David Hammond

Tributes pour in to mark the passing of 'a poet of film'

Film maker, broadcaster and folk singer David Hammond has passed away, aged 79. 

Hammond was born in Belfast in 1928 and educated at Methodist College Belfast before qualifying as a teacher. 

He joined BBC Northern Ireland’s education department in the early 1960s. As a broadcaster and film-maker at the BBC, his documentaries included Today and Yesterday in Northern Ireland, Explorations, and the award-winning memorial of life in the Belfast shipyards, Steel Chest, Nail in the Boot, and the Barking Dog

In addition to his broadcasting activities, Hammond maintained a successful singing and songwriting career, his collaborations ranging from Irish folk musicians the Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem and Donal Lunny to US folk figures Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. 

Friends such as Seamus Deane and Seamus Heaney have paid tribute to film maker, broadcaster and folk singer David HammondIn 1968, with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, he accompanied Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley on the ‘Room to Rhyme’ tour, bringing their music and poetry to small towns across Northern Ireland. The tour marked the first public introduction of Heaney and Longley to a wider audience.

Hammond also served with Heaney, Tom Paulin and Seamus Deane on the board of directors of the radical theatre company, Field Day, set up by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in 1980 and inspired by a conviction that theatre had a crucial role to play in the resolution of the Troubles. 

Throughout this time, Hammond's BBC programmes continued to win critical acclaim and international awards. However, he left the BBC in the early 1980s and in 1986 formed Flying Fox Films, an independent production company which has made more than 50 films celebrating Northern Ireland’s cultural, social and artistic heritage. 

The quality of these documentaries, including Another Type of Freedom about former hostage Brian Keenan and another collaboration with Seamus Heaney, Something to Write Home About, aired by BBC NI in 1998, led Sir Jeremy Isaacs to hail Hammond as ‘a poet of film’. 

In 2003 Dublin City University awarded Hammond an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy in recognition of his many achievements in film and music. 

David Hammond is survived by his wife Eileen and children Catherine, Fiona, Conor and Mary-Ann.

Text reproduced with kind permission of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Seamus Heaney remembers David Hammond on Guardian Unlimited

BBC Northern Ireland tributes to David Hammond
Belfast Telegraph tribute to David Hammond