Tuesday, 25 February 2014


Sebastian Barry
My husband and I went to the Irish PEN Dinner to honour Frank McGuinness on Friday night. He received the 2014 Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Achievement in Irish Literature. The event was held in the very swish surroundings of the Royal Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire and we had fun getting dressed up and sallying forth. We were welcomed with a delicious glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and we sat in the beautiful Formal Bar, saying hello to the (few) people we knew and spotting the celebs among the guests.

Frank McGuinness
I don't personally know Frank, but I'm a member of Irish PEN and was happy to be there on his big night. Sebastian Barry, a long standing friend of Frank's, gave the award speech and it was theatrical and moving, as you might expect. (Sebastian B, who seems to be getting younger as the years pass, however he does it, has a novel out this year - The Temporary Gentleman.) He called Frank, 'the fullest example of a gifted man' with 'an admirable and exemplary biography'. He also said he was 'the perfect example of the artist and the man'.
Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin, Vice Chair of Irish PEN and Director at writing.ie
Frank thanked the Abbey, other theatres, his agent and all of his publishers, singling out his poetry publisher Peter Fallon as 'a gentle leader'. He spoke of Íde Ní Laoghaire, his editor at Brandon, and said she is 'the most wise and watchful and, in the best possible sense, threatening of editors'. By the time he thanked his parents (no longer living), saying 'I salute you tonight' the whole room was dabbing at their eyes.
Me enjoying wine in the Formal Bar

We were at the young people's table (it seems!), though as middle-agers how we ended up there I do not know. It was lovely to chat to the fabulous youngsters at our table (mostly MA candidates from UCD), one of whom has also just secured a deal with Penguin. We both vowed to get penguin tattoos on our ankles ;)
At each PEN event an empty chair is placed in the room to symbolise writers who can't be present because they are imprisoned, detained, disappeared, threatened or killed.
It was a lovely night of fancy clothes and not-too-fancy chatter, made all the nicer by the beautiful surroundings and glow of good feeling towards Frank McGuinness.


Kar said...

It sounds like a wonderful evening, very glam and relaxing with it.

And you look Gorgeous as always and glowing!

I love Sebastian B. he's a bit of a hottie and I thought at first glance he looked a bit like Robert De Niro - but that could be my sleep deprived eyes tricking me ;-)

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Yes, it was low key, we enjoyed being out. Hotel was a tad cruddy, though. Uck.
I'm sure SB would savour your hottie remark!!

Rachel Fenton said...

Lovely photo of you, Nuala - thanks for sharing the pics and the night.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Thanks, Rae!