Ted Hughes OM –
90th birthday on Monday 17 August
Monday, 17 August, marks what would have been the 90th birthday of one of North Tawton’s most celebrated residents, the former Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, who lived in the town at Court Green for nearly four decades until his death in 1998.
Born in West Yorkshire in 1930, Ted Hughes won recognition for his first collection of poems, The Hawk in the Rain, while still in his twenties and went on to write prolifically for the next 40 years, creating a hugely diverse body of work – from poetry and prose for adults and children to memorable theatre adaptations and translations. He is rated by many critics as one of the 20th century’s greatest British writers.
The natural world and our relationship with it is one of the most abiding themes in his work, from early poems such as The Thought Fox and Pike through to his classic children’s story, The Iron Man – still one of the author’s best-selling books more than 50 years after he wrote it for his own children. His Moortown Diary is of particular local interest – poems recording the years spent farming near Winkleigh in the 1970s with his father in law, Jack Orchard.
Hughes was also a passionate campaigner for the environment, especially the water quality of Devon’s rivers where he spent much time as an avid fisherman. In a long career, he garnered many literary prizes – including the Whitbread Prize for his last poetry collection, Birthday Letters, exploring his relationship with his first wife – the American poet, the late Sylvia Plath.
In 1970, he married Carol Orchard, who still lives in the home she and Ted shared in North Tawton. Hughes was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984, the last person to hold the position for life, and was awarded the prestigious Order of Merit by the Queen in 1998.
The plaque on the Town Council Office wall commemorating the poet’s life in North Tawton was unveiled by Carol Hughes in 2011.
Photo showing Ted and Carol Hughes outside their NorthTawton home in the 1980s.
Photo copyright Mrs Carol Hughes.