Intriguing life story of WG Lyttle told in new book by his great grandson

The story of the man behind Bangor’s first newspaper, who was also the first person in Ulster to teach shorthand, has been told by his great grandson.

Monday, 29th November 2021, 4:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 1:30 pm
AG Lyttle reads from his new biography of his great grandfather WG Lyttle – ‘The Storyteller’
AG Lyttle reads from his new biography of his great grandfather WG Lyttle – ‘The Storyteller’

Wesley Greenhill Lyttle started the North Down Herald in 1880 and edited the paper which was soon to become the Bangor Gazette. He was also an acclaimed novelist, a writer of comic short stories in Ulster-Scots and a popular stage entertainer.

His great grandson AG (Tony) Lyttle has written a book which details WG’s major achievements of which there are many.

He launched the book with support from the Ulster-Scots Agency and Ards and North Down Borough Council in the Ards Arts Centre last week.

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WG Lyttle was the author of 'Betsy Gray' and performed his short stories in Ulster-Scots. He was also founder and editor of the Bangor Gazette

Tony said: “Five years ago I wrote a historical thriller Dillon’s Rising, set at the time of the Easter Rising in Dublin. As soon as I’d finished that I started into the biography on my great grandfather WG Lyttle.

“Sadly I never met him, indeed my own father never met him either. My grandfather Roland passed on all the anecdotes to my dad who passed them onto me.

“He was a prominent citizen and an important writer in Ulster-Scots, who deserves to have his life story told. The more I looked into it the more intriguing and interesting his story is.

Tony, 74, said: “He was the first shorthand teacher in Ulster. That would have been around 1864.

“He also started a circulating library. They didn’t have municipal libraries in those days, people would club together to become of a library, depending on what subscription they paid they could borrow maybe one, or two, or three books at a time.

“And he set up an accountancy business which continued after he started a newspaper.

“In his spare time he joined the Good Temperance. He started his own lodge, it helped alcoholics to reform.

“While he was doing all these different jobs he was writing his comical short stories. He started performing them on stage at concerts that the Temperance arranged.”

WG Lyttle’s most famous novel is ‘Betsy Gray’, while he also published short stories as ‘Robin’s Readings’. Robin was WG’s alter-ego, a farmer from the Ards Peninsula who performed the stories on stage in Ulster-Scots.

Tony said: “When he appeared on stage to perform his stories he dressed as Robin. The alter-ego took over, Robin became more famous than WG.”

Together with ‘The Storyteller’ Tony has released a set of three companion volumes – Robin’s Readings, Robin’s Further Readings and Robin’s Rhymes, featuring the works of WG Lyttle.

All four books are available on Amazon via the following link – The Storyteller – and from the Ulster-Scots Agency in Belfast.

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Ben Lowry