Maurice Hobson was a 17-year-old pupil at Dungannon Royal School when a bomb blew up in Market Square, while he was waiting to board the school bus. A car jack hit him on the left side of his head, requiring over 80 stitches.
His gums were wired up to help his jaw heal.
Post-injury, Hobson’s left eye superimposed a second blurred image upon his undamaged right eye.
Both effects were to feature in his subsequent artwork, which appears to have resulted from his frustration with those not doing enough to end the violence leaving so many maimed and injured.
Hobson wrote the following introduction to his work (circa 1984?), much of it on display this week at the Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre in Dungannon, not far from where the bomb blast occurred:
“I was injured in a bomb blast in Northern Ireland in 1975. My work is a statement about me and other people who have been injured.
“Photography, Xeroxs, casts, video, and sound recordings are the mediums which I use as a channel to talk about the reality of violence and the resulting scars, stitches, hospitals …
“I’m irritated by people turning a blind eye to now over 20,000 victims of a situation that’s no nearer a solution than it was in 1975.
“I want to open areas near to people, let them enter into a new situation and see how they deal with it.”
And Hobson’s images powerfully display what it feels like to be on the inside, looking out.
Hobson’s images confront you viscerally. See these strings of wires and stitches that I want to rip apart? See this double vision that won’t let me assemble a single image of beauty? You may be able to look away; I’m forever cursed with this new normal.
But according to his brother David, in an interview published in the News Letter, Maurice harboured no animosity.
Rather, Maurice just wanted the violence to stop, as expressed in an undated poem that he wrote:
“Our land, Ireland,
Can be peaceful,
If you want it?
“Faces caught in time,
Can’t get it together,
I just can’t get it together!
“Crushed and thrown into disorder,
altered, interrupted and shattered,
incomplete, dislocated, fragmented,
dislocated ruined in character,
loosened and uncertain.
“O.K. bang bomb then,
I’ve seen, I’ve been,
right, left, up and down,
in, out, here and there,
now and then, …
“Fool around with me,
Make a mockery?
and we’re all the stepping stones,
to disaster on our thrones?”
In 1987, Hobson died at age 29, from a fit of epilepsy, which he developed from the original bomb blast injury.
According to another newspaper article at the time, a selection of Hobson’s work was shown in an exhibition at the Orchard Gallery in Londonderry in November 1987.
Yet his mother couldn’t bring herself to have her son’s work shown thereafter, and it was put in storage and not revealed until now, with her passing.
We should be grateful for it safe custody, that Hobson’s testimony did not perish, and that we may listen to his call, mindful of all victims and survivors of the Troubles.
“A Victim from Inside Out” exhibition is on display at The Hill of the O’Neill building, Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre, Market Square, Dungannon, from 4–9 September 2017. Admission free.
Originally published at mrulster.org on September 6, 2017.