2006 – Larkin Plaque in Belfast
A Larkin Plaque in Belfast – by Winifred Dawson.
[From About Larkin 23, April 2007]
From left: Pro Vice Chancellor Gerry McCormack,
Jill McIvor, Ivan Hill, Andrew Motion and Victor Price
At last a blue plaque has been placed at Queen’s University Library, Belfast, commemorating the years which Philip Larkin spent there. This had been planned for some time, on the initiative of Jill McIvor, who worked with him there and was also a member of the Ulster History Circle. It was put in place in 2006, 21 years after his death – and 51 years after he left to become Librarian of the Brynmor Jones Library in Hull.
It is rumoured that there was some opposition, on the grounds that he was not a home-grown poet like Seamus Heaney. But Larkin enjoyed his time in Belfast immensely. It was there that he began to enjoy his career. As Sub-Librarian in charge of Readers' Services, which included responsibility for the Reading Room, issue desk, the bindery and photographic services, he acquired an overall view of library work which, added to his natural efficiency and pride in a job well done, gave him the experience which would later be used in the administration and expansion of the Brynmor Jones Library.
He also enjoyed Belfast for the friends he made there, the beautiful countryside which he loved to explore, and above all as the place where poetry began to flood out of him and where many of his best poems were written.
When it was known that Andrew Motion would be making a visit to the University's Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre on 17 November 2006, the plaque was quickly put in place so that he could perform the unveiling. Unfortunately there was no time to invite those who had worked with Larkin to be there. The ceremony took place on a cold wet November morning, and as the plaque had been placed on the exterior wall of the building the speeches took place indoors, up on the mezzanine floor which was put in in the early 50s during Larkin's stay.
Members of the Larkin Society visiting Belfast might like to see this plaque and the old Gothic library in which the poet spent many happy hours, and which played such an important part in his career, both as a librarian and a poet.
Andrew Motion unveils the plaque in the rain Andrew Motion addresses the company Jill McIvor, who worked with Larkin in QUB Library, remembers
The Philip Larkin Society is grateful to the Ulster History Circle (www.ulsterhistory.co.uk)
for permission to reproduce these photographs of the ceremony.
All photographs © The Ulster History Circle.