06 September-Brinsley MacNamara (Valley of the Squinting Windows)

Brinsley MacNamara was the author of ‘The Valley of the Squinting Windows’. He was born John Weldon near Delvin, Co Westmeath, Ireland. Described by some as a seminal novel, The Valley of the Squinting Windows caused outrage in Delvin when it was first published in 1918.

Brinsley MacNamara was one of seven children. His father, James Weldon was principal of Ballinvalley National School about 3km north of Delvin. In 1909 at the age of 19 Brinsley MacNamara moved to Dublin to work the civil service. He joined the Abbey Theatre and appeared on stage for the first time on September 29th 1910. He went on tour with the Abbey to America in 1911. On his return from America in 1913 he moved back to Delvin and began writing. His first play was rejected by the Abbey Theatre but poetry and stories he wrote were published in Dublin newspapers.

In 1918 MacNamara’s first novel, The Valley of the Squinting Windows, was published. News of the publication was at first the cause of great excitement in Delvin. However, following publication, it became obvious that the fictional village of Garradrimna in the novel was in reality the village of Delvin. It was also noted that the characters who were gossips and interested in everyone else’s business, were based on local people.

The people of Delvin were outraged. A public burning of the book was held in the centre of the village and MacNamara’s family was ostracised. Brinsley MacNamara moved to Dublin and it is said never returned to Delvin. He continued to write and was appointed as the registrar of the National Gallery of Ireland. His father’s school was boycotted and children were withdrawn from his school. This led John Weldon to bring a legal action against the parish priest of Delvin and the school parents for damages amounting to £4,000. The Weldon Subscription Fund was established to help support John Weldon’s High Court action. An appeal for funds, which appeared in the Irish Statesman on January 19th 1924 was supported by people like W B Yeats and G B Shaw. However John Weldon was unsuccessful in his court action and was forced to emigrate.

Brinsley MacNamara went on to publish several other novels and plays, including The Clanking of Chains, a novel (1919) and Look at the Heffernans, a play (1926). He died in Dublin at the age of 72 on February 4th 1963.

Brinsley MacNamara, author of ‘The Valley of the Squinting Windows’, was born in Ballinacol, Hiskinstown, Delvin Co Westmeath in the year 1890 On This Day.

DUBLIN WRITERS MUSEUM by infomatique on 2007-09-15 14:01:50


Clonyn Castle, Delvin, Co. Westmeath by National Library of Ireland on The Commons on 2009-02-27 09:56:35

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