SCARIFF public library has been officially renamed in honour of Edna O’Brien.

Supreme novelist and Tuamgraney playwright Edna O’Brien now has the Scariff library named in her honour.

An official launch was held on Tuesday evening which was attended by members of the local Blake family. Edna’s son Carlo Gébler, a well-known novelist, biographer and playwright who lives in Northern Ireland had been due to attend.

Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) was joined by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) who proposed in January that the library be renamed in honour of Edna to “recognise her contributions in a meaningful and lasting way”, Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) and Cllr Pat Burke (FG).

Speaking at the launch in Scariff, Cllr Cooney outlined, “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 addressing the event to officially mark the renaming of Scariff Public Library to the Edna O’Brien Library. Cllr Hayes proposed the motion of changing the name of Scariff Public Library to the Edna O’Brien Library at the January 2024 meeting of Killaloe Municipal District. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Cllr 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”.

Helen Walsh, Clare County Librarian said it was a delight to have the library “named after such an influential author whose reputation is applauded internationally and is now recognised in her home place”.

Born in 1930 in Tuamgraney to Michael O’Brien and Lena Cleary, Edna lived with her family in 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 in Loughrea.

Pictured at an event hosted by Clare County Council on Tuesday (21st May, 2024) to officially mark the renaming of Scariff Public Library to the Edna O’Brien Library were (l-r): Michael Blake, nephew of Edna O’Brien; Anne Haugh, Director of Rural Development (including Library Services), Clare County Council; Cllr Pat Hayes; and John Blake, nephew of Edna O’Brien. Photograph: Eamon Ward

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.

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.

Cllr Joe Cooney, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, addressing the event to officially mark the renaming of Scariff Public Library to the Edna O’Brien Library. Photograph: Eamon Ward

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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