Banned Books from The River-side: The Tailor and Ansty

Welcome to the first post in a new series of blog posts: … from The River-side. This series will tie into the themed displays on Q floor of UCC Library and will focus on one or two items from Special Collections & Archives. These items won’t be borrowable but all are welcome to request them for use in Special Collections & Archives. To tie into ‘Banned Books’ I have selected the 1942 work The Tailor and Ansty by Eric Cross.

Bookcase with a selection of books that have all been banned.
Banned Books display on Q floor, UCC Library. The Tailor and Ansty is on the bottom shelf and is the third book from the right.

Timothy & Anastasia Buckley

Timothy Buckley (1862-1945) and his wife Ansty (?-1947) lived in Gougane Barra in Co. Cork. Timothy was born near Kilgarvan in Co. Kerry and trained as a tailor. In 1903 he married Anastasia ‘Ansty’ McCarthy and they moved to Gougane Barra where they had two sons. Buckley was a well-known storyteller and both he and Ansty were fluent Irish speakers.

Buckley used a crutch because as a child he’d had a bout of infantile paralysis which permanently afflicted his lower right leg. Therefore rather than him visiting other places the visitors came to him to hear his stories, phrases and knowledge of folklore. Visitors included writers Frank O’Connor, Seán Ó Faoláin and Eric Cross. In 1942 Eric Cross gathered Buckley’s stories and published them as The Tailor and Ansty.

Front cover to the 1942 publication of The Tailor and Ansty. The cover is beige with a green design around the title.
The Tailor and Ansty (1942), Frank O’Connor Bibliographic Collection.

Banned Book: The Tailor and Antsy

However, following the publication of The Tailor and Antsy there was a series of heated debates in the Seanad as part of the Censorship of Publications. The ‘earthy tone’ and its frank handling of sexuality provoked censure, both political and clerical censure. The book was banned for alleged indecency. Sir John Keane (1873-1956)) tabled a Senate motion opposing this prohibition, and a four-day debate ensued with Prof. William Magennis (1867-1946) as his antagonist. The sections of the text quoted in the Senate were struck from the official record. Three priests forced Timothy Buckley to burn his own copy of the book. Timothy remained positive about the censorship but Ansty was quite distressed. Timothy died in 1945 and Ansty in 1947; both are buried in Gougane Barra.

Excerpt from Frank O'Connor's foreword describing the effects of the ban on Timothy & Anastasia Buckley.
Excerpt from Frank O’Connor’s foreword to The Tailor and Ansty (1964) Frank O’Connor Collection.

1964: New Hardback Edition

In 1963 the Censorship Appeals Board reviewed The Tailor & Ansty and decided that it was not obscene. Following this a new edition was published with a dust-jacket designed by Lacey Everett.

Dust-jacket to the 1964 edition of The Tailor and Ansty. There is a house on a hill with mountains in the background.
Dust-jacket to The Tailor and Ansty (1964), Frank O’Connor Collection.

The new edition included woodcuts by Robert Gibbings.

A woodcut of a stack of hay with branches alongside it.
Robert Gibbings’ woodcut on the title page to The Tailor and Ansty (1964), Frank O’Connor Collection.

Copies of the book in both the Frank O’Connor Collection and Nancy McCarthy Allitt library have annotations by Eric Cross.

Handwritten annotation from Eric to Nancy [McCarthy] "To Nancy with love from Eric, March 1964."
Eric Cross annotation, The Tailor and Ansty (1964), Nancy McCarthy Allit Library.

1970: Paperback Edition

In 1970 the Cork publishing firm Mercier Press issued a paperback edition of The Tailor and Ansty. This cover design is by Inge Nieuwstraten.

Cover to the 1970 paperback edition. There is a kettle hung over the fire in the hearth. In front of the fireplace is a pair of glasses on a small table on the right and on the left there is a pair of boots.
Book cover to The Tailor and Ansty (1970), Ó Ríordáin Collection.

The Irish language poet Seán Ó Ríordáin annotated many of the books in his collection and his copy of The Tailor and Ansty is no different.

Excerpt from Sean O Riordain's copy of the The Tailor and Ansty with his annotations.
Annotations by Seán Ó Ríordáin in The Tailor and Ansty (1970), Ó Ríordáin Collection.

Adaptations

In 1968 PJ O’Connor adapted the book for the stage in the Abbey Theatre. In 2004 Cónal Creedon wrote a radio adaptation which was broadcast on RTE.

Programme to the stage production of The Tailor and Ansty. There are biographies of Eric Cross, Eamon Kelly and Maura O'Sullivan. There is a picture of a black cat on the programme.
Programme to the Abbey Theatre production of The Tailor and Ansty. Munster Printing Collection.

Further Interest

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