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An Ulster Log: NI man who helped famed novel take flight

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 22/08/2015

Charles Monteith and William Golding
Charles Monteith and William Golding
Nao Sakuma
Forgotten heroes: Ulster’s dead

The late William Golding, author of Lord Of The Flies, would never have got his book - which helped earn him a Nobel Prize - published if he hadn't received a good deal of help from an Ulsterman.

Lisburn-born Charles Monteith, head of publishing at Faber and Faber, came to the writer's rescue after the novel had been rejected by more than 20 other houses. He persuaded Golding to edit out the opening sequence of a nuclear explosion and change the title from Strangers From Within to Lord Of The Flies, a title that has Biblical connections.

Eventually after a slow sales start it became a classic and resulted in Golding (above right with Monteith), who died in 1993 at 82, receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983.

His story is about a group of British boys marooned on a desert island after a plane crash who try to rule themselves with disastrous results. The background is a nuclear explosion and there is evil all around.

Apparently Golding was inspired to write the novel by one of my favourite books, The Coral Island (1858), in which RM Ballentyne tells the story of three boys pitched up on a desert island in the South Pacific after a shipwreck and the adventures that followed.

I have to confess, I've never been able to read Lord Of The Flies, published first in 1954 at a time when the world was threatened by the possibility of a nuclear war. I've never been to one of the three films of the book, either.

Monteith, educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, was a legendary figure at Faber and Faber. His time at Oxford was interrupted during World War Two, where he served in India and Burma with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was seriously wounded. Back on civvy street he joined Faber in 1953 and was chairman from 1977 until 1980. Another Nobel winner whose poetry he published is Seamus Heaney.

He also introduced Samuel Beckett to Faber. Not bad for a man who at Oxford, was looked on as coarse and lacking in taste, says an admirer, Ed Goodall, a former lecturer at Queen's University, Belfast. Goodall's father Gus, who died in 2007 at 83, served in India with Monteith. They were there on August 15, 1945, when America dropped two atomic bombs with horrific results in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

How Nao's mum helps to keep her on her toes

It all began as a hobby for ballet dancer Nao Sakuma, the Japanese principal who will be starring in Swan Lake at the Grand Opera House in Belfast from Wednesday, November 4, until Saturday, November 7.

Her mum spotted that Nao was in a different class at the Michiko Komori Ballet School in Fukuoka and persuaded her daughter to take dancing up as a career when she had teaching in mind.

Nao ultimately proved her mother right by becoming the principal at the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2002.

"It was my favourite hobby until one day mum told me I had real talent and I started to believe in myself," Nao explains.

She was offered a place in the Royal Ballet School. Cinderella is her favourite role.

Recalling the fallen Ulstermen at Gallipoli

The Gallipoli campaign of World War One in which many Irish soldiers fought and gave their all is almost forgotten, writers Philip Orr and Nigel Henderson will tell you.

So they have set out to redress that situation in From Ulster To The Dardanelles, published by the War Memorial Museum in Belfast at £8.

The tome focuses on several individuals from the nine-county province of Ulster, who served in the campaign and explains why so many men of the 10th Irish were there and why here, as the 100th anniversary of the campaign is being commemorated, it has faded from memory.

"A century ago, soldiers from every county in Ireland were about to fight at Gallipoli and many would not return as they faced the gunfire of a formidable Turkish enemy," says Philip Orr.

"We owe it to their memory to acknowledge these men, so many years after the event.

"Men from this island lost their lives struggling against an unfamiliar foe.

"The graveyards of Gallipoli feature all too many local names."

Does anyone know who Alf was?

H. A. Piehler wrote a book called Ireland For Everyman in 1938 and, published by J Dent & Company, it sold for half-a-crown (two old shillings and sixpence). Piehler also wrote Everyman books about England, Scotland and Wales - all historical guides.

I mention Piehler today because Martie Kennedy of Lisburn has just found one of his books about Ireland when clearing out a house.

And she has stumbled on a little mystery - a letter tucked in between the pages, apparently from Piehler to a friend called Alfred, who lived on the Lisburn Road, Belfast, thanking him for proof-reading the book.

So who was this Alf and what is the connection with writer Piehler?

Eric's nursing a life-long hobby

A collection of nursing badges will go on show in an antiques and collectors fair on Saturday, September 5 (9am-4pm), at Windsor Presbyterian Church on Belfast's Lisburn Road.

The badges belong to former lecturer on nursing Eric Wilkinson, who has gathered them over a period of several years.

Eric will also be giving a talk and answering questions on nursing. And if you have a badge to add to his collection, he'll be glad to talk to you.

Just thinking, I've never heard of a nursing exhibition of this kind before.

Evil deeds in this Demon's tale

Former lecturer turned writer Ed Goodall, has written an intriguing novel about a nurse who died in mysterious circumstances. He calls it A Demon's Goodbye and it's already available on Kindle and will be published soon by Blueberry Press.

The story is based on fact, explains Ed. The action takes place on the long, winding path that leads down to the old Throne Hospital from the Antrim Road in Belfast. The nurse in the tale was found hanged from a tree. But did she commit suicide or was she murdered?

Nobody was ever charged in connection with the young lady's death, but Ed has done a lot of research and has come up with some interesting theories.

Belfast Telegraph

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