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JOHN MONTAGUE 28 February 1929 − 10 December 2016

December 10, 2016

It was with great sadness that we received the news of the death of the great John Montague in Clinique Parc Impérial in Nice on Saturday 10th December.  He was 87.  Barely four weeks ago, John and his wife Elizabeth graced our annual Awards Dinner in the Doubletree Hotel where he was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016.  He was frail enough having suffered recent illness but bore himself with great dignity and endurance.  As always there were flashes of the twinkling Montague wit – he remarked that the award trophy was not one “you could drink from” — and he seemed to be enjoying himself among close friends like Christine Dwyer Hickey and Garech Browne. At one point he was introduced to Paul O’Connell and both delighted in each other’s company – two mighty Irishmen thrust together in an unlikely setting.

The high esteem in which John was held is crystal clear from the tribute film we made featuring Christine Dwyer Hickey, his publisher Peter Fallon, Theo Dorgan, Paddy Moloney and Garech Browne.

In this affecting video Christine called him “John The Beloved”.  He was greatly loved she said, and hoped that he knew that.  Well, on that night, the love and affection for a great Irish poet was palpable in the room.  Responding to John Kelly’s eloquent presentation speech, John did what came naturally and read from a newly-minted poem inspired by reflections on the super-moon that recently illuminated the skies.

John Montague’s poetry illuminated so much for so many in the manner of all great poetry and his work will endure. And while we lament his passing, we’re pleased that we were able to honour him for a lifetime of service to the written word.  Our thoughts are with his partner Elizabeth and his family.  RIP John.


The Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award Honouree for 2016 is John Montague.

The Board of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards wish to confer upon John Montague their Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016.  The Award will be presented at the annual Awards Dinner in the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Dublin on the night of November 16th.

Born in Brooklyn in 1929 to parents who had immigrated to the US, John Montague and his two brothers were sent back to Ireland in 1933 where he was raised by two aunts on the family farm. Of this personal cataclysm he has written, “I was born in the twentieth century and sent back to the nineteenth century at the age of four. I lost everything and everyone I knew at that point and it probably made me a poet.”

Throughout a long and rich artistic life John Montague has been variously described as an Ulster poet, an Irish poet, and an American poet. And such has been the breadth of his sojourns and of his poetic vision, he may also be called a world-class poet, a genuine citizen of the republic of letters whose work is imbued with the cosmopolitan spirit that animates all great writers. His oeuvre – described by a fellow poet as one “of epic sweep and lyric intensity” – has brought him to a place of elevated international standing in world literature.

From Yale University where he studied with Robert Penn Warren, to the University of California, where he encountered the Beat Poets, to Paris where he became close friends with playwright Samuel Beckett, as mentor to the Cork poets during his time at UCC, Montague has lived a life that spans epochs, cultural movements and wrenching historical moments.  Above all, his long and passionate involvement with the land of Ireland, north and south, encapsulated in a distinguished body of work that will surely stand the test of time, will earn him a place in the pantheon of Irish literary greats.

In his 88th year, nearly six decades after his debut collection of poems, The Board of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards is proud to honour the winner of the 2016 Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award, John Montague.

4th October 2016