Romancing Ireland

Richard Hayward 1892 -1964

By: Paul Clements

Publication Date: 12 June 2015

(3 customer reviews)


Richard Hayward was one of Ireland’s best-loved cultural figures of the mid-twentieth century. A popular Irish travel writer, actor and singer, he led an intense and productive life, leaving behind a remarkable body of work through his writing and recordings. However, since his death in a car crash in1964, the man who was a celebrated Irish household name has suffered neglect.

Born in Southport, Lancashire, Richard Hayward was raised in Larne on the Antrim coast. He buried his English past and devoted his days to promoting Ireland. As a pioneering filmmaker, he appeared in the first black-and-white Irish ‘talkies’ and broke new ground in his BBC radio work alongside Tyrone Guthrie. On Radio Éireann, he sang with Delia Murphy and recorded with Decca and HMV. In his travel books and enthusiasms, Hayward opened up an unknown Ireland to thousands of people.

Published to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Romancing Ireland draws extensively on Hayward’s original notebooks, private papers and hitherto unpublished letters. They reveal a man with an explosive temper whose detractors envied his success. Paul Clements brings to life the flamboyant personality, laced with hubris, of a largely forgotten figure who contributed a cosy and unthreatening narrative to the construction of an Irish cultural world. Romancing Ireland exposes fascinating details and rare photographs that have lain unseen for decades. It uncovers an extraordinary man with limitless energy and passionate perceptions, who captured a newly independent Ireland in all its changing hues.


Paul Clements is a travel writer and broadcaster. He is the author of three books on Ireland: Irish Shores: A Journey Round the Rim of Ireland (1993), The Height of Nonsense: The Ultimate Irish Road Trip (2005), and Burren Country: Travels Through an Irish Limestone Landscape (2011). He has written and edited two books on travel writer and historian Jan Morris, and is a contributing writer to Fodor’s Guide Ireland and Insight Guide Ireland. A former BBC journalist, he is a Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford and lives in Belfast.

Maureen O’Hara dips into Hayward’s Corrib travel book during the filming of The Quiet Man in 1951.

‘This detailed and affectionate account of Richard Hayward’s life restores a measure of prominence to a long-neglected figure.’ The Irish Times

Also available as an ebook

3 reviews for Romancing Ireland

  1. Lilliput Press

    “This biography constitutes an amazing piece of research and a delightful reading. Written by an author who has numerous books to his credit, Romancing Ireland: Richard Hayward 1892-1964 is abundantly illustrated with photographs and drawings from the talented artist Raymond Piper.
    Seldom can the readers perceive the soul of a place through the life of a warm and attaching man with such an array of experiences. Although born in Lancashire, Richard Hayward grew up in the county of Antrim and devoted himself to promote Ireland, both north and south, by his multiple talents. Having a romance with this country, his existence was a vibrant testimony of the quote: « Home is where the heart is. »” HELENE LAVERY

  2. Lilliput Press

    “When my sister and I were kids, in the 1950s and 1960s, family holidays were always to some part of Ireland that we hadn’t been to before. Our father always had a copy of Richard Hayward’s guide with him, one of the ‘This is Ireland’ series and used it to plan where we were going to visit and what we were going to see. So, I fondly imagined that Hayward was a travel writer.

    Well, that fond imagining was totally shaken when I started to read this biography. I’d no idea that Richard Hayward had been a singer, an actor, a theatrical impresario, a film producer and so much more. Indeed, his travel books came after his careers in these other fields had rather faded.

    As I read about his early career, I thought this biography was ‘workmanlike’; this implies that it is a minute retelling of all those events, if not quite down to the laundry lists, well not far off. (The laundry bill in Finland comes much later.) That is, rather plodding and stodgy; perhaps it is, perhaps it’s just that this phase of Hayward’s life doesn’t interest me so much.

    But things really get going with his travelogues; I found the descriptions of how he worked fascinating, at times I wished for more detail.

    It’s a bit hard to know what to make of Hayward; the author doesn’t offer much in the way of his own opinions, relying much more on the word of others. Hayward was certainly outgoing, friends with all, a keen networker, an enthusiast in all that interested him. Yet it’s possible to see other parts; Hayward’s main interest at times seems to have been Hayward, a self-promotion if you like. Did he join a posh Orange lodge late in life because he was becoming more of a hard line Unionist, or was it politically expedient? We don’t get to know this. What of his second marriage? His first wife was certainly a great help to him during his acting phase, but she sort of fades from view thereafter. And the second Mrs Hayward? He seems to have had an affair with her for some years while his first wife was alive; the sort of thing that was known to all ‘in the know’, but not to the public. The second Mrs Hayward was clearly distraught by his death in an RTA, and entered what we might call a ‘morbid grief reaction’, keeping a very tight control of his literary estate, perhaps partly explaining why Hayward isn’t better known today. I would have liked more about Hayward the man, not Hayward the person who did so many things.

    One minor quibble; on p171 we read that Hayward ‘rode a jarvey’ to the Gap of Dunloe. He might well have done, but I suspect that the poor jarvey would have complained, though the pony or the donkey would have been relieved! (We do, much later, get an accurate description of what a jarvey is.)

    But this is to carp. If I wasn’t so impressed with the first half of the book, the second more than compensated. The author has assembled what must be the definitive record of Hayward’s life, a labour which must have taken many years.

    If you are anyway interested in Ireland, read this book, then seek out Hayward’s works and read them.

    The “Fox’s Glacier Mint Man”? This was the most remarkable bit of unknown information. For decades Hayward was a commercial traveller, a sales representative for an English chocolate maker, and also for the makers of the Glacier Mint. The ‘day job’ that financed so many other things. Utterly amazing.” KORHOMME

  3. Lilliput Press

    “This book fills a gap painting the background to a fascinating Irish traveller.” B CASSELLS

Add a review

Weight 0.760 kg
Dimensions 156 × 234 mm

234 x 156mm, 424pp

Publication Date

12 June 2015