Brian Anson – “a revolutionary for social justice” buried in Magheragallon Cemetery, Gweedore, Donegal

In Mahgeragallon cemetery, where my father, uncle, maternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents are buried, I came across the grave of Brian Anson. It is beside eight commonwealth war graves (three of which are unidentified)

The inscription describes Anson as “a revolutionary for social justice” – the Irish words below mean “may the blessing of the Virgin Mary be on him.”

I had not heard of Anson. The first link I found was an obituary from The Guardian by no less than Richard Rogers:

The architect and planner Brian Anson, who has died of a heart attack aged 74, was tireless in his battles for the rights of those whose problems others overlooked or thought insurmountable. He was driven by a profound understanding of, and sympathy for, the underdog.

He was born and brought up in Bootle, the docklands area of north Liverpool. It was a tough area in tough times, yet Brian saw how humour and solidarity kept the community together. He was educated at Bootle grammar school and went on to study architecture at Manchester University. He worked as an architect and planner in Liverpool and Dublin in the mid-60s, then arrived at the Greater London council in 1967 as a deputy principal planner for the Covent Garden design team. He later recorded his efforts to save Covent Garden in the book I’ll Fight You for It, published in 1981.

More information on the Gweedore connection is provided at this Indymedia page:

He was invited by the community of Gaoth Dobhair, Donegal to propose suggestions for the retention of a culture and a language under siege by inept planning authorities. A dossier was published, outlining coherent plans for future development. It was a plan which had grown from the roots of the community and despite having a lack of the Irish-Gaelic language, Anson portrayed a deep and profound understanding for the people and their history, with a future full of hope. He envisioned a community that would become self dependent over time, utilising and mobilising it’s innate skills and practices. It was rejected however, as being far too radical

The blog Contested Territories, the academic blog of Paul Bower, has several fascinating pages on Anson, with a focus on his work in the Divis Flats in Belfast:

Brian Anson, the Northern Ireland conflict and Wallace and Gromit.

Revolution Begins in the Basement

and one which I think I will reblog shortly:

“We should sing the Land Song again”

Finally, here are some more images of Anson’s grave, which hopefully give it more context in the graveyard (and in the wider landscape)

3 Thoughts

    1. Dai thank you so much for this comment, your other longer comment which was fascinating also got emailed to me but seems not to be on WordPress. Maybe a technical issue or perhaps you decided to withdraw it which is fine… if not I am happy to.put it up. I am travelling for a bit so might be a couple of weeks. Thanks for reading, Séamus



    I pretty much have to use everything that I write – constructing an omnibus – I used what I wrote for you later in the evening and slapped it into the bottom of that post – and shared it with a couple of others – one bitterly dismissive reply – people want to forget 1981 in The UK and move on – but things are much the same as they were in ” The Non-Political System ” that I have dubbed it – Brian was saying the same sorts of things to me when I was a student representative in Schools of Architecture Council fighting The Royal Institute of Building Anything ( for money ) – The Architects Revolutionary Council were I think over the top – and ” Marxists ” but that is The Architectural Association for you – but I still pretty much share the same views as Brian – only back then it was as a starry eyed student enjoying The Republican Rhetoric about ARC fighting for The People etc – since then I also found myself defending my own community against Cardiff Bay Develoment Corporation – the same experience that The People in London described – but in Wales investment was never forthcoming and twenty years after it was wound up we are still trying to raise the wreck – the whole community is still submerged at the bottom of a ocean of misery – unemployment, poverty, drugs, prostitution etc – now getting progressively worse year by year with many pale scabby homeless people sleeping in doorways in the city centre, begging, harassing and threatening etc … I deal with a lot of stressful stuff – by joking on Y Repwblic !

    Community architecture is effectively dead and the housing cooperatives are dying because big businessmen discovered rivers of cash flowing into housing associations from Y Senedd which chose to bail out the property developers bankrupted in the slump ten years or so ago instead of investing in social housing – crazy or what ? – The last time that I was in Eire I was looking around at the emerging boom in property there and pondering what was driving it – and wishing that our builders are as good as yours – from what I understand of it the chronic property inflation in England – and London is the epicentre of this – is being driven by The Russian Mafia laundering the proceeds of organised crime – you think Ireland has a problem with half-built spec-built empty houses ? – In London the poor are sleeping on the streets next to mansions standing empty and rotting – some of them important historical buildings – waiting to be sold on to the next ” speculator ” in the chains of sales which launder the roubles into dollars, pounds and euros … Brian must be furious – but then he is probably plotting to overthrow God and establish The Republic in Heaven – whilst demanding to know why the angels are on zero hour contracts and reminiscing about how The Nectar tastes better in Ireland etc etc … anyhow – if you care to – have a read of my left of centre ” YippY Republican ” shaggy dragon stories etc …


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