Archive Online – A tribute to Lar Cassidy by Seamus Heaney, Nov. 1997.

 Lar Cassidy Heaney tribute  1997 Nov cover BI  BISeptOct2015cover

Archive: November 1997, Issue no. 208, p.305

Lar Cassidy died last month at the age of 47 after an illness that became apparent only a year ago. As literature officer of the Arts Council for the past seventeen years, he was a friend—certainly much more than a good public servant—to many writers and publishers, including us. We usually prefer to celebrate people’s qualities and achievements in their lifetime, but to most readers Lar had to be invisible. He was also assistant registrar of Aosdána, a strong enabler of the Irish Writers’ Centre and the Ireland Literature Exchange, and initiator of the Coopers & Lybrand report on the future of Irish book publishing (1995).

Last year he took a sabbatical to work even harder as director of the successful ‘Ireland and its Diaspora’ festival at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

We are very grateful to Seamus Heaney for permission to print below the tribute he gave at the funeral, and we join our sympathy for Lar’s family with his.


The good steward

By Seamus Heaney

Something princely has been obliterated.

When I thought about words to say in memory of Lar, the words that came were not original, but their original meaning seemed right. Lar had virtue, in the root sense of the word—he had pure worth and strength as a vir, a man. He had valour, principle, and the force of being that comes from principle. And he also had what Aristotle called magnificence, which in its original Greek context meant open-handedness combined with good taste; magnificence was later defined by the poet Edmund Spenser as the virtue “which… is the perfection of all the rest, and containeth in it them all”.

Lar’s great humanism, his unshakeable courtesy, his lovely chivalry, were magnificent in this essential philosophical way. The world was an ampler, more promising and more reliable place for his being in it. All of us who had dealings with him in his professional capacity felt that he guaranteed the integrity of the writers’ calling. He was not just the steward of the Arts Council’s resources; he was a steward of human value.

His early death means that our sense of loss is extreme. Something princely has been obliterated.

Archive: November 1997, Issue no. 208, p.305

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