Reflections on the Archive: Postcards from the…


October 3, 2023
Han Tiernan

For issue 40, May 1992, Anthony McGrath penned ‘Postcard from the Closet’; a 400 word op-ed piece deliberating whether or not he should come out to his nearest and dearest. He equated the ordeal to being more stressful than a first hangover, the leaving cert or visits to the tax office, believing these to “all pale in comparison.”

Musing on his intention to tell his parents, he described his mother as “a creature of habit and satanically neurotic,” who is “rigidly Catholic, with rosary beads permanently lost in her cleavage.” He believed that if he told her, she would consider it to be “a state of mind” that she would cure by spiking his “coffee with holy water from Knock.”

I don’t judge or hold up to scrutiny whatever is left of my parent’s sex life, so why should I give them the ability to do that to mine?

Although his description of his father was somewhat more benign, by the end of the piece, he resolved not to come out to them, exclaiming, “I don’t judge or hold up to scrutiny whatever is left of my parent’s sex life, so why should I give them the ability to do that to mine?”

The piece paved the way for McGrath’s ‘Postcards from the…’ to become a regular monthly column where he would wax lyrical for the following three years, amassing no less than 30 articles in the series.

His witty and often cynical meanderings covered anything from travel (‘Postcards from the… Other Place’, issue 42, July 1992) to politics (‘Postcards from the… Perv’, issue 70, February 1995) to sexual identity (‘Postcards from the… Great Divide’ issue 60, March 1994 and ‘Postcards from the… Fence’, issues 67, October 1994) and everything in between – in one article, he even threw in the kitchen sink for good measure (Postcards from the… Kitchen Sink’, issue 41, June 1992). 

In keeping with the first postcard, he didn’t shy away from addressing some hard-hitting personal issues, such as the bereavement of a friend by suicide following his HIV diagnosis (‘Postcards from the… Victim’, issue 47, December 1992) or remorse over bullying someone in school  (‘Postcards from the… Conscience’, issue 52, June 1993). Relationships also featured heavily, from seeking a partner (‘Postcards from the… Barstool’, issue 50, April 1993, and ‘Postcards from the… Candlelight Romance’, issue 58, December 1993) to the phases of a breakup (‘Postcards from the… Jilted’, issue 51, May 1993).

Although McGrath’s often acerbic tone won’t be to everyone’s liking, The ‘Postcards from the…’ series gives a fascinating insight into one man’s navigation of LGBTQ+ life in the early 90s.