Biography


Sam Hanna Bell: A Biography by Sean McMahon (The Blackstaff Press, 1999)

Sam Hanna Bell

Sam Hanna Bell was born in Glasgow in 1909 of Ulster emigrant parents. On the death of his father he was brought 'home' to Ireland at the age of seven to be reared in the Strangford Lough area of County Down, where his acclaimed novel of Ulster rural life December Bride (1951), is set. Reviewing the 1990 film of December Bride, Fintan O'Toole called it 'not just a remarkable artistic achievement, but also a remarkable political one... restoring a richness and complexity to a history that has been deliberately narrowed.' In April 1999 December Bride (available from Blackstaff Press) received an extraordinary accolade when it was included in The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950 (Picador).

Sam Hanna Bell was also a legendary broadcaster. Working as a senior features producer with the BBC Northern Ireland region, he pioneered the collection and broadcasting of fast-vanishing folklore and folk music from remote country areas. He continued to write during this period and after retirement; his other novels are The Hollow Ball (1961), A Man Flourishing (1973) and Across The Narrow Sea (1987). In 1970 Queen's University awarded him the honorary degree of MA for achievement in the arts. He died in 1990 just before the premiere of Thaddeus O'Sullivan's acclaimed film of December Bride.