Belfast playwright Sam Thompson recalls growing up in Belfast and the violence and bigotry that are forever embedded in his mind and in his work.

Speaking about his early life in Belfast Sam Thompson recalls at the age of six in 1922 witnessing a man being set upon by a mob, beaten senseless. The Catholic man was delivering pig carcasses to a grocery shop when he was dragged from his cart and left for dead.

A pitiful heap of broken humanity.

Sam Thompson was born and reared in a strong Protestant area in the back streets of Belfast. He was the second youngest in a large family of five sons and three daughters. He was brought up very strict Church of Ireland and was warned against violence of any sort by his father.  His father was a lamp lighter for Belfast Corporation lighting the street lamps in both Protestant and Catholic areas. This was often a challenging job as the gunmen on both sides preferred the darkness. 

Sam Thompson has vivid memories of Catholics being put out of their houses with little bundles of their possessions under their arms. As soon as they left, the house was claimed by a Protestant neighbour either for themselves or for a relative. He also recalls stories of looting against Catholics and grim tales of persecution in the Belfast shipyards where his brother worked and where he would later take a job. 

I could never understand as a child, and even yet as a man, I can never understand, why any person would want to maim or kill another person in the name of religion.

It is these memories that would influence his writings in plays such as 'The Evangelist' and 'Over the Bridge' exposing the sectarianism and corruption which existed in Northern Ireland.

This episode of 'Self Portrait' was broadcast on 26 June 1962.