In 1966, my father appeared on The Late Late Show, a very long-running Saturday-night TV show that became an outlet for all sorts of discontent in Ireland. My dad contributed to a discussion of popular radio and TV series, one of which he wrote. After he'd left the stage, the real fun began (I was allowed to stay up to watch). A Trinity College undergraduate named Brian Trevaskis said some very rude things about Bishop Browne and his cathedral: one of the words he used was "moron". All hell broke loose - saying even politely critical things about the church was rare in public discourse in those days, and invectve virtually unknown. The papers were full of back and forth for days, and eventually Trevaskis returned to The Late Late Show to apologize. I was allowed to stay up and my memory is that Trevaskis cut a very unimpressive figure to my young eyes and ears - I basically thought he sold out, like Mick Jagger singing "Let's spend some time together" on Ed Sullivan. The record seems to suggest that Trevaskis wasn't as abject as I recall, and that he was quite rude again to Browne.
Of the two, Trevaskis turns out to be the more interesting figure. In 1966, he was quite an old undergraduate (26 or 27) and, contrary to the image of the Trinity student of the time, was both catholic and working class - he had been raised for at least part of his life in an orphanage. He became president of the Trinity debating society, the Phil, and wrote a couple of plays. He also failed his English exams and had to leave. My old undergraduate tutor, Nick Grene, who now has a chair at Trinity and who performed in Trevaskis' plays, kindly provided some memories of him:
Brian was a quiet spoken, heavy-set man with a red complexion, who was bent on defying all the orthodoxies. He supposedly failed his English exams because he determined to go to the zoo rather than attend the Anglo-Saxon exam, which he regarded as a waste of time; unfortunately he mixed up the timetable and therefore missed another of the literature papers, thereby failing more of the year than was acceptable.
In the wake of this setback, he moved to Cornwall (Trevaskis is a Cornish name), joined the church of England, went for a while to Bristol University, and eventually returned to Ireland. He engaged constantly in controversy; attacked, for instance, the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Easter rising in 1966, the inability of the Irish in Britain to vote in elections back home, the decision of the Abbey Theatre to stage a play by Boucicault that he deemed to be paddywhackery, and dubbing the ruling Fianna Fáil party "neo-fascist". He was hit by a train in north Dublin in 1980, and died. I've read accounts that he committed suicide, but have been unable to confirm these. He seemed to me in the spring of 1966 - I was not yet 9 - to be intelligent, articulate and very angry. As Nick Grene wrote to me: "I was very sad to hear of his later life and death: a waste of energy and talent." Bishop Browne had nothing to do with the death, but he was in a way part of the Ireland that Trevaskis couldn't live with. The old Ireland, I think: it all seems much longer ago.