A long-hidden collection of “disturbing” self-portraits by a young man who was disfigured by the IRA will go on display for the first time since his death – just a short distance from where the crime occurred.
The artwork of Maurice Hobson, from Caledon in Co Tyrone, is to be publicly accessible in a free week-long exhibition in Dungannon next month, after having spent the last three decades in storage.
September marks 30 years since he died alone in a Belfast flat after suffering a fit of epilepsy – something he developed as a result of the bomb blast.
And now his family have decided the time is right to resurrect his work, which was created in a bid to show what living life as a bomb victim is truly like.
Maurice’s brother David Hobson, now a 55-year-old caretaker, joiner and farmer, living in Co Cavan, told the story behind his brother’s art.
He said on September 22, 1975, an IRA device detonated in the square in Dungannon just as 17-year-old Royal School pupil Maurice was getting on a schoolbus, roughly between 50 and 100 yards away.
No-one died in the blast, and Maurice was the only one seriously wounded.
He had been wearing glasses at the time, and the glass was pushed into his face.
“He had 80 stitches in his face,” said David, who was 13 at the time.
“His jaw was wired up. His nose was virtually gone. The bone around his eye was fractured and broken; one eye was off-set.”
When Maurice awoke from a coma, the mis-alignment of his eyes meant he saw “one image imposed across the other”.
“His pictures tell the story of what it feels like to be on the inside, looking out,” said David.
“It’s disturbing art. I think it’s meant to make you feel disturbed, that you could do this to another human being.”
He underwent extensive plastic surgery, and his face was eventually reconstructed enough for his appearance to be “normalised”.
As well as developing epilepsy, he also developed meningitis.
Maurice never married, and never had a conventional job.
He worked at creating art at a studio in Harmony Hill, Lisburn (whilst living in Belfast) until his death on September 29, 1987.
The new exhibition, entitled ‘A Victim From The Inside Out’, is on from Monday, September 4, until Friday, September 8, at the ‘Hill of The O’Neill & Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre. Around 40 pieces will be on display.
The centre stands roughly 100 to 150 yards from the blast site.
Regarding Maurice’s hopes and goals before the blast, David said he had always intended to pursue art.
But he added: “Like anybody else, he’d have been thinking of probably a future of marriage and settling down.
“Once the injuries happened, until he got ‘normalised’ and died, his whole energy was used on trying to express how the victim feels and trying to get that put over to the public, in the hope it may stop somebody else down the line from committing the same atrocity again.”
Remarkably, despite his wounds, his brother “held no animosity to any group”, said David.
He produced more than 80 paintings and photographic-based images, and since he died, they have sat in the house of their mother, who could not bring herself to let the work go on show while she was alive. She has since passed away.
David said the family have decided “30 years on, it’s be the time to put it in an exhibition”.
He said: “It’s to give his life’s work recognition... [and] to make people re-think the avenue of violence – if it’d prevent anybody going down the route that had led to the condition he found himself in.
“It was so hard at the time - he just slipped away on his own in a flat in Belfast. It’s just to give him recognition.”