Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Robert Dunbar (died 21 July 2016, aged 76)

A full obituary can be found in The Irish Times.

Tributes from around the world of children’s literature have been paid to Robert Dunbar, who died in July after a long illness. Described asirreplaceable’ and as a ‘champion of children's books’ Robert Dunbar was also dubbed the 'Father Christmas' of children's literature.

Born on January 18th, 1940 and a native of Dunseverick in Co Antrim, he attended Bushmills Grammar School and attained the highest mark in English A-level in Northern Ireland, before coming up to Queen’s where he was a contemporary of Seamus Heaney. He graduated in 1961.

After teaching at Coleraine Tech and Rainey Endowed Grammar School in Magherafelt where he was head of English for several years, he was awarded an MA in English and Education at Ulster University (Coleraine) in 1978.

Married in 1964 to Carole (née Redfern), they moved to Dublin in 1980, where Robert lectured in children's literature at the Church of Ireland College of Education in Rathmines (where he was Head of English) until he retired in 2005. He also taught on the BEd course in the School of Education at Trinity and on the MA in children's literature at St Patrick's College, Dublin.

A leading critic, editor and educator Robert Dunbar was credited for launching the careers of many writers including Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl science fiction fantasy series and Patrick Ness, the best-selling author of A Monster Calls.

Robert Dunbar reviewed children’s fiction for The Irish Times for more than 27 years and 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.

As well as lecturing he presented a weekly radio programme on children’s books and edited two anthologies, Enchanted Journeys: Fifty Years of Irish Writing for Children and Skimming, both published by O’Brien Press. He was also the first editor of Children’s Books in Ireland (now Inis magazine) and was a Bisto Book of the Year Awards judge.

In 2006 he received a Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his contribution to children’s literature in Ireland, and in 2009 was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Education (DEd) by Trinity College Dublin.

Robert is survived by his wife, Carole, their children, Gráinne and Dominic, grandchildren, Jack, Matthew, Edie and Astrid, son-in-law Derek and daughter-in-law Carol. 

Photograph below by Matt Kavanagh

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