HONORARY citizenship the highest accolade the Irish nation can pay was yesterday bestowed upon artist Derek Hill, discoverer of the Tory Island school of painting.HONORARY citizenship the highest accolade the Irish nation can pay was yesterday bestowed upon artist Derek Hill, discoverer of the Tory Island school of painting.
The 82-year-old English-born portrait and landscape painter was counted as ``one of the most distinguished among our global Irish family'' at a simple ceremony in Aras an Uachtarain.
Guests and friends of Dr Hill at the ceremony included Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins, Brian Farrell, Bruce Arnold, Seamus Heaney, Mrs JH Heinz and Dame Veronica Sutherland.
Dr Hill is just the 11th person to be awarded honorary citizenship since the foundation of the State. Previous recipients include Sir Chester Beatty, Tip O'Neill, Jean Kennedy Smith and Jack Charlton.
After the conferring, Dr Hill quipped that he would keep in mind the quote: ``Man ape-like, the higher he climbs, the more you can see his behind.''
Born in Southampton in 1916, Dr Hill has travelled extensively and is an expert on Eastern and Islamic art.
He made Donegal his home in 1954 and has lived there since. He bought St Columb's a former rectory in Letterkenny and it became his base, a centre for entertainment and a home for his growing collection of paintings and artifacts.
He presented the building to the State 17 years ago along with the Derek Hill collection of more than 300 paintings by various 20th century artists, including some by Tory Island painters. The house and adjoining gallery are open to the public.
President McAleese said: ``It is a great tribute to the people of Donegal and Tory Island that they managed to satisfy his wanderlust and that, of all the exotic fascinating places he has visited, he chose to settle in Ireland.''