Thomas Carnduff

Thomas Carnduff was born in the Little May Street district of Belfast in 1886, the son of working class parents.

He worked at a variety of unskilled job until finding work as a shipyard labourer. During the First World War, he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers and was later to serve in the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Always an individualist, he was a member of the Independent Orange Order and developed left-wing views which he held to throughout his life. His writings reflect his politics and his love of the people of Belfast – often written in a strong local vernacular.

His poetry is collected as Songs from the Shipyard and other Poems (1924); and Song of an Out of Work (1932). These volumes were posthumously republished as Poverty Street and Other Poems (1993).

He had two plays produced at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin: Workers and Machinery (1933). Two other plays, Traitors (1934); and Castlereagh (1935) premiered in Belfast. Workers was originally scheduled to premier at Belfast’s Grand Opera House but had to be withdrawn due the venue’s concern about the plays working-class politics.

A prolific writer, he also wrote a number of radio plays and hundreds of newspaper articles, mainly of a popular nature, about the history of Belfast. In 1991 Tinderbox Theatre Company produced a dramatised setting of Carnduff’s writings entitled The Writings of Thomas Carnduff.

A founding member of Belfast PEN, he died in Belfast in 1956.