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'Another great loss to Irish letters' - John Montague dies aged 87

He passed away at his home in Nice and it is expected he will be laid to rest in Tyrone.

John Montague (right) prior to the Bloomsday conferral ceremony where he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature at UCD.
John Montague (right) prior to the Bloomsday conferral ceremony where he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature at UCD.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE FIRST IRELAND Professor of Poetry John Montague has died at the age of 87.

He passed away at his home in Nice and it is expected he will be laid to rest in Tyrone.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1929 but was sent to live in Tyrone at the age of four. He was educated at University College Dublin, and Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley. He co-founded Claddagh Records, and became president of Poetry Ireland in 1979. He had taught at UCD, University College Cork and the Sorbonne.

His poetry included Forms of Exile (1958); Poisoned Lands(1961), Drunken Sailor (2001); Speech Lessons (2011) and New Collected Poems(2012). The Lost Notebook , a novella set in Florence, won the first Hughes Award in 1987.

He won the Marten Toonder Award in 1977, a Guggenheim fellowship in 1980, and the Ireland Funds Literary Award in 1995. He was the first Ireland Professor of Poetry from 1998 to 2001.

Tributes to Montague have been led by President Michael D Higgins, who called his death “another great loss to Irish letters”.

“The death of John Montague represents another great loss to Irish letters, a further break with a rich body of work that was the gift of poets and dramatists, to Ulster, Ireland and the world.

“His wry, self-deprecating company, his humour, his openness to opposite opinions, will be missed by all of us who were privileged to be his friends – and so many were.

“To his wife Elizabeth Wassell; his daughters Sibyl and Oonagh, and all those who loved him, Sabina and I send our deepest sympathy.”

Sheila Pratschke, Chair of the Arts Council said:

“A true giant of Irish letters, John Montague possessed a voice and vision which was wholly unique and deeply needed.”

Read: ‘Mayo Boy, Vietnam Hero’: The fascinating story of Patrick Gallagher

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