Development & Alumni Relations Office 


John Killen, BA, MA (died 2 January 2022, aged 67)


Obituary available online at Tributes paid to John Killen, former chief librarian of Belfast's Linen Hall Library - The Irish News


The former chief librarian of Belfast's Linen Hall Library was last night remembered as "a gentleman with a fantastic wealth of knowledge" following his death.


John Killen from Loughinisland in Co Down died peacefully on Sunday. Also an acclaimed author, tributes were paid last night to the father-of-four, who was aged in his late sixties.


Mr Killen's first job was at Belfast's Central Library before he joined Linen Hall Library as an Irish reference librarian in 1977. He was later appointed as deputy librarian and then became chief librarian.


Throughout his accomplished career, he also wrote numerous books including, The Irish Christmas Book and The Second Irish Christmas Book.


A History of the Linen Hall Library 1788-1988, also provided a chronological narrative of the first two centuries of the facility, while other publications looked at Irish drinking habits and Irish political cartoons.


Dr Francis Costello became friends with Mr Killen during his time as a governor of Linen Hall.


He said last night that Mr Killen was "a gem of a man - he was not only a gentleman with a fantastic wealth of knowledge, but he was a wonderful man to know as a friend".

"John wanted to see people connecting to the past, he wanted to give people the tools and resources to be able to do that," he said.


"Not only was he chief librarian, he also published a number of important works, he was the catalyst in bringing Heaney to the library to celebrate the works of Michael McLaverty and he also built a special collection about the famine.


"He added a great deal to Linen Hall during his time there, he gained great respect from across the island of Ireland."


Dr Costello said Mr Killen had been a keen Gaelic footballer and was a member of the Queen's University "freshers first year team who won an All Ireland" in 1973.


He also represented Down at senior level in football and hurling.


"He was a good athlete in his time and his love of football remained as did his loyalty to his home club of Loughinisland, where he also served as secretary" he said.


Other tributes to Mr Killen have been posted on social media, with many describing him as "a gentleman".


One said: "Such sad news. John was a real gentleman - someone you could depend on 100 per cent.


"Our club and community has lost a great man."


Former SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie also wrote on social media that Mr Killen was "a lovely courteous knowledgeable person on many historical matters".


Requiem Mass for Mr Killen is due to be celebrated in Saint Macartan’s Church, Loughinisland tomorrow at 10am followed by burial in the adjoining cemetery.


He is survived by his wife Marian, children Emma, Jonathan, Stephen and Orla and family circle.


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