Born within the pre-partitioned north in 1886, the identical yr Belfast noticed severe sectarian rioting, Carnduff was a Sandy Row-raised, Dublin-educated Orangeman who signed the 1912 Ulster Covenant, served in World Struggle I, and had his first main play Staff staged on the nationwide theatre of Eire, the Abbey, in 1932.
He was a shipyard employee at all times content material to explain himself as Irish, who labored many alternative jobs in between intervals on the dole — all in all, one who actually captures the sophisticated layers of identification that make up Northern Eire!
Regardless of his ‘loyal’ background and dedication to the Impartial Orange Order, it was reported that Carnduff helped Catholic employees escape over the River Lagan through the shipyard expulsions of 1920.
His reminiscences of Workman Clark’s ‘wee Yard’ gave rise to quite a few poems, typically underscored by a way of loss.
In ‘Reflections of a Shipyardman’, he described how ‘We miss the creaking stage that swayed / Above the swirling flood, and we / Gaze on the gantry’s peak afraid – / Oh shades of Harland! Should or not it’s!’.
He despatched his work to then-Poet Laureate John Masefield, who wrote again encouragingly to Carnduff, requesting that ‘you’d write to me extra tales, of this life on the ships and within the yards’.
A society named after Carnduff has since 2019 staged month-to-month ‘Yard Classes’ on the EastSide Arts customer centre, the place individuals gathered to learn their inventive work and extracts from writers they admire. I used to be fortunate sufficient to attend the ultimate occasion in March 2020, earlier than the pandemic paused the whole lot. It was a novel environment the place aspiring and established authors blended with people, at completely different phases, from completely different communities, a 50/50 gender steadiness – all in a welcoming house. Atypical life lived by way of the written phrase is valued on the expense of hype and literary ego.
Class-consciousness is crucial. Too typically in Northern Eire, literature and the humanities are the protect of the well-heeled, fashion-chasing commentators, and gatekeepers of the cultural and political institutions: satirically, the identical forces Thomas Carnduff confronted his complete life.
Certainly, one of many hanging options of revisiting Carnduff is the best way his struggles stay related. The burden of unemployment, a precarious existence on social welfare, and anti-working-class prejudice are nonetheless obstacles for any author (particularly from a disadvantaged background) at the moment dwelling in Northern Eire.
They’re, in truth, the challenges of most employees.
You could find out extra about Carnduff at a web based lecture organized by the Linen Corridor Library subsequent Monday (January 18 at 7pm), which can be adopted by readings from the Society’s common attendees.
The Linen Corridor is a becoming (digital) host, as Carnduff’s ultimate job was because the library’s caretaker, surrounded by the books he liked within the damp chilly of his aged working life.
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