Friday, March 11, 2005

Tom Hadaway

Tyneside playwright Tom Hadaway has died at the age of 81. There's an affectionate obituary in The Guardian by Alan Plater.
Throughout his career, Tom clung fast to Cecil Taylor's ad vice to "write from your own backyard", but there was nothing parochial about his vision. In his play Seafarers (1993), there is a wonderful account (based on a true story) of Jim Slater, a South Shields man who later became a leading seamens' union official, being arrested in Florida because the authorities, hearing his Geordie accent, assumed he must be a Russian spy. What emerged from this piece, a sweet-and-sour analysis of hilarious misunderstanding, was Tom's acute ear for the poetry that lies in everyday speech, including American vernacular. He had the generous ears of a generous man, and the strength to be tender.

Above all, he loved his native land. Of the language of the north-east, he wrote: "... if our betters shame us out of our phrases and pronunciation, we shall be without resource. From a shared history, dialect is the enabling power of the commoner." Maybe so, but there was nothing common about Tom Hadaway.

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