Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

William Robert Rodgers (1909 - 1969):
Cleric, Presbyterian, poet and broadcaster

W.R. Rodgers

WR Rodgers was a Presbyterian minister who latterly became known as a poet and broadcaster.

William Robert Rodgers was born in Belfast, son of Robert Skelly Rodgers and Jane Ferris McCarey. He was educated at Ballymacarrett Elementary School and Queen's University, Belfast, where graduated BA in English. He proceeded to Assembly’s College, Belfast, to study for the Presbyterian Ministry, was ordained in 1935 serving as Minister of Cloveneden Presbyterian Church at Loughgall, County Armagh, as Presbyterian minister from 1934 to 1946, taking leave of absence for a year (1943-1944) which he spent in Oxford, writing and working for the BBC. His article, Black North, was published in the New Statesman (a left-leaning political journal) in 1943, and attracted some criticism in his congregation for its argument that the Northern Ireland Government tended to exploit socio-religious divisions in order to retain power.  His first volume of verse Awake! and Other Poems appeared in 1941. He joined the BBC in 1946 as a scriptwriter and producer for the Third Programme. He was especially associated with features of Irish literary interest. He collaborated with Louis MacNeice in the unpublished The Character of Ireland. In 1951 he was elected to the Irish Academy of Letters, and in 1952 produced his second collection of poetry, Europa and the Bull.

Rodgers resigned from the BBC in 1952 but continued to contribute to its programmes. These pioneered oral literary history and a form of sound montage called the “Rodgers technique”. These were published as Irish Literary Portraits in 1972. From 1967 to 1969 he was Poet-in-Residence at Pitzer College, Clairmont, California, where he died on 1 February 1969. He was renowned as a conversationalist and remembered by one reviewer as “a gentle genius”. His funeral took place at Ballymacarrett (the poet and future Noel Laureate Seamus Heaney read at the ceremony) and he was interred at Loughgall. 

Born: 1 August 1909
Died: 1 February 1969
Patrick Devlin

Additional research: Richard Froggatt

(See also) Roger Courtney, Dissenting Voices (Belfast, Ulster Historical Foundation, 2014)