Remembering our Friend Robert Dunbar

Robert DunbarIt is with great sadness that Children’s Books Ireland acknowledges the passing of our friend, patron and children’s books champion, the irreplaceable Robert Dunbar.

Robert was knowledgeable about many things, very wise and very, very funny – and of course enormously well-read. He was a pioneer in the study of children’s books in Ireland and to most people, he simply *was* children’s literature in Ireland.

He was a founder member of the Children’s Literature Association of Ireland, which merged with the Irish Children’s Book Trust to become Children’s Books Ireland. He has held many roles within CBI: board member, Inis magazine editor, Bisto Book of the Year Awards judge, reviewer and patron. He was also the recipient of the CBI Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to children’s literature in Ireland.

Robert was, for many years, a lecturer in the Church of Ireland College of Education and a regular commentator on children’s literature in The Irish Times and on various radio programmes. Even those who had not met him in person felt they knew him well as a regular contributor to Rattlebag and other programmes. Robert also hosted his own children’s book show with Dublin Community Radio.

He was a fierce and generous supporter of those whose work he admired and a staunch supporter of those whose careers were just beginning. It was our honour to introduce those new entrants to the children’s book community to Robert as we knew we were passing them into very safe hands.

Despite all the roles he held within our organisation and the numerous awards bestowed upon him, we will foremost remember him as a friend: of the organisation, the board and most especially of ours. An email or phone call from Robert at the close of the CBI conference, or an acknowledgement of enjoying reading an article in Inis were always most happily received. For those of us who joined the organisation many years ago, he was a quiet reassurance just a phone call away.

We will miss his presence at our events, his emails and his humour more than we can ever say. The staff and board of Children’s Books Ireland offer sympathy to Carole, and to their children Gráinne and Dominic, and their grandchildren. We respect their wish for privacy as they remember the long and happy years with Robert. It’s very hard for us to imagine a world without him. It must be unimaginably difficult for them.