Biographical summary: Lived 1941-1988; born in Sydenham, East Belfast; educated at Ashfield Boys’ School, Sydenham; Sullivan School, Holywood; and QUB, 1959-64. MA in poetic drama; taught at Hamilton college and Cornell University., 1969-74. Freelance writer in Belfast until 1978; contributed a column on pop music to Irish Times; moved to Edinburgh, then London. Wrote 6 radio plays and 1 TV play for the BBC. Also wrote poetry and stage plays. He is commemmorated by the Stewart Parker Trust, which awards prizes to Irish writers for the best new stage plays.
04.08.1971 Minnie & Maisie & Lily Freed
Playscripts, Irish in the Traffic; Ruby in the Rain (tv.); The Kamikaze Ground Staff Reunion Dinner; The Traveller; I’m a Dreamer Montreal (all radio), and Pratt’s Fall (stage); also ‘The Iceberg’, in The Honest Ulsterman, 50 (Winter 1975), pp.4-64 [radio play].
"I had a childhood plagued with ill health," wrote Stewart Parker, "and by the age of 11 was a frail little runt; it was suggested that joining the Scouts would be good for me." He was soon on his first trip away from home, to a camp beside Loch Lomond.
The most important thing I learnt there was that I was incapable of homesickness.... I also discovered that you didn’t have to be good at games to be well thought of - this was a major feature of the Tenth, one of the most remarkable things about them in my day, and one for which I will always feel grateful.... I was useless at sport, but was never made to feel inadequate as a result - instead, each boy was encouraged to shine at whatever he could do. Which in my case was entertain. The camp fire skits and songs was where I came into my own."
Stewart’s first stage play, Spokesong, premiered in Dublin in 1975 and was the hit of that year’s Theatre Festival. It has been produced around the world.
"Years ago I was inveigled along to a 10th Scouts anniversary dinner of some sort. I was struck by how grown men revert to being boys on such occasions. Later I wrote a play with this thought partly in mind, a satire on masculine group behaviour. The play wasn’t in any way based on the event, but it drew some notions from it." The play was The Kamikaze Ground Staff Reunion Dinner, broadcast on radio 4 in 1981.
As a teenager, at a Scouts’ Own, he once told the other boys: "now, above all times, is the time not to lose. It can never be regained." As an adult, in the face of continuing illness, he kept the ability to value the moment. He died of cancer in 1988 aged 47.
NOTES ON THE PLAYS
MINNIE & MAISIE & LILY FREED....1971
I'M A DREAMER MONTREAL....1977
I'M A DREAMER MONTREAL....1979
THE KAMIKAZE GROUNDSTAFF REUNION DINNER....1981
Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website
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