Monday 21 October 2019

Rare library book borrowed 82 years ago is finally returned

RETURNED: The long-lost copy of ‘The White Owl’ back with Donegal libraries
RETURNED: The long-lost copy of ‘The White Owl’ back with Donegal libraries
The warning to borrowers

Stephen Maguire

A rare book has been returned to a Co Donegal library - 82 years after it was borrowed.

The book, The White Owl, was taken out of the public library in Gaoth Dobhair in 1937. Staff at the library could hardly believe their eyes last Friday when the book was returned intact.

Members of the family of the person who had borrowed the book were having a house clearance at their home in Falcarragh in west Donegal when they came across it.

The book even has an original Donegal County Council Libraries stamp which shows it was borrowed on July 23, 1937, the year it was published.

A note inside from Donegal County Council warns borrowers to return books within 14 days and to report if there has been any disease in the house in which the book has been.

Written by AMP Smithson, it is considered a very rare book, according to a spokesperson for Donegal Library.

Copies of the book, first published by Talbot Press in both Dublin and Cork, are on sale for almost €300.

AMP Smithson was a Dublin-born Protestant who converted to Catholicism in 1907 and became a fervent republican and nationalist. She became a member of Cumann na mBan and campaigned for Sinn Fein in the 1918 general election.

Some of her 20 published novels feature in Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa, a play and film coincidentally set in Co Donegal. In 1989 and 1990 the Mercier Press reprinted several of her works.

A spokesperson for Donegal County Libraries said of the return of the book to their care: "Better late than never."

Thankfully for the family who returned the novel after unknowingly having it for 82 years, the Government scrapped library fines for late book returns on January 1 this year.

And with the average cost of late fees at 5c a day, the overdue fine on The White Owl would have been in the region of €1,280.

Sunday Independent

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