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Scariff library renamed in honour of Edna O’Brien

22 May 2024

Clare County Council hosted an event on Tuesday (21st May, 2024) to officially mark the renaming of Scariff Public Library to the Edna O’Brien Library.

Photo Scariff library renamed in honour of Edna O’Brien

The launch was attended by members of the local Blake family. The event was officiated by Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Joe Cooney, and was attended by Cllr Pat Hayes and other County Clare elected representatives.

At the January 2024 meeting of Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Hayes proposed the motion of changing the name of Scariff Public Library to the Edna O’Brien Library in honour of this giant of Irish literature. The notice of motion was enthusiastically accepted and adopted by all members of the Municipal District: Cllrs Pat Burke, Alan O’Callaghan, Tony O’Brien, and Joe Cooney.

Speaking at the launch Cllr Joe Cooney, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, commented, “Clare County Council has a strong tradition of remembering those who have contributed to the cultural, political and social fabric of the county. We are proud that Edna lived among us and drew on her experiences of growing up in rural East Clare, and that this significantly shaped her perspective and undoubtedly influenced her writing.”

Cllr Pat Hayes commented, “When I proposed this motion I wanted to recognise Edna’s contribution to literature and the arts. What better way of doing so than by renaming her local library, a bastion of learning and cultural life in the area, in her honour.” He emphasised the value of the library to East Clare and how he was struck by the fact that “we had no public building named after a woman” and “he was motivated to set this right in choosing such a luminary as Edna to honour in this way”.

Clare County Librarian, Helen Walsh, expressed her “delight in having the library named after such an influential author whose reputation is applauded internationally and is now recognised in her home place”.

Edna O’Brien was born in 1930 in Tuamgraney, the daughter of farmer Michael O’Brien and Lena Cleary. The family lived at Drewsborough in a large two-storey house which her father had inherited with substantial land acreage. She was the youngest of a strict, religious family. From 1941 to 1946 she was educated by the Sisters of Mercy at the Convent of Mercy boarding school at Loughrea, County Galway – a circumstance that contributed to what she described as a ‘suffocating’ childhood. In 1950, having studied at night at pharmaceutical college and working in a Dublin pharmacy during the day, Edna was awarded a licence as a pharmacist. She read widely at this time and moved to London soon after.

In London she started work as a reader for Hutchinson publishers where, on the basis of her reports, she was commissioned, for £50, to write a novel. She published her first book in 1960, ‘The Country Girls’, which was the first part of a trilogy of novels (later collected as ‘The Country Girls Trilogy’).

This was the start of a lifetime of publications, which included 19 novels, eight collections of short stories, one screenplay, eight plays, eight non-fiction books, one poetry collection and four children’s books.

It is noted that she changed the nature of Irish fiction, bringing the woman’s experience and women’s internal lives on to the page, and she did it with style. Irish novelist Colum McCann summed it up when saying that O’Brien has been “the advance scout for the Irish imagination” for over 50 years.

Scariff Public Library opened its doors to the public in 2007, with a book stock of 20,000 items, eight public access internet PCs and a range of music and film DVDs. It hosts photocopying facilities and a full range of newspapers, magazines and other publications. In 2023, it hosted 32,600 visits by the public and issued 30,813 stock items. New signage heralding the change of name was erected last week.

Page last reviewed: 22/05/24

Content managed by: Library Service

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