An exhibition celebrating the life of one of Larne’s most famous sons is being held at Larne library to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death.
Singer, actor and travel writer Richard Hayward was one of Ireland’s best-known cultural figures of the early twentieth century.
However, since his death in 1964, he has faded from view.
Speaking at the event was author Paul Clements, who recently launched his new book ‘Romancing Ireland: Richard Hayward, 1892-1964.’ The author told The Times that Hayward, born in Lancashire, was heavily influenced by his childhood in Larne, where his family moved when he was three years old, and where he became ‘soaked in Irish songs and stories.’
Paul revealed: “Hayward became a lover of Ireland, which started in his youth in Larne. He was very influenced by ballad singers on the streets like Percy French, who wrote ‘The Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea.’ He was also influenced by the family’s maid from Monaghan. She sang traditional Irish songs, and he was captivated. He fell in love with the romantic side of Ireland, its culture and people.”
The family originally lived at Beach Vista, then moved to Chelmsford Place at Sandy Bay and finally to Silverstream in Greenisland. Recalling the characters of his childhood, including hotel founder Henry MacNeill, Hayward reminisced: “The architect and deviser of Larne’s bounty of swarming thousands from Lancashire and Yorkshire, dear old Henry MacNeill, old ‘Knock-’em-Down’ as he was known to everyone, what a character was he.
“Many a shilling he gave me, all unknown to my elders, and I should blush to say that I was unmannerly enough to accept his gifts.”
Hayward attended Miss Cunningham’s school on Main Street, then Carrickfergus Model Primary School. But it was at Larne Grammar School, where Hayward was a boarder, that his enthusiasm for drama was nurtured.
Hayward also studied naval architecture, and watched the launch of RMS Titanic in 1911. He wrote: “On the stroke of twelve, with the sound and fury of a thousand steam-hammers, and as the Titanic started to move down the slipway I was almost hurled into the street below. Panic came back to me with redoubled force, and as I suddenly realized that eleven more devastating blows were to follow I thought I was lost indeed. But somehow the second stroke seemed less fierce than the first, and long before the last of the dozen had sounded I was so absorbed in the spectacle of the launch that I was listening, not to a noisy gong, but to a great chorus of horns and sirens and hooters that came swelling up from all over the area of the docks and quays and beyond.”
The exhibition will be at Larne Library until August 4.
In future Larne Times, read about Hayward’s film, music and writing careers.