Dr. Nuala McAllister Hart has won the the prestigious ‘McCrea Literary Award’ for 2016/2017 for her book ‘Josef Locke, The People’s Tenor’, a biography of the celebrated Irish tenor.
The book was published in March 2017 to coincide with the centenary of Locke’s birth in Creggan Street on March 23, 1917.
It is the first ever biography of the singer, and it involved intensive research throughout England and Ireland, particularly in Blackpool, Dublin and, of course, in Derry too. The McLaughlin/Locke family also contributed their memories to the book, which was a ‘first’ in term of input from Josef’s family.
Dr. McAllister Hart said: “I am so delighted to win the McCrea Literary Award. It is a great accolade for a writer, and a major encouragement to keep on writing. But it’s also important for the legacy of Josef Locke, who had a phenomenal career throughout Great Britain and Ireland from the early 1940s onwards. Proof – if proof is needed – that Josef’s reputation as a singer was well-deserved and worth recording in print.”
Locke, born Joseph McLaughlin, became the UK’s highest earning variety artist in the early 1950s, before he fled Blackpool in the midst of a tax scandal. This ‘flight’ was later used as the basis of the story of the 1992 film ‘Hear My Song’, the first film featuring local actor James Nesbitt.
‘The Josef Locke Centenary Exhibition’ which accompanied the book, ran at the Central Library, Derry and in Belfast’s Linen Hall Library throughout the spring. It also visited Blackpool and Donegal.