Bestselling author Martina Cole, broadcaster Philip King, and Cork Penny Dinners co-ordinator Caitríona Twomey were joined by former director of the Crawford Art Gallery Peter Murray, and former CEO of Cork City VEC Richard Langford, in being recognised at the honorary conferrings in the Aula Maxima.
Ms Cole, the English multimillion-selling crime author and daughter of a Corkman, said receiving a Degree of Doctor of Literature was a spiritual homecoming to the county she visited frequently as a child.
She revealed that she has long partaken in that most quintessential of Cork summer traditions — going to Kinsale and getting chips from Dino’s — her cousin Denis Cregan’s institution.
“My parents died when I was 21, within eight months of one another, so it would have been wonderful, I would have loved to have had them here today. It’s very poignant,” she said.
“I feel like I’m home when I get here. It’s my other home, it really, really is.”
Famous for her London crime thrillers, Ms Cole also revealed that her next book could well be based in Ireland — but gave a tongue-in-cheek reply when asked if some Leeside gangster action is in the pipeline.
“I am toying actually with something, but it’s in Dublin. I don’t know if I could that to my Cork; Cork’s my spiritual home. If I’m going to have anything like that I’ll have it in Dublin,” she laughed.
A volunteer who gives her time to help inmates in the UK, Ms Cole said she plans to bring her creative writing class to an Irish prison.
“My books are the most requested books in the prison system, and the most stolen from shops. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not. So I go in and tell them ‘don’t just read, do something’.”
Philip King, conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Music, also mused on the importance of education, saying his time as a student in UCC energised him for the life that followed.
“It is a remarkable place and was a remarkable place for me. Everything that I needed to know and to learn, I found here. I didn’t know it at the time, but it has sustained me and informed me and sent me on the expedition of life since then.”
He described it as an analogue time in contrast with the modern digital age, but believes the space and time afforded to students in his day are needed now.
“I think there was a discourse, an engagement, a conversation, an intellectual rigour, an element of fun, and the most important thing of all, there was time. There was time for that discourse, there was time for argument.
“I sense that, going through an extraordinarily harrowing and difficult points system now, by the time a student arrives in university, they are probably acculturated to a points system that has psychologically gotten them to a place that they will undertake no activity in university unless it has got a reward or has got a credit.
“Within that we will miss something, we will miss what universities need to be about. Failing, failing better as Samuel Beckett said. I look back on my days here with huge affection.
“It was a remarkable time and my head was filled up with possibility.”