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John Harold Hewitt (1907 - 1987):
Poet


John Hewitt

John Hewitt was born at 96 Cliftonpark Avenue, Belfast, on 28th October 1907 the only son of Robert Telford Hewitt and his wife Elinor Robinson, and educated at Agnes Street National School (where is father was principal), Methodist College, and Queen's University, Belfast, where he took a BA in English. He also briefly attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Stranmillis College.

From 1930 to 1957 Hewitt worked in the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery, and while living at 18 Mountcharles published his first substantial book of poems, No Rebel Word (1948). (He had earlier published two small pamphlets, Conacre in 1943 and Compass: Two Poems in 1944.) In 1957, having been passed over for the directorship of the Museum, supposedly because of his left-wing views, he resigned from his position there and took up the post of Art Director of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, where he stayed until his retirement in 1972.

There were further publications during these years - including Collected Poems 1932 -1967 in 1968 - but his most productive period followed his retirement, when he moved back to Belfast to live at 11 Stockman's Lane. During that time he published seven new poetry collections, a book on the rhyming weaver-poets of Antrim and Down, and monographs on the artists John Luke and Colin Middleton. Between 1976 and 1979 he was the first writer-in-residence at Queen's University, Belfast, and in 1983 was made a freeman of the City of Belfast.

 Hewitt described himself as a "man of the left" and with his wife Roberta was involved with organisations like the British Labour Party, The Fabian Society, the Left Book Club and the Peace League. He was an early advocate of the idea of regionalism inside Ireland and notably described himself as "Ulster, Irish, British and European." He stood in a direct line of descent from the political liberals of 1798. In 1978 the Arts Council for Northern Ireland produced a short film about John Hewitt, and he was awarded honorary doctorates from both the University of Ulster and Queen's University, Belfast. His lasting contribution to the arts in Ulster is recognised in the annual John Hewitt International Summer School. He died on 27 June 1987.



Born: 28 October 1907
Died: 27 June 1987
Wesley McCann