Larne Museum and Arts Centre is paying tribute to the life of Richard Hayward by hosting a major exhibition from 15 November to 31 December.
Richard Hayward (1892-1964) was raised and educated in Larne, a town which, along with the Antrim coast, held a special affection in his heart. Although born in Lancashire, his family moved to Larne in the mid-1890s.
Hayward went on to become one of Ireland’s leading cultural figures during the middle decades of the 20th century. His later fame was in no small measure due to the formative years of his upbringing in Larne.
In a busy career, he was a renowned writer, singer, actor and film-star, as well as a broadcaster, folklorist and tour guide. He recorded Orange ballads and traditional Irish folksongs, and played the harp.
His literary talents ranged from poetry, novel writing, and journalism, to penning 11 travel books on Ireland. In between times, he sold sweets for Fox’s Glacier Mints and Needler’s Chocolates.
In the 1930s his major feature film, ‘The Luck of the Irish,’ was made in Glynn, while ‘The Early Bird’ was filmed in Glenarm and Carnlough, and ‘Devil’s Rock’ was made in Cushendun.
Much of his singing and dialect-collecting centred on Co. Antrim and his two Ulster travel books showed his love for the area, in particular Islandmagee and the Gobbins which featured in his early poetry.
The exhibition is hosting a considerable amount of material which has not been seen for many decades. This includes personal effects such as his travel trunk and suitcase, his ties and other clothing, as well as many rare photographs.
The display features seldom-seen sketches by the landscape artist James Humbert Craig., who lived in Cushendun and illustrated Hayward’s best-known book In Praise of Ulster (1938).
The drawings range across Antrim mountains and glens, coastal scenes, green roads and the castles at Dunluce and Carrickfergus..
Many exhibits reflect Hayward’s connection to Larne, where he was educated at the Grammar School in the early 1900s, and his involvement 50 years later with the Larne Old Grammarians’ Association. Highlights include a bronze cast sculpted portrait head and a stoneware jug designed from a mould by his artist-friend Raymond Piper.
The exhibition reflects his wide circle of friends, his membership of diverse organisations, and his intense and productive life in which he left behind a remarkable body of work through his writing and recordings.
His flamboyant personality is on display throughout the exhibition. Visitors can listen to him playing the harp, watch his acting in films, hear him singing Orange ballads for which he was celebrated, and performing with Delia Murphy and the champion fiddler Sean Maguire. There is also a rare television recording of him speaking.
The exhibition is being held in the John Clifford Room; John Clifford was the curator of Larne Historical Centre, and a poet and actor who wrote one-act kitchen country plays. In the 1930s he became friendly with Hayward, appearing in his play ‘The Early Bird.’ In later years Hayward enjoyed revisiting Larne and striking up old friendships, giving talks to Larne Round Table and Larne Rotary Club.
John Clifford described Hayward as ‘one of the great Ulstermen and a true Co. Antrim personality’. Clifford became a civil servant in London and his enthusiasm for his friend from Larne led to his naming his son Raymond Hayward Clifford in his honour.
‘Richard Hayward’s East Antrim’ has been curated by Larne Museum and Arts Centre in conjunction with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where Hayward’s main archive is held, and the Linenhall Library, Belfast.
The exhibition runs from Friday 15 November – Thursday 31 December 2019; opening hours are Monday – Friday 10am - 4.30pm, and entry is free. Paul Clements will give a talk on Hayward’s East Antrim at the museum on Friday 6 December at 7.30pm.
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