Distinguished musician honoured with Blue Plaque at former Belfast home

Alistair Nelson, Belfast lord mayor Nuala McAllister, Graham Nelson and Romilly Carter at the unveiling of the blue Plaque to Havelock Nelson. Picture by Mal McCann

THE son of distinguished musician, composer and conductor Havelock Nelson yesterday said it was a "real honour" that his father's contribution to life in Belfast was being celebrated.

Regarded as one of Northern Ireland's leading musicians, Dr Nelson was remembered yesterday with the unveiling of a blue plaque at his former home in Rosetta Park.

The Ulster History Circle plaque honours the achievements of a man who made his name as an orchestral, opera and choral conductor as well as a composer, pianist and broadcaster.

Dr Nelson's two sons Alistair and Graham and daughter Romilly Carter joined a large crowd of people at the event celebrating their father's life yesterday, with Belfast lord mayor Nuala McAllister unveiling the plaque.

"On behalf of the Nelson family I'm delighted to be here today for the unveiling of the plaque, it is a real honour to be here," said Alistair Nelson.

"I have very many happy memories of Rosetta Park and having been brought up here. This is a wonderful honour for our family."

Born in Cork in May 1917 to parents from Co Antrim, he studied medical science in Dublin and then music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He co-founded the Dublin Orchestral Players in 1939, before serving as a bacteriologist in the RAF during the war.

Joining the BBC in Belfast in 1947, he was an accompanist, conductor and broadcaster with the corporation for 30 years. He was most familiar to listeners of the popular Children's Hour programme, which featured promising young musicians, including Sir James Galway, to whom Dr Havelock provided encouragement and musical support.

In the 1950s, he took over conducting the Ulster Singers, introducing a large number of previously unheard works to audiences in the north.

One of his most notable achievements was the formation of the Studio Opera Group, which thrived for three decades and laid the foundation for the creations of both Castleward Opera and Opera Northern Ireland.

He died in 1996 following short illness.

Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said Dr Nelson was a "distinguished musician".

"Havelock Nelson excelled as a conductor, composer, accompanist and broadcaster, and contributed significantly to the musical life of Northern Ireland," he said.

"One hundred years after his birth, the Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this distinguished musician with a blue plaque at his former home in Belfast."

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