Richard Rowley (1877-1947)


Life
[pseud. of Richard Valentine Williams;], b. 2 April, Belfast; became mg.-dir. of family firm, McBride and Williams, producing cotton handkerchiefs, which folded up in 1931; Chairman of Northern Ireland Unemployment Assistance Board; issued poetry collections The City of Refuge (Dublin 1917), Workers (1923) and Sonnets for Felicity (1942); he established Mourne Press during World War II, failing in 1942;
 
he is best known for Apollo in Mourne (1926), a mock heroic play on the lines of Synge’s Playboy telling the story in which the Greek God wins and renounces the love of Mary Blane in favour of her swain Paddy Soye; his press published the first collections of Sam Hanna Bell and Michael McLaverty; lived in Newcastle, Co. Down; author of “Ballad of oul’ Kate, the Washerwoman”; d. 25 April 1947. DIW

[ top ]

Works
  • The City of Refuge and Other Poems (Dublin: Maunsel 1918), vii+80pp.;
  • Workers, poems with woodcuts by E. M. O’Reilly Dickey (London: Duckworth 1923), 39pp.;
  • The Old Gods and Other Poems (London: Duckworth 1925), 59pp. [details];
  • Apollo in Mourne (London: Duckworth 1926);
  • Selected Poems (London: Duckworth 1931), 149pp.;
  • Tales of Mourne (London: Duckworth 1937), stories [incl. ‘Apollo in Mourne’];
  • Ballads of Mourne (Dundalk: Tempest 1940), 95pp.;
  • One Cure for Sorrow and Other One-Act Plays (Newcastle, Co Down: Mourne Press 1942);
  • Sonnets for Felicity (Newcastle, Co Down: Mourne Press 1942);
  • The Big Grey Man: A Legend of Mourne, by Richard Rowley ([Newcastle, Co. Down]: The Mourne Press for the author [1942]), [8]pp., ill. [after woodcuts by Lady Mabel Annesley; 17x18cm.; incls. cit. of Seumas O’Sullivan, ed. of Dublin Magazine.]
  • The Piper of Mourne (Belfast: Derrick MacCord 1944);
  • Final Harvest [poems] (Belfast: H. R. Carter 1951), viii+27pp.
See also also Victor Price, ed. and intro., Apollo in Mourne: Poems, Plays, and Stories of Richard Rowley (Belfast: Blackstaff [1977]), 137pp.
[ top ]

Bibliographical details
The Old Gods and Other Poems (London: Duckworth 1925), 59pp. [ded. to Stephen Gwynn; title poem ded. AE, pp.16-18: [‘The dark by mystic light is filled;/Heaven’s windows in grim factories shine;/With all his bricks he cannot build/A wall to shut out the Divine’]; also ‘Come Away!’, p.43; author of The City of Refuge; Lily Says; Workers; County Down Songs, woodcuts by Lady Mabel Annesley.

The Big Grey Man: A Legend of Mourne, by Richard Rowley ([Newcastle, Co. Down]: The Mourne Press for the author [1942]), [8]pp., ill. [after woodcuts by Lady Mabel Annesley; 17x18cm.; incls. cit. of Seumas O’Sullivan.]

[ top ]

Commentary
Terence Brown, Northern Voices, Poets from Ulster (1975), pp.76-83: ‘Rowley’s verse evokes the life of an industrial city [compared with later poems showing] the bleak desolation of peasant life observed without comment or apparent commitment; at each stage of his career a skilled, conscientious craftsman.’ Brown cites collections, The City of Refuge (1917); City Songs (1918), Workers (1923); also quotes poems, ‘The Old Gods’; ‘The Audience’; ‘The Lagan’; ‘March Winds’; ‘Machinery’; The Islandmen’; ‘Luck Come too Late’; ‘Clanawhillan’; ‘April’;

[ top ]

Quotations
The words I speak, my written line,/These are not uniquely mine,/For in my heart, and in my will/Old ancestors are warring still.’ (Quoted in John J. Horgan, Parnell to Pearse: Some recollections and reflections, Browne & Nolan 1948, c.p.8). [Check author.]

[ top ]

References
Donagh MacDonagh [ed., & intro.], Poems from Ireland (Dublin: The Irish Times 1944), contains a short biography citing him as a Belfast man who has published a dozen books of verse; founded in 1942 the Mourne Press and published there some interesting and significant books.

Robert Hogan, Dictionary of Irish Literature (Greenwood Publ. 1996), cites AE [George Russell], review of Workers, in Irish Homstead, 12 May 1933): ‘[T]here are no illusions about the life he depicts’.

Belfast Public Library holds 15 titles including Apollo in Mourne (1926); Ballads of Mourne (1940, 1949); The City of Refuge and other poems (1917); County Down Songs (1924, 1942); The Old Gods (1925); One Cure for Sorrow, and other one act plays (1948); Selected Poems (1931); Tales of Mourne (1937).

[ top ]