O'Casey, Breon (1 of 10) National Life Stories Collection: Crafts' Lives
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Interviewee's home, Cornwall
O'Casey, Breon, 1928-2011 (speaker, male)
Reid, Christopher (speaker, male)
Part 1: Tape 1, Side A (F9757) Born 1928. BO'C's preamble and provisos. Anecdote about Sean O'Casey (BO'C's father) preparing for interview. Reference to Huckleberry Finn. Sean O'Casey's lack of fame. Fickleness of theatre. Obscure life in Chalfont St Giles. SO'C's escape from Ireland not especially intended. Contact with Ireland maintained. Tried to get young BO'C interested in Irish culture, without success. BO'C only came to feel Irish much later. SO'C 'very good father', loved children. SO'C's domestic and working habits: typewriter a frequent sound in the small hours. George Bernard Shaw as loyal friend; ditto, George Jean Nathan, Hugh MacDiarmid. Constant money worries, especially during World War 2. SO'C's principled refusal of offer to film Juno and the Paycock in inappropriate setting, money-making not a priority. Mother - Eileen O'Casey - 'got us through the war'. Mother's theatrical background: chorus girl for C.B. Cochrane. Met SO'C through auditioning for The Shadow of a Gunman. Anglicised Irish, her mother having come to England as paid companion. BO'C never went to Ireland as child. But swatches of hand-woven Irish tweed an early visual memory: 'I saw them in a way as little Irish landscapes.' Decline of weaving since that time. Also memory of tenterhook frames in Totnes cider orchard as an 'exhibition' of tweeds, Dartington, the school founded there by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, having its own Irish weaver. Earliest visual memory, of sign painted, by local amateur, for school at Chalfont St Giles - BO'C 'knew in my heart it wasn't any good'. Early attraction to Disney publication, How to Draw, which SO'C would not buy him. BO'C himself knew at the time something was wrong with it. Still earlier memories of living in Prince of Wales Drive, Battersea. Poverty of neighbourhood. Loved drawings in American comics, livelier than British ones. SO'C had long ago wanted to be a painter. In England, became friend of Augustus John. Two anecdotes of SO'C's definite and unconventional taste in painting. SO'C's brother a gifted draughtsman. Reproductions of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, et al, on the wall at home.