An Accidental Gatherin’ of Mollycewels an’ Atoms: Sean O’Casey’s Dublin
Sean O’Casey was in the air for me at the week-end. I had tickets for The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey on Saturday evening and woke to find the Irish Times magazine had a reproduction of poster by American artist Owen Smith for the new production of The Silver Tassie by Druid Theatre. It had two interlinked images of a footballer and a soldier and made me think of the murals on Belfast walls at the height of the troubles.
I meandered in Sean O’Casey’s Dublin. For the rest of the sunny Saturday I kept noticing advertisement hoardings on Dublin’s streets with sports themes that had a sinister edge: a hurler astride a gigantic heap of sports helmets with the caption ‘One conquers all’ that conjures up the movie image of soldiers planting a victorious flag on a hill-top; a News of the World ad, ‘Nothing gets past our Team’; Eric Cantona’s bearded stare alongside the words, ‘Compromise is not an Option’. Heroic images within sight of Croke Park where the hurlers of Tipperary and Waterford would battle it out next day.
It’s 130 years since he was born at 85 Upper Dorset Street. There’s another house there now, owned by the Mater Hospital, with a sign that says the dramatist was born ‘on March 30th 1880 in the house which stood on this site’. There was no ‘Bedroom Elegance Furniture Shop’ or ‘New Asian Cuisine’ restaurant in O’Casey’s times but there was the same view of the distant mountains when he came out the front door and looked to his right into the afternoon sun.
I strolled to Mountjoy Square where O’Casey lived during the 1916 Rising and absorbed the ‘deragoratory’ and ‘vice versa’ talk of the north city tenements that is sprinkled through The Plough and the Stars and provides the play’s Georgian house setting: ‘struggling for life against the assault of time, and the more savage assaults of the tenants’. Black teenagers played basket ball in the park, a bus filled with Waterford hurling supporters pulled up beside me and a tourist returned a bike to the depot at the park railings.
I left the Abbey after The Plough & the Stars performance that night with a thought for the week from the mouth of The Covey: ‘Look here, comrade, there’s no such thing as an Irishman, or an Englishman, or a German or a Turk; we’re all only human bein’s. Scientifically speaking, it’s all a question of the accidental gatherin’ together of mollycewels an’ atoms.’ Makes one feel humble, it does.