This Land of Words and Water on BBC Radio 4

Research output: Other contribution


What the island of Ireland meant to Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) was a theme to which he returned again and again in his writing. Born in Belfast, the son of a Church of Ireland minister, MacNeice’s early childhood - darkened by the death of his mother when he was seven years old - was the only time in his life when he lived on the island. He left when he was ten to be educated in England, and spent most of the war years and subsequent decades in London where he worked as a radio producer at the BBC. And yet scenes from his early years were a constant source of inspiration and inquiry in his poems. His regular visits to Ireland - to visit family and friends, as a tourist, as a rugby fan, as a traveling professional - provided the opportunity for a constant engagement with place and history.

A poet of ecstatic moments and overlapping identities, who grappled with ideas of Irishness and wrote intensely critical verse about sectarianism, MacNeice describes the place of his birth as “this land of words and water” in a late poem published posthumously in The Listener magazine. This radio feature flows between key locations in his story - finding his words in the towns of the Northern Irish coast, the cities of Belfast and Dublin, and on a strand facing the Atlantic; and explores how his themes resonate today, a century on from the Anglo-Irish Treaty in our particular post-Brexit moment.

With contributions from Leontia Flynn, Gail McConnell, Stephen Connolly, Terence Brown and Tom Walker, the programme considers what MacNeice might mean to Ireland and Northern Ireland and “these islands” today?

Producer: Phil Smith
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio Three.
44 mins
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBBC Radio 4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2021


  • MacNeice
  • Ireland
  • poetry


Dive into the research topics of 'This Land of Words and Water on BBC Radio 4'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this