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Remembering a local legend

2023 marks 20 years since local poet and teacher Charles Causley passed away, so how does this ever humble yet talented writer still influence our community here in Launceston today?

Charles in his study. Picture: John Lyne

Born in 1917, Charles was the only child of Charles - or Charlie - and Laura Causley, and they lived at Riverside, St Thomas. Sadly, Charlie died shortly after the end of the First World War due to health complications caused by his time in the trenches. From then on, it was just Laura and Charles.

Newport was a bustling place, a centre for the industrial work in the town. Riverside comprises a row of sweet Cornish cottages, one of which was the home of the Causley family. However, when Laura was stopped in her tracks one day by the sight of a big rat scratching away, she made the swift decision to move.

During his time as a young clerk, he explored his love for writing, producing scripts for local productions. He was just 19 when he published his first play, ‘Runaway’, which was then broadcast on BBC’s West Country radio just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Many people in Launceston were lucky to have had Charles as a teacher at the National School - many ex-pupils still recount fond memories of times spent in his classroom. Charles continued writing throughout his teaching career, and his first published collection of poems ‘Farewell, Aggie Weston’ was released in 1951.

Young Charles. Picture: F Dempster

With his great work came great accolades. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967, and a CBE in 1986.

But despite these great achievements, and his association with the legends of literature, Charles always came back to Lanson. He drew so much inspiration from the local area for his poems, such as ‘Mary, Mary Magdalene’, which refers to the statue of St Mary Magdalene on the church; ‘The Quarter-Jacks’, which can be seen on Launceston Guildhall’s clock tower; ‘In the Willow Gardens’, set in the tranquil rolling countryside that can be seen from the Castle; and ‘As I went Down Zig-Zag’, which is a little route leading from Dockacre Road to Newport.

Thanks to the work of the Charles Causley Trust, and Cyprus Well - Causley’s final home - which inspires artists and writers each year, Charles Causley’s work has been able to live on and establish itself as a huge part of the community in Launceston.


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