As it exhales its last few breaths the curtain cannot be allowed to lower on the year 2012 without acknowledgment of a great radical artist who died back in February at the age of 70. His friends knew him as Bernie Boyle but to our readers he was simply Brian Mór.
Brian Mór was a frequent contributor to this blog and its content is all the more impoverished now that he is no longer with us. We are not the first to notice that our view is often improved by standing on the shoulders of giants. It is only fitting that TPQ ends the year with this giant firmly in mind.
Through his artistry and cutting sense of humour he added a dimension to our output which sadly has seen no one step in to fill the vacuum left by his departure. But then, described as ‘a man you don't meet every day’, larger than life, his shoes were big and not easy to fill.
His cartoons were great; there was always something speaking out to us, even the cameo part characters he would often sketch into his work. Funny and cutting in equal measure, he could, with a few rapier-like thrusts of his brush both amplify and magnify the ridicule that he so heaped on the ridiculous. When Brian scarred you he did not do so without good cause. Nor was it a mark that could be worn proudly a la some Germanic nobleman fresh from a sword duel. More than a few reputations have never quite been the same since Brian made a couple of deft strokes with his sable hair. He had a profound dislike for the lying opportunist and found no small number of them in the ranks of Sinn Fein as it sought to abandon ship and send The Republic to the bottom of the sea, wholly indifferent to the fate of those who had walked her decks over the decades and were left to walk the plank.
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied – Leonard Cohen
His work excoriated and eviscerated them in equal measure.
Prior to his dying I was aware that he struggled with ill health. While denied the opportunity to meet him in person and speak face to face he had rang me a few times and chatted about political events and the charlatans involved in their making. He would apologise – for which there was no need – for his failing eyes which prevented him being prodigious in the production of his cartoons. He told me he was on the mend but unfortunately it was not to be.
Larry Kirwan of Black 47 spoke of his:
rock-ribbed abhorrence of any compromise, pomp or shallowness ... there were few stauncher Republicans. He was from the breed that initiated the Border Campaign of the 1950's and he remained uncompromising until the very end. He aspired to a 32 County Republic and would settle for nothing less. All gains and losses were measured against this golden grail.
The reader need only browse through the obituaries for Brian to realise how deep his political activism was. While he had worked in many organisations and ventures in furtherance of the cause of Irish unity he thought the pinnacle of his creative career came when his work was denounced in the House of Lords and the British parliament. Not much chance of former Tory ministers turning up for a display of this man’s work. Brian was not of that rogue gene that could be tamed and humiliatingly brought to heel.
At his graveside his long time friend and colleague John McDonagh quoted from Edna St. Vincent Millay in words that seemed most appropriate for this wiliest of wise old owls.
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.
It did that for sure. As we step into the New Year in a few hours we have to acknowledge that we make the journey across without him the for first time in our lives. His life might have been extinguished this year but the insight from his prolific artistry is an eternal flame that will light the way as we make that crossing.