sic], “reasonable” politicians would inevitably be swept aside as if the tide of nationalism came up against unreasoning resistance.’ “Take away our hearts o’ stone and give us hearts o’ flesh! Take away this murderin’ hate, an’ give us Thing own eternal love!” Mrs Boyle's last cry, in Juno and the Paycock, was my mother’s favourite [147] quotation; it rang in her ears as she had heard it spoken by the first and greatest Juno, Sara Allgood, in the Abbey Theatre [...].’ Inglis goes on to speak of her friendship with Armine Woodhouse, the elder brother of P. G. Woodhouse, who ended as a poor schoolteacher in Poona and was “Senex” in The Times of India.

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Further (Downstart, 1990): Inglis gives account of his own affair with Ruth Childers, commencing with a meeting: ‘Among the people I encountered at one of the parties, at the Spanish Embassy, were Tommy Gilmartin, a Dublin anaesthetist, and his beautiful wife Peggy, whom I had met on one of my visits to Bundoran. On their way back to Dublin they had stayed for a few days with friends in County Monaghan, near the border, and come over to the Officers’ Mess at Killadeas, bringing with them Erskine Childers. He was with them again at the Spanish Embassy, with his daughter Ruth. We got talking; I invited her out; she invited me to her home in Highfield Road [i.e., her father’s], in south Dublin, and soon I found myself in a new society.’ (p.160.) The relationship breaks down when Ruth comes to realise that Inglis is taking her for granted and adhering thoughtlessly to his journalistic male friends. Later he reads Proust’s Remembrance [Recherche] and recognised himself in Swann, offers her an apology and proceeds to share a three-week holiday in the Dordogne, which both recognise as ‘the peaceful end of the affair.’ (p.173.) See also under Roger Casement, q.v.

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On the Famine: ‘If the British chose not to consider Ireland part of Britain, when such an emergengy arose, they could hardly complain if the Irish did likewise.’ (The Story of Ireland, 1946, p.140; cited in Malcolm Brown, The Politics of Irish Literature, 1972, p.146.

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3: Inglis’s Casement (p.299) is quoted tellingly to show that Casement shared in - indeed, anticipated - Pearse’s dream of Irish nationhood being nurtured by blood-sacrifice, in Fr. Francis Shaw’s essay, ‘The Canon of Irish History - A Challenge’ (Studies 1972). [The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol. 3: , p.594.]

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Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast, holds The Freedom of the Press in Ireland 1784-1841 (Faber & Faber [1954]); The Story of Ireland (London 1956); Modern Ireland, Men of The Period [n.d.]; West Briton (London 1962); also QRY, The History of The Irish Rebellion (Dublin [1943]).

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Belfast Public Library holds The Freedom of the Press in Ireland 1784-1841 (1954); also, Story of Ireland [1956].

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