herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

The John Hewitt Summer School is among the best of its kind. It was housed in a wonderful castle, Garron Towers, that hung on the edge of the towering Antrim cliffs.

John Hewitt 1907-1987

The John Hewitt Summer School is among the best of its kind. It was housed in a wonderful castle, Garron Towers, that hung on the edge of the towering Antrim cliffs.

Special chefs were employed and the food was as good as a Paris restaurant. As one would expect in the North, the whole affair was meticulously organised. I shall never forget the long walks with that fine novelist Pat McCabe along those breathtaking Antrim cliffs with Scotland vaguely on the horizon, and the wonderful colours of the coast catching your eye with every stride.

John Hewitt (pictured), who the summer school is named after, is arguably the best poet to come from Ulster in our time.

A Methodist, he worked in the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery from 1935-1957 and later moved to Coventry where he became Director of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. His move had been motivated by his refusal to accept the Orange card.

As a poet, Hewitt was a protege of that great Ulsterman of letters Robert Lynd, and followed his policy of weaving the two cultures of Northern Ireland into a new tapestry.

Though he spent some years away from Belfast, it was always the centre of his being. He used to say:

"This is my home and country. Later on perhaps I will find this nation is my own".

His later years were spent in his beloved city.

He would have been pleased I think with the regionalisation solution which is driving the current political wheel.

He was a splendid poet and fine Irishman with the singing ear of his race. Here is his ode to the Irish leader James Connolly who was a hero of this complex Northerner.

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