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Remarkable life of Charles Duff to be marked in Enniskillen

By Adrian Rutherford ·

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Forgotten son: Charles Duff

A 'forgotten son' of Enniskillen is to be honoured more than half a century after his death.

Charles Duff was a writer and linguist who survived being gassed in France during the First World War.

His remarkable life will be celebrated with the unveiling of a blue plaque by the Ulster History Circle on Thursday.

Mr Duff was born in 1894 in Enniskillen. His father, John, from Co Monaghan and his mother, Annie, from Co Sligo, settled in Enniskillen.

His knowledge of languages allowed him to pursue many roles.

His early years were spent working as a mariner, soldier and Army interpreter. Later he would undertake roles including a barrister, Foreign Office press officer and journalist.

Mr Duff was largely self-taught and pursued studies in Spanish, French and German.

One of his early career moves was to join the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.

In 1916 he signed up for the Army and served on the Western Front and in Italy.

He was gassed in France and was hospitalised for some months after the Armistice.

Perhaps his best known work 'A Handbook on Hanging' is a plea against capital punishment. The German translation of this was burnt by the Nazis in 1931.

The book, first published in 1928, has had numerous editions and reprints.

Mr Duff, described by the Ulster History Circle as a "largely forgotten son of Enniskillen", died in 1966.

Its chairman Chris Spurr said: "Charles Duff has a different and distinctive profile as an author, to two other Irish writers already commemorated by blue plaques in Enniskillen, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

"By commemorating this writer and linguist with a blue plaque at his birthplace, the Ulster History Circle trusts that renewed interest will be taken in Charles Duff's life and work."

Frank McHugh, the secretary of Fermanagh Genealogy, said the plaque would highlight "an important literary figure of the 20th century".

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Forgotten son: Charles Duff