The life of an Afro-Caribbean writer and journalist is being celebrated by a new exhibition being launched by Wiltshire Museum.

Eric Derwent Walrond, was an Afro-Caribbean writer and journalist, who became a leading figure in the 1920s Harlem Renaissance in New York.

Wiltshire Times: Eric D Walrond. Image: National Black Justice CoalitionEric D Walrond. Image: National Black Justice Coalition (Image: National Black Justice Coalition)

Born in Georgetown, British Guiana, in December 1898, the son of a Barbadian mother and a Guyanese father, he died in London in August 1966 aged 67.

Wiltshire Times: The grave of Eric D Walrond in Abne Park Cemetery in London. Image: WikipediaThe grave of Eric D Walrond in Abne Park Cemetery in London. Image: Wikipedia (Image: Wikipedia)

Walrond was well-travelled, moving early in life to live in Barbados, and then Panama, New York City, and eventually England.

He spent 13 years from 1939 to 1952 living at 9 Ivy Terrace in the historic Wiltshire market town while working at the Avon Rubber factory in Melksham.

However, in 1952 he admitted himself to the Roundway psychiatric hospital in Devizes and stayed there until 1957 before leaving for London.

An editor, journalist and one of the first fiction writers to thematise migration and diaspora, Walrond is an important, if overlooked, figure from the Harlem Renaissance. 

Wiltshire Museum in Devizes has put on new exhibition, Eric Walrond: A Caribbean Writer living in Wiltshire, from November 11 to February 17 to commemorate his remarkable story and accomplishments.

It will transfer to Bradford on Avon Museum for a three-week run from March 16 to April 7 at the West Barn from 10am to 4pm.

Val Holden, a Bradford on Avon Museum trustee, said: “Not many people have heard of him, I certainly hadn't, but his is a remarkable story particularly as he spent 13 years in Bradford on Avon before self-referring to Roundway Hospital then moving back to London after leaving Roundway. 

“So how did a towering figure of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance end up living in Bradford on Avon? You'll have to come to the exhibition to find out! 

“Suffice to say that the accolades which followed the publication of his book of short stories called Tropic Death, promised a great future for him.

“He'd impressed those around him and he impressed the Guggenheim Foundation who awarded him a grant in two consecutive years to support his writing.

“His magnum opus was to have been a history of Panama until his New York publisher pulled the plug on the book and cancelled the contract when the Great Depression hit. It’s a fascinating and at times terribly sad story.”

Bradford on Avon Museum is organising some art workshops for adults and a talk to accompany the Eric Walrond exhibition.