Maurice Leitch is one of the few people who gained global acclaim for a career as an author, scriptwriter, and radio/TV producer. The Northern Ireland-born writer used his writing to support causes like the conflict in his hometown of County Antrim as well as issues like homosexuality. He honed his craft at the BBC before he focused on writing full-time. Leitch has won many accolades and recognitions, including the Guardian Fiction Prize for the 1969 book Poor Lazarus, the Whitebread Prize for the 1981 book Silver’s City, and the Member of the Order of the British Empire.
While being a prolific writer put him on the world map, his life ended in 2023 when he died at the age of 90. He may be gone, but his legacy will be remembered through his works, including The Liberty Lad (1967), Stamping Ground (1975), and Gone to Earth (2019).
The Early Life and Background of Maurice Leitch
He was born Maurice Henry Leitch on July 5, 1933, in Muckamore, County Antrim, to Jean Coid and Andrew Leitch. His father made a living as a foreman at a mill in Muckamore. Notably, he was raised as a protestant, and this would be reflected in his works.
Also, he showed high intelligence during his childhood, and unsurprisingly, he is known to have performed so well while attending Muckamore Primary School. Due to this, he was able to get a scholarship in 1946 to study at the Methodist College in Belfast.
The Antrim Native Started his Career as a Teacher
Having attained his higher studies, Leitch decided to return home and teach in a school. He became a primary school teacher in 1954 and worked for the next six years before making the decision to explore other career options.
From the available details, Maurice was actively involved in literary circles. At the time, he is known to have written for the Belfast Telegraph while he was still a teacher. By the time he left teaching, he easily moved to what he was passionate about, writing, and as we shall see, this is how he gained fame and acclaim.
At first, Maurice continued to contribute to short stories, including newspapers, but later concentrated on writing for BBC Northern Ireland, where he worked in the features department as a radio producer and writer. Notably, his first radio play, The Old House (1960), featured JG Devlin and James Ellis as a father and son duo who were caught up in a conflict. In moments when he was not working in the studio, he is said to have traveled within the area to get interviews.
In 1970, he moved to London and became a producer in the radio department of the BBC. Though he honed his craft while with the BBC, he left it in 1989 to concentrate on writing full-time.
He Wrote 15 Novels within 5 Decades
Starting with his first novel, The Liberty Lad, which was released in 1967, Maurice continued to release more books for the next several years. Notably, his writings were influenced by the conflict experience in Northern Ireland.
His first book is considered one of the first works of literature to discuss gay life in Belfast. Considering the time of the book’s release and its religious background, many thought that the book was sexually provocative. However, this did not stop him from writing. His next book, Poor Lazarus, dealt with the themes of corruption and politics. Unlike the first, this one was banned in the Republic of Ireland. Regardless of this, the book earned him the Guardian Fiction Prize.
Moreso, he continued to write books and short stories. So far, he has 15 published novels, with the last one being the 2019 novel, Gone to Earth.
Leitch was Married twice During His Lifetime
Aside from portraying relationships in his writing, Leitch also managed to get into a few of his own. Based on available reports, he is said to have been married twice throughout his life.
His first marriage was with Isobel Scott, a woman who has been described as a native of Muckamore. Considering that he is also from Muckamore, we may not be wrong to assume they may have known each other from the same neighborhood. The pair got married in 1955. During the marriage, they welcomed two children, Bronagh and Paul. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce.
Following the failure of his first marriage, the Antrim native got married to his second wife, Sandra Hill, in 1972. Together, they welcomed a son named Daniel. Unlike his first marriage, the Burning Bridges (1989) writer and Sandra managed to stay together until Sandra’s death in 2020.
Maurice Leitch Died In 2023
According to reports, the Muckaborn writer died in Faversham, Kent, on September 26, 2023, at the age of 90. The cause of his death was not revealed. However, he is said to have been survived by his three children and three grandchildren, Louis, Ciaran, and Kendra.