Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 17 November 2011

617a. Depiction of the Tailor and Ansty

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town,

Cork Independent, 17 November 2011


In the Footsteps of St. Finbarre (Part 275)

The Golden Landscape


Amidst the creation of an afforestation programme for Gougane Barra, the site also began its association with a number of writers, which were mentioned by several people I interviewed during my recent photographic exhibition set-up.

Many visitors to the pilgrimage island mentioned the contribution of the Eric Cross and the story of the Tailor and Ansty. In the Irish Press on 6 September 1980 (p.5), the obituary of Eric Cross is outlined as historian, inventor, sculptor, philosopher, mathematician, teacher and research chemist. Born in Co. Down, Eric Cross spent his childhood there but later moved to the north of England. His father was in the British diplomatic service and his mother, whom he once said had a very great influence on him, had gone to South Africa as a volunteer nurse in 1900.

Eric went to study medicine in Manchester University but after six months he transferred to London where he studied and became a chemist. He spent 15 years as a research chemist in London. He came to live in Ireland in 1936. On his arrival, he renewed an acquaintance with Fr. Tim Traynor, a curate in Sandycove. Fr. Traynor also knew the Tailor in Gougane Barra. In 1939 Eric came to Cork and became part of a group, which included Seamus Murphy, the stone mason and sculptor, Nancy McCarthy, another chemist from Douglas, Captain Seán Feehan, the founder of the Mercier Press and Father Tim Traynor. Gougane Barra was frequented by the group, who were drawn to it by the famous couple Timothy and Ansty Buckley known as the Tailor and Ansty. Later Eric Cross purchased a horse drawn caravan and moved it to Gougane Barra in West Cork.

In an interview in 1976 Eric Cross recalled his first meeting with the Tailor in Gougane Barra. “I was in Cork City and I hired a bicycle and set off, it was a fine summer’s day and by the time I got as far as Gougane Barra it was getting dark. I met the Tailor on the way. He was sitting on the side of the road outside his cottage. He asked me in for a heat of the tea. Something drew me to him, the broadness of the man must have impressed me in some way. It is very hard to put a word on it but I had a sort of feeling that I knew him”.

The Tailor and Ansty was a result of Cross listening many nights to the Tailor’s stories. It was published in 1942, and a hail of condemnation descended on Cross. The book was debated for four days in Seanad Éireann in 1943 after Sir John Keane tabled a motion condemning the censorship board for banning it. When Sir John Keane insisted on quoting from the book, one senator ordered the quotations to be stricken from the record in case “pornographers might get their hands on them and peddle them in the marketplace.”

In a letter to the editor of the Irish Press, published on 15 October 1942 (p.3), Eric Cross defended the book:

“I wrote the book, ‘The Tailor and Ansty’, about a man who has been my friend for many years. The manuscript, before publication, was read by many other friends of the Tailor. When published it was received with gratitude by them and was reviewed enthusiastically by every Irish paper without any exception or objection. Last week the book was placed on the list of banned books by the Board of Censorship. Having stood the test of test of acceptance by the many of who are friends of the Tailor and the Press of Ireland. I must protest against the inference created by this ban-that I have misused the friendship of a great man for the writing of a book ‘the general tendency of which is indecent’. In this I believe that I have the concurrence of opinion of the Tailor’s many friends who would immediately and before publication, have resented such a portrayal”.

In his introduction to the reprint of the book in 1964, Frank O’Connor noted: “Tis a funny state of affairs when you think of it. It is the Tailor himself speaking. The book is nothing but the fun and the talk and the laughter, which has gone on for years around the fireside”. The Tailor and Ansty was the first book, eventually, to be “unbanned” in Ireland.

In 1966, the historian in Eric Cross showed itself when he brought out a “Map of Time”. The map shows at a glance the main events and people of Irish history and their time in relation to European events. In time, Cross went on to write over 200 radio talks for RTE’s Sunday Miscellany and contributed short stories to the BBC. His interest in philosophical and mathematics prompted him to write a number of essays, which were unpublished. In 1978, a book of short stories, “Silence is Golden and Other Stories”, was Cross’s last publication. Eric Cross lived in Cloona Lodge, near Westport, Co. Mayo, the home of the Kelly family for the 27 years leading up to his death in 1980.

To be continued…



617a. Depiction of the Tailor and Ansty (source: from a 1985 reprint of the book)

617b. Eric Cross (source: Irish Press)


617b. Eric Cross