John Hewitt Archive

Personal, legal and literary papers etc of the Ulster Poet and Critic, John Hewitt (1907-87), and that of his wife, Roberta (1904-75), 1904-1987. A fairly substantial collection, the archive contains a broad range of material reflecting the life, career and interests of one of Ulster’s most prolific writers and cultural authorities. Included are: c.115 personal, official and legal papers of John and Roberta Hewitt, 1904-1987; c.390 literary, autobiographical and miscellaneous papers, 1928-1987, including 37 diaries and travel notebooks, 1934-1987, and three scrapbooks, 1928-1970; c.1050 letters, 1930-1987, between John Hewitt and notable friends, professional colleagues and publishers; c.100 letters and papers of Roberta Hewitt, 1921-1975; c.2430 miscellaneous letters, mostly to John Hewitt, 1929-1987; and c.290 theatre programmes, 1930-1982. Of particular note are the series of correspondences to be found in the collection. Included are letters from poets such as Gordon Bottomley, Austin Clarke, Séamus Heaney and W. R. Rodgers, which discuss trends in the writing of poetry, the Ulster painter, John Luke and the Irish Folklorist, Michael J. Murphy. There is also a voluminous correspondence from David Burleigh, a young friend and poet, for whom Hewitt acted as referee. In particular, there are dozens of letters written by Burleigh from Japan, where he taught English as a foreign language. Perhaps most interesting of all is the correspondence between Hewitt and Robert Patrick Maybin, who he first met during his time at Queen's University, through the poetry circle there. During the Second World War Maybin, a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps, wrote to Hewitt from West Africa and Italy about poetry and about his experiences in these countries. Other papers of interest include Hewitt’s notebooks, which contain accounts of his various educational holidays in Europe, in particular to the countries of the Communist Eastern Block, which, because of his own socialist sympathies, he was drawn. Finally, the papers of Roberta (‘Ruby’) Hewitt also deserve mention. These contain letters from British MPs, miscellaneous correspondence to and from friends, relatives, employers etc and papers relating to her association with Edenderry Nursery School that she helped to found in 1938 and the Labour movement, within which she was particularly active from c 1957 to her death in 1975.


The John Hewitt Archive should have a broad appeal to students of Anglo-Irish literature and drama, and, in particular, to students interested in the development and analysis of Ulster Poetry. The collection is also notable for its valuable series of correspondence with leading figures within Ulster's cultural circles and for reflecting a side of life in Northern Ireland not normally celebrated. Hewitt's travel journals also provide a valuable commentary on life behind the Iron Curtain in such countries as Russia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and East Germany.

Physical characteristics

The collection includes approximately 4,500 documents and volumes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI Catalogue Reference D/3838 for details. Catalogues are available in the PRONI search room for consultation. An introduction to the collection can also be found at:


Accrual Policy
Accrual Periodicity

The John Hewitt Papers were deposited on bequest to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in January 1988.

Associated Collection
Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 25 August 2018