Well known Irish American artist of Donegal parentage, Brian Mór O’Baoighill passed away late in the evening of Sunday, February 19, 2012.
A New York native, Brian was born in what was then euphemistically known as “Irish West Harlem”. Brian’s parents, with him in tow, moved during WWII to “the suburbs”, the old South Bronx of the beautiful borough on the mainland of America. Like so many of Narrowback contemporaries, endured the vicissitudes of a parochial education.
He majored in advanced hooliganism and his fondest memories are those spent down Cypress Avenue, his weekly trip to the New York Public Library over on Alexander Avenue, playing ball day in the summer of the PS 65 schoolyard, shooting dice in the same schoolyard, observing girls, graffiti (tagging), reading everything he got his hands on, and, when not reading, drawing his literary images.
Inevitably, when discussing his old Bronx stomping grounds, the conversation will end up in a bar. Not just any bar, but the Shannon View, where his Dad worked. It was here that he met Seamus McDevitt, an American-born IRA man who, at the cessation of hostilities of the border campaign, was released from a Free State jail and deported back to America, a country he had not seen since a small child. Seamus was living in America but his heart and soul were living in Donegal.
McDevitt took care of Brian’s higher education, giving him book lists, periodicals, old newspapers and historic recordings in Irish, laced with revolutionary slogans in Irish and Béarla. Brian found a direction for both himself and his art (Fág an Beallach).
With the tragic death of his mentor McDevitt, Mór rededicated himself to the ancient cause, and he travelled to Ireland in 1966 for the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Rising. Brian found himself involved in the Republican experience of waiting and waiting for something to happen in Ireland.
Brian was active in Irish Northern Aid from its start and was appointed to the Irish People newspaper in 1972. His career with the newspaper is the stuff that legends are made of, from, or whatever. He was an officer of Cumann na Saoirse and prior to his death, was putting together a retrospective of his Republican and Irish American art for the past 30 years, and his vision of the future of our culture.
Brian considered the high points of his journalistic endeavors as being denounced in the House of Lords and Commons several times for his unique cartoon art; being fired and rehired by the forces of darkness that enveloped the former Republican movement; Radio Free Eireann, which he help found over 25 years ago; and of course, a great working relationship with John McDonagh, from the Times Square incident to Inwood and back down to Wall Street.
In pop culture, Brian Mór O’Baoighill will always be known as the man who illustrated the Mouse on the Barroom floor. When the twin towers were attacked in New York City, Mór drew the iconic sketch of a policeman, fireman, and emergency service worker standing on the smouldering pile, with the caption “...because it’s what we do.” To this day, it is found on t-shirts, precincts and fire stations throughout the city.
When the Irish political prisoners were on hunger strike in 1981, Mór designed wall murals in their memory, and was behind the electronic sign in Times Square sending Christmas Greetings to Irish Republican prisoners in 1983, and delighted in the fact that the U.S. ambassador to England had to answer for his artwork.
He was the official cartoonist of the Irish People Newspaper in New York City – and one of his proudest moments was when he was condemned by the House of Parliament in England for one of his drawings. In between political cartoons, Mór painted murals on the walls of bars and restaurants across the country – including the Comic Strip in New York City, a wall mural with the history of NYC at Robert Emmet’s, and Eddie Murphy’s comedy club in Miami.
Brian Mór was the go-to Irish-American graphic artist. He designed album covers for Black 47, Joannie Madden, Cherish the Ladies and Seanchie. His artwork filled both the old and new Rocky Sullivan’s Bar. Mór designed a coat of arms for Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, illustrated Christmas cards, and designed a line of Irish china. His artwork is hung in the Bloody Sunday Museum in Derry, Ireland. Mór was one of the founders of Behind the Green Curtain on WBAI, which eventually became Radio Free Erieann, and he was an active contributor until his death. Ironically earlier this year, Mór’s poster memorializing Theobald Wolfe Tone and The United Irishman, first displayed in New York City Hall, was hung in place of a picture of the Queen of England in Belfast City Hall. While Mór rallied against it being hung in a government office in Ireland still under British rule, somehow, it is fitting that it is there.
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