Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Mary Beckett: Literary world mourning loss of top woman writer

Belfast-born writer Mary Beckett
Belfast-born writer Mary Beckett

One of Ireland's finest writers, Belfast-born Mary Beckett, has died aged 87.

The award-winning author, who captured the voice of ordinary women, was best known for the novel Give Them Stones, and her short story books A Belfast Woman and A Literary Woman.

Born in Belfast in 1926 and educated at St Mary's Training College, she was a former primary school teacher, as well as a writer for the BBC and literary magazines in Belfast, Cork and Dublin.

In 1980, Poolbeg Press in Ireland brought out a collection of her short stories, A Belfast Woman, followed in 1987 by her first novel, Give them Stones, published by Bloomsbury.

Her next collection for Bloomsbury, A Literary Woman, was described by the Sunday Times as "a striking collection... immensely effective".

She also wrote children's books, including A Family Tree, and Hannah Or Pink Balloons.

Last night, Damian Smith, head of literature and drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute to the writer. He said she put Belfast "right up there in the world rank of literature".

He said: "I go back to the 1980s when A Belfast Woman came out. It was the first time I ever saw the word Belfast on the front of a book, a collection of short stories. It was a very stark title.

"Coming from a culture of a lot of male writers, this was a new voice from an unexpected place.

"Her work was very distinctive and her themes were very different; she was writing about ordinary people, about women."

Mr Smith said she would be remembered as "one of the leading Irish writers".

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