UCC pays $1 million for Great Book of Ireland

University College Cork has paid $1 million (€752,000) to acquire the Great Book of Ireland.

The book was scripted in Dublin between 1989 and 1991. It contains the handwritten work of nine composers, 121 artists and 143 poets, including Irish President Michael D Higgins.

Among the other contributors to the book were three literature Nobel Laureates: Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett and Derek Walcott. The book contains what is believed to be Beckett’s final piece, as he died shortly after it was written. The piece is a variant of a 1930s memorial to his father.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Bono also feature in the book, which has been referred to as the Book of Kells of the 20th Century.

In a ceremony on Friday January 18th in UCC, President Higgins signed his contribution to the book. President Higgins wrote his poem for the Great Book in 1990. The score of a musical composition by Horslips member Jim Lockhart had its world premiere at the event. Poets Seamus Heaney and Nuala Ní Dhomnhaill also attended.

The college raised the money for the book by private funding, both from individuals in Ireland and the US. The money paid by UCC to obtain the book will be split between Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, the national poetry organisation, and Clashganna Mills Trust, a charity which works for people with disabilities.

UCC plans to preserve the book and display it publicly. Dr Martin Murphy, UCC President, said it was important that its artistic richness be made available to the wider community.

Aoife Bennett

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