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Dame Fiona Kidman recieves inaugural Irish Writing Fellowship

Thursday 18 February 2021 5:08pm


One of New Zealand’s most accomplished authors and supporters of literature, Dame Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE, is the inaugural recipient University of Otago Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies (CISS) Irish Writers Fellowship.

Dame Fiona is looking forward to living, writing and engaging with the public in Dunedin during the Fellowship later this year.

“I am astonished by my good fortune to be invited to take up the Irish Writers Fellowship. Being of Irish descent, I identify with the stories of how Irish people have fared in this country. It's an amazing opportunity to develop my own sense of identity and to work with the wonderful CISS team.

“Dunedin is a city after my own heart, and I look forward to living there for a time”.

Professor Sonja Tierna

In the past Dame Fiona has worked closely with CISS, appearing at the 2019 Celtic Noir Festival and presenting a public lecture during the Luck of the Irish series at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in October 2020.

She credits Eamon Cleary Chair of Irish Studies Professor Sonja Tiernan's recent report Irish in Aotearoa: Mapping the Irish community and people of Irish heritage in New Zealand for showcasing the “breadth of the local diaspora – revealing just how significant it is in New Zealand.”

Dame Fiona has also engaged with the recently founded Embassy of Ireland in Wellington.

The Ambassador of Ireland to New Zealand, His Excellency Peter Ryan, welcomed the appointment.

Mr Peter Ryan

“Dame Fiona is as proud of her Irish heritage as we are of her, as an exceptional person and author. As Professor Tiernan’s report reminded us, we are blessed with the reach and diversity of our diaspora in New Zealand and I very much look forward to further collaboration with Fiona during her fellowship.

“Congratulations to CISS on this initiative and thank you for everything they do to highlight and nourish the strong cultural bonds and understanding between Ireland and Dunedin, Otago and New Zealand.”

Eamon Cleary Chair of Irish Studies Professor Sonja Tiernan is delighted Otago students will have the opportunity to be advised by Dame Fiona through workshops and on campus activities, and the public will have opportunities to engage via community events.

Professor Tiernan says Dame Fiona is “a particularly interesting contributor” to the history of the Irish in New Zealand. Her most recent novel This Mortal Boy is based on the true account of Irish immigrant Albert Black, the penultimate prisoner executed in New Zealand.


“This book has won numerous prestigious accolades, including best novel at the Ngaio Marsh Awards in 2019. I know this work will be of great interest to students and those interested in Irish Studies, as will her vast array of publications.”

About Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE

Dame Fiona’s writing career began in the 1960s with freelance journalism. The first of her eight novels was published in 1979, and she has also published four short story collections and four collections of poetry.

In 1988, Dame Fiona was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and became a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998; both honours were for services to literature. She is active in the literary community, serving as president of the New Zealand Book Council from 1992 to 1995. In 1988, she founded and ran the Fiona Kidman Creative Writing School.

About the CISS Scottish and Irish Writers Fellowship:

Initiated in 2020, the writing fellowships are aimed at facilitating and encouraging literary and cultural exchange between Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand.

The Fellowship is supported by a partnership between CISS and the Caselberg Trust. During their tenure Fellows receive a stipend, office space on Otago’s Dunedin campus, use of a car and accommodation at Caselberg Cottage on the Otago Peninsula.

Writers of Irish or Scottish birth, residence or affiliation can be selected as Fellows. Holders are invited to address and mentor students in Otago’s Irish and Scottish Studies and Creative Writing programmes and will participate in public events. The Fellowships alternate between Scottish- and Irish-affiliated writers.

Inaugural CISS Scottish Writers Fellowship recipients Scottish crime writer Craig Robertson and American-Scottish novelist and screenwriter Alexandra Sokoloff could not take up the Fellowship last year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.