Your readers may be aware that the Connswater Community Greenway Project has announced the shortlist of five names for a popular vote on the naming of a new pedestrian bridge in Victoria Park, to link the park to the Harbour Estate and Titanic Quarter.
Along with a few others, I submitted the name of the Ballymacarrett-born playwright Sam Thompson, which I am pleased to say has made the shortlist.
Voting on the naming of the new pedestrian bridge is open to all UK residents. Voting must be done by October 9, either online at www.communitygreenway.co.uk/NametheBridge or by attending in person at one of the following Name The Bridge centres and by filling out an official voting form:
Avoniel Leisure Centre,
East Belfast Partnership,
Inverary Community Centre,
Holywood Arches Library,
Cregagh Road Library,
The literary achievements of Sam Thompson cannot be fully covered in a letter like this, but in summary I proposed him because he was born in Ballymacarrett (on May 21, 1916) and worked in the shipyard as a painter and later in Belfast Corporation, now Belfast City Council, where he was a shop steward.
He was a committed democratic socialist and political activist for the NI Labour Party.
His plays dealt with the then-taboo subjects of sectarianism, religious discrimination and electoral malpractice.
His best-known work , ‘Over the Bridge’ (1960), staged amid great controversy, was seen by over 40,000 people in Belfast, the largest number for any play before or since – a landmark in our cultural history and prophetic of the Troubles. The Northern Ireland theatre was never to be the same again.
Tragically, he died prematurely of a heart attack at the age of 48 on February 15, 1965.
The epitaph on his gravestone reads, ‘His was the voice of many men’.
Councillor Claire Hanna
SDLP, Belfast City Council