Exhibition honours life of Richard Hayward

Richard Hayward leading a party from Belfast Naturalists' Field Club to Sligo from Belfast City Hall, Easter 1961
Richard Hayward leading a party from Belfast Naturalists' Field Club to Sligo from Belfast City Hall, Easter 1961
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A new exhibition celebrating the life of writer, singer and actor Richard Hayward is to be shown at Larne Museum & Arts Centre.

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 folk songs, and played the harp.

His literary talents ranged from poetry, novel writing and journalism, to penning travel books on Ireland. In between times, he sold sweets for Fox’s Glacier Mints and Needler’s Chocolates.

Paul Clements, who has written a biography of Hayward and will speak at the opening night of the exhibition, described Hayward as a ‘superstar’ of his time, but one that had been ‘‘completely neglected”.

‘‘He was one of the best known men of his time, appearing in those early films – one or two of them went to America and they did well in Ireland and Britain. What intrigued me was how his name could just have disappeared.’’

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.

Mr Clements said his interest in Hayward was really stirred by the travel books that he wrote.

‘‘Richard Hayward wrote 11 travel books about Ireland, which is a fantastic achievement. I wondered how he managed to do that at the same time as he made some of the earliest films ever made in Ireland in the 1930s.’’

Mr Clements said much of Hayward’s 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.

‘‘Richard Hayward was very much an all-Ireland man, even though he lived in Belfast and was an Ulsterman There’s two ties in the exhibition – one tie has the red hand of Ulster on it and the other tie has the green harp of Ireland on it ... it’s a great little crossover I think,’’ added Mr Clements.

The free exhibition runs from November 15 to December 31.