During the nineteenth century there was a remarkable flowering of peasant verse in the Ulster counties of Antrim and Down. Witty, irreverent and deeply egalitarian, these poems were written by working people - handloom weavers, small farmers and country school-masters - for people much like themselves. The poets wrote in the 'lively tongue' of the Ulster-Scots vernacular and drew their themes from the landscape and life of the community at a time when the making of flax into linen played a basic part in the economic and social pattern. John Hewitt's Rhyming Weavers is both a study and a celebration of the lives and work of these country poets. His extended introduction provides an accessible account of the context in which the poets wrote and is complemented by a select anthology that includes poems by well-known local bards such as David Herbison, James Orr and Samuel Thomson. First published in 1974, Hewitt's anthology was an act of recovery, an excavation of a vibrant aspect of Ulster's literary history.
Reissued now, thirty years later, with a new foreword by Tom Paulin, Rhyming Weavers remains a seminal work, making an important contribution to Ulster-Scots writing and to debates about language and identity in these islands.
John Hewitt was born in 1907. His poetry was first published in left-wing journals such as the Irishman and the New Leader in the 1920s. Between 1948 and 1972 he published two collections and six pamphlets of poetry. Widely regarded as the father figure of the current generation of Ulster poets, John Hewitt actively promoted the development of art and literature in Northern Ireland throughout his life. He died in 1987 and his lasting contribution is celebrated at the John Hewitt International Summer School.