Brendan Behan was born in Dublin in 1923 and grew up in the slums. His family was both well-read and known for Republican sympathies. His uncle Peader Kearney authored the Irish national anthem, 'Amhrßn na bhFiann'.
When Behan was born, his father, a housepainter, was in a British prison due to Republican activities. Behan attended school until the age of 14 when he left to serve his time as a house painter. From an early age he was involved with the IRA via the youth organisation Fianna ╔ireann.
In 1939 he was arrested in Liverpool and was sentenced to three years in Borstal for attempting to blow up a battleship in Liverpool harbour. Upon release, Behan returned to Ireland and in 1942 he was again sentenced to 14 years for the attempted murder of two detectives. Whilst in prison he became fluent in the Irish language. In 1946 he was released but was in prison again in Manchester in 1947, allegedly for helping an IRA prisoner to escape. Brief periods were also spent in jail as a result of drunken episodes. During his years of imprisonment Behan started to write.
He lived in Paris briefly in the early 1950s. He wrote for Radio ╔ireann and for the Irish Press and the Irish Times. In 1955 he married Beatrice ffrench-Salkeld, a painter.
His best-known novel, 'Borstal Boy' was inspired by his experiences in Borstal whilst his first play, 'The Quare Fellow', was also based on prison experiences.
Other well-known works by him include 'The Big House' and 'The Hostage', the latter work having been written in Gaelic under the title 'An Giall'.
He was a familiar figure in the Dublin literary pubs and had well-known falling out with Monaghan poet Patrick Kavanagh who also frequented the literary pub scene.
A drunken appearance on BBC television in 1956 earned him a degree of notoriety and critical acclaim. However by the time Borstal Boy was published in 1958 he was already suffering from the advanced stages of alcoholism and diabetes and he finally died in 1964, at the young age of 41. Thousands lined the streets of Dublin to watch as an IRA guard of honour escorted his coffin to Glasnevin Cemetery.