Calderdale loses the poet and painter who was hailed ‘voice of the North’

Poet Glyn Hughes taken in 1996
Poet Glyn Hughes taken in 1996

CALDERDALE poet, painter, author and playwright Glyn Hughes, whose books on the Pennines and local life won national prizes and awards, has died aged 76.

Hughes was chosen by The Times as one of the “six best authors ever on the north of England”.

He wrote and broadcast on the Brontës and subjects including a series following a journey across the north called “The Long Causeway”.

He was the subject of a BBC2 profile and was a regular performer at Hebden Bridge Arts Festival and reading circuits world-wide.

Born in Cheshire, he trained as a painter at Manchester College of Art and at 30 switched to writing novels and poetry, much of it inspired by his life in the Calder Valley.

One of his most popular early works was Millstone Grit, published in 1975, which is cast in the form of a 50-mile walk through the West Riding and East Lancashire.

It includes his own thoughts on how he came to settle in the village of Mill Bank, near Ripponden, in the early 1970s.

Another publication was Life Class, a 5,000-line autobiographical poem covering his rural working-class roots, his life in Calderdale and Greece and his three marriages.

Literary editor Mike Freeman, of Boulderclough – a friend of Hughes for 40 years – described his death as a sad loss to literature and the arts.

He said: “He lived and died in the cottage at Mill Bank which he rebuilt from a ruin and which became his spiritual home.

“Poetry was at the heart of his work, but he was also well known as a novelist, painter, and radio drama writer.

“Even after the diagnosis of cancer he was determined to continue his creativity.

“The poems and paintings he produced in the last few weeks of his life were some of the most beautiful and distinctive. I knew him as tough-minded and argumentative but warm-hearted and restlessly imaginative.

“He was kept going by his fascination with the natural world, by his partner Elizabeth Lee, and by his conviction that writing and painting can sharpen our sense of where and how we live. Our consolation is the rich body of work he left behind.” A Guardian poll in 2005 chose two of Hughes’s books – from the whole history of literature – as “eco-classics.”

Funeral arrangements are to be confimed.