Memorial to noted editor unveiled in Kinsale

Distinguished editor Timothy O'Keeffe, who was responsible for the renewed interest in Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds when…

Distinguished editor Timothy O'Keeffe, who was responsible for the renewed interest in Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds when he decided to reissue the novel in the late 1950s, was yesterday remembered in Kinsale, Co Cork, where a plaque was unveiled at his birthplace.

Mr O'Keeffe was born in Ard na Lir, Scilly, Kinsale, in September 1926, the youngest of seven children.

He moved to England at the age of eight with his parents and siblings and served in the British army before being offered a state scholarship to Oxford University.

After completing his education he made his way to London and started a career in publishing.


He fast gained a reputation as one of the most gifted editors in the city and was responsible for Brendan's Behan's Borstal Boy as well as books by Edna O'Brien and James Plunkett.

Poet Desmond O'Grady, whose first book of poetry, The Dark Edge of Europe, was published by Mr O'Keeffe in 1967, said yesterday that the late editor opened the gates to Irish writers of his generation.

"He was a marvellous person with an interest not only in Irish poets but in my generation of Irish poets. In a sense he created me. We became close friends and I owe my beginning to him."

The idea of placing a plaque at Timothy O'Keeffe's birthplace came from the present owner of Ard na Lir, Jeanette Huber, a native of Delaware, in the US.

Mrs Huber was renting the house in 1994 when Desmond O'Grady called with Mr O'Keeffe's wife of 40 years, Mimi. Mr O'Keeffe had passed away earlier that year and they discussed commemorating his life in some way.

Mrs Huber said yesterday that her interest in Mr O'Keeffe's legacy began in earnest when she read a tribute to him by Kevin Myers in The Irish Times.

In An Irishman's Diary of February 1994, Myers said the editor had helped inspire a "generation or more of Irish writers" yet his name was known to very few.

Mrs Huber said she further researched Mr O'Keeffe's work as an editor and felt his achievements needed to be honoured in his native land.

Mr O'Keeffe's widow and sons, Simon and Matthew, attended yesterday's unveiling.

Mrs O'Keeffe said she was "overjoyed" that her husband's life had been commemorated in his home town.

Meanwhile, in an e-mail to Jeanette Huber earlier this week Matthew O'Keeffe summed up his feelings about the special day.

"It is about the house, Tim, Scilly and Kinsale and the wonder of how a boy born in the house grows up to change a bit of literary history; memories of a dad on our childhood holidays and the Scilly crowd now gone, as is that way of life.

"And the memories of all the literary crowd - roaring poets and pubs, also gone."