Hayward with bike in “The Luck of The Irish” (1935)
Richard Hayward (1892-1964) was one of Ireland’s leading cultural figures from the middle years of the twentieth century. On the 50th anniversary of his death, the journalist and author Paul Clements looks back on his life and times, and at his connection to the Glens of Antrim, an area that that he knew well.
Hayward, who grew up in Larne, Co. Antrim, was a popular writer, actor and singer who travelled all over Ireland. He appeared in the first black-and-white Irish films in the 1930s and drove around the country recording folklore, heritage and stories.
His first major feature film, The Luck of the Irish was filmed in Glynn in 1935. Two other films, The Early Bird (1936) a country comedy, was filmed in Glenarm and Carnlough, while Devil’s Rock, a romantic drama, was shot in Cushendun in 1937. He also produced a travelogue which featured the area and will be shown at the talk along with other rare footage of Hayward’s cultural activities.
A lover of the Antrim coast, he promoted it through his travel books and in accompanying sketches with artists. He worked closely with leading artists such as James Humbert Craig, who lived at Tornamona overlooking Cushendun Bay where he devoted himself to art. Hayward also collaborated in other books with Theo Gracey and Raymond Piper. Piper’s colour sketch of the Antrim coast road appeared on the cover of Hayward’s book Ulster and the City of Belfast published in 1950.
Hayward’s songs are unknown to many today but he recorded 156 Irish folksongs and ballads with Decca and HMV, and sang regularly with Delia Murphy, known as ‘The Queen of Connemara’.
A man of boundless energy, fierce ambition, and infectious enthusiasm, Hayward opened up the country to thousands of people and his travel books capture an Ireland long gone. They are a remarkable record of a country going through dramatic social and political change before the modern era and represent thoughtful meditations on each place.
Richard Hayward was killed in a car crash at Cromkill near Ballymena on 13 October 1964 while on his way to speak on folklore to a meeting of Ballymena Rotary Club.
The talk will be given by journalist and broadcaster Paul Clements who is the author of a new biography Romancing Ireland, Richard Hayward, 1892-1964 published by Lilliput Press.
Paul works for two internationally recognised guidebooks, Fodor’s Ireland and the Rough Guide to Ireland and in the new editions has substantially increased the coverage of the Antrim coast and glens. His travel book The Height of Nonsense (2005) includes a chapter on the Antrim hills and he is also the author of Burren Country, Travels through an Irish limestone landscape (2011).