39 /Boris Howarth

Boris Howarth, whom I’m proud to have known as a friend, had a glorious sense of humour.  He would have loved this nugget of golden nonsense unearthed for me by my son: garden path sentences. It’s a wondrously silly literary device where the reader in all good faith begins at the beginning but ends up scratching her or his head, lost among the lush undergrowth of the English language.  For example, "The old man the boat"; "The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families"; "The man who hunts ducks out at weekends";  "The prime number few"; "We painted the wall with cracks"; “Cooked books cooked their goose”.

When Boris stayed with us in Belfast and Dublin his visits brought vast joy and fun to our household.  In Belfast, with Welfare State International, he was the dynamo that  allowed the staging of ‘Jungle Bullion’ in the Botanic Gardens on 25th June, 1983.  This large-scale, community carnival was attended by some 5,000 people, young and old, from across the complicated, fractious divisions of N.Ireland – and not one bone was broken in the process.  The Good Friday Agreement was not signed until Friday 10th April, 1998. Among his many achievements elsewhere, in Dublin he devised training workshops and elective courses at Trinity College and for Create/Cafe, an umbrella arts in the community organisation. In latter years he took to carving signs and place names in solid rock and stone, steadfastly using hammer and chisel, deliberately eschewing machine tools in order to feel the words forming under his skillful touch.  He died on 17th May, 2009, and is survived by his son George and Maggy, his wife,  who creates wonderful mosaics for civic and private spaces in UK and abroad.  Community arts in Ireland, north and south, owes a huge debt to Boris and I shall try to trace and honour this in a later blog post.

• “The old man the boat” (Old people are the crew.); •"The complex houses married and single soldiers and their families”(The apartment complex provides living quarters for both married and single soldiers and their families.); •"The man who hunts ducks out at weekends”(He ducks out/ avoids his responsibilities.); • "The prime number few”(People who are excellent are few in number.); •”We painted the wall with cracks”(The cracked wall was the one that we painted.) ; •“Cooked books cooked their goose”( Crooked bookkeeping got them into trouble.).


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