by Democrat reporter
Irish Democrat columnist, the historian and novelist Peter Berresford Ellis, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature by the University of East London. UEL's Chancellor Lord Rix of Whitehall presented the award at a ceremony at the Barbican, in the City of London, on Tuesday, December 12.
Peter has been writing his `Anonn Is Anall' column since 1987 when Desmond Greaves, the then editor, invited him to regularly contribute. However, his connection with the Connolly Association goes back longer. And in May, 1972, he was invited to give two successive lectures to the CA on socialist interpretations of Irish history shortly after his classic history A History of the Irish Working Class was published by Victor Gollancz Ltd.
Born in Coventry of a Cork family, Peter took his degrees in Celtic Studies and has since written over 30 books under his own name on Irish and Celtic history and culture. His work has been translated into over twenty languages.
His History of the Irish Working Class is still in print from Pluto Press and now considered a classic of Irish historiography. His James Connolly: selected writings was published by Penguin Books in 1973 but also remains in print from Pluto Press.
Among other works Hell or Connaught! The Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland 1650-1660 (Hamish Hamilton, 1975) remains in print as a Blackstaff paperback. The book was the inspiration the popular play The Clearing by Helen Edmundson, first performed in 1993.
However, it is under his fiction writing pseudonym of Peter Tremayne that he has become a world-wide bestseller with his Sister Fidelma Mysteries set in 7th Century Ireland. The books are currently published in 13 languages and have sold in excess of 2 million copies. There is an International Sister Fidelma Society, founded in 2001 based in Charleston, USA, with a membership of enthusiasts spanning 12 countries.
Last September, a three-day summer school, Féile Fidelma, devoted to Peter's books, was held in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, attracting over 80 participants from nine countries.
Peter, in accepting his doctorate, told the graduating students that the secret of knowledge is not knowing the right answers but the ability to ask the right questions and go to the right sources. The path to success was to continually ask questions and never loose a sense of humour and do not take oneself too seriously.
Peter follows another distinguished honorary literary doctor of the university, the Nobel literary laureate Harold Pinter, who received his award from UEL in 1994.
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