Belfast Telegraph

Larne reclaiming singer Richard Hayward who loved Orange and Irish music

Richard Hayward and two of his book covers, including Border Foray
Richard Hayward and two of his book covers, including Border Foray
A cover of one of Richard Hayward's books
Richard Hayward
A cover of one of Richard Hayward's books
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Larne is reclaiming a famous son this month with a new exhibition on the much-loved actor, singer and travel writer Richard Hayward.

Born in Southport in 1892, he was raised and educated in Larne and rose to popularity with starring roles in films like The Luck of the Irish (1936).

As a proud Ulsterman, he enjoyed a cross-community appeal as a popular balladeer of both Orange and Irish songs.

His travel writing and guided tours also introduced thousands to a wider understanding of the island of Ireland. He passed away in 1964.

This included his whimsical take on the Irish border (Border Foray 1957), which recounted one memorable crossing.

"I shall never forget the occasion when I approached a quiet part of the border in my car and knocked at the door of the Customs Hut to have my triptyque scrutinised and stamped," he wrote.

"It was nearly six o'clock of a fine summer's evening and there was no response. But a farmer near the end of his labour in an adjoining field saw what I was at and called out to me: 'You needn't knock there, mister. Sure there's no border at this time of the day: the man's away for his tay'."

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Journalist and writer Paul Clements wrote a biography on Hayward (Romancing Ireland, 2015) and will be speaking about his life tomorrow at 7.30pm in the Larne Museum and Arts Centre. "I think he's been forgotten about over the last two generations. Although he was an Ulsterman, he was very much an all-Ireland man," he said.

"He became a member of the Orange Order in the later years of his life and was really known as the original Orange balladeer.

"Hayward played the harp as well. The curious thing is that he was taught how to play by two nuns at a convent in Lisburn."

The new exhibition has delved into the Richard Hayward archive at the Ulster Folk and Transport museum. "This includes some of his clothes which haven't been seen for decades," said Mr Clements.

"Two ties of his stood out. One has the beautiful red hand of Ulster and the other has an Irish harp. So that epitomises the man for me, he represented both Ulster and Ireland."

He added: "I don't think there's anyone like Richard Hayward today. Most people now specialise and Richard Hayward jumped around so many different projects.

"He was very popular and very highly thought of, I've seen pictures of long queues at the cinema in the 1930s to see his films. But not everybody liked Hayward, especially some of the academics.

"They thought he should specialise in one thing and didn't have a lot of time for his research.

"One man who was on a field trip with him said when Hayward was speaking about the rocks and wildflowers of The Burren in Co Clare, if he didn't know it, he made it up... if the experts hadn't made it up before, he did.

"So, the exhibition is really about Larne claiming Richard Hayward back, as he has been badly neglected and forgotten about."

The exhibition is open from 10am-4.30pm, Monday to Saturday, at the Larne Museum and Arts Centre till December 31.

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