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Cooke: the papers of Barrie Cooke

Reference Code: GBR/1058/COO

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, poetry and prose received by Barrie Cooke and original artwork produced by him. The principal correspondents are Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Jean Valentine and John Montage, and their letters along with their poetry and prose are to be found in the archive. There is also a large series of correspondence from poets and artists resident in Ireland, the United Kingdom and America, often consisting of just 1 or 2 letters from each correspondent but showing Cooke's wide circle of friends and interests.


  • Creation: 1955 - 2022

Conditions Governing Access

The Archive reading room is open by appointment, Wednesdays-Fridays, but all visits must be booked in advance. Photographs may not be taken of the Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes material without the permission of the Estates. The Archivist can provide further information and contact details for permissions. The remainder of the collection may be photographed for private research, subject to UK copyright provisions. Those wishing to publish from the collection should seek advice from the Archivist prior to publication.

Biographical / Historical

Barrie Cooke was born in 1931, in Knutsford, England to William Jasper Cooke and Gladys (née Judge). His father was English, his mother American. He was brought up in England, Jamaica and Bermuda with his brother Colin (d. 2012), before a move to America in 1947.

Cooke studied Art History at Harvard University, having originally planned to study Biology. He graduated in 1953 and later returned to England before moving to Ireland, where he is said to have felt immediately at home. He travelled to Austria in 1955 to attend Oscar Kokoschka’s School of Seeing for 3 months. In 1960 he met Ted Hughes for the first time, having previously corresponded with him. He also began a friendship with John Montague around that time. He met Seamus Heaney in the later 1960s. In 1965 Cooke moved to Kilkenny and then to Thomastown, County Kilkeeny. Trips to East Malaysia in 1975 and New Zealand in the later 1980s and 1990s had a dramatic impact on his paintings. In 1981 he became a member of the Aosdána. In the 1990s he moved to Kilmactranny, Boyle, County Sligo.

He married Harriet Leviter (1936-1990) in 1957, with whom he had 2 daughters: Liadin and Julia. Cooke and Harriet separated in 1964 and Cooke became close to Sonja Landweer (1933-2019), a Dutch artist and ceramist. They were together for over 20 years, and had a daughter: Aoine. In 1991 Cooke married American poet Jean Valentine (1934-2020), ex-wife of his friend James Clarke Chase, whom he had known for many years. They were together until 1996. She returned to the United States and Cooke remained in Ireland. He later married the painter Pam Berry. Cooke formed very close friendships with Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and John Montague, but also corresponded with a wide variety of poets, writers and artists, particularly from Ireland, the United Kingdom and America. Cooke died in March 2014.

Sources: ‘Barrie Cooke’ by Aidan Dunne, with contributions by Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, John Montague, The Douglas Hyde Gallery and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, 1986. 'Barrie Cooke', The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2011.


0.17 cubic metre(s)

Language of Materials




Spanish; Castilian

Dutch; Flemish

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Archive was acquired by Pembroke College in April 2020. The College gratefully acknowledges major grants from the Friends of the National Libraries, Arts Council England / V+A Purchase Grant Fund, Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, with contributions from Old Possum's Practical Trust and the Duke of Devonshire's Charitable Trust, as well as a bequest and contributions from several dozen friends and alumni of the College.

Related Materials

See GBR/1058/ADA, the papers fo George Adamson, GBR/1058/HUO, the papers of Olwyn Hughes and GBR/1058/WIC/2/1, the papers of Colin Wilcockson for additional Ted Hughes material. The College also holds an additional artwork by Barrie Cooke, 'Lough Arrow Algae', please consult the Archivist for access.

February 2022
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022-05-13: Top level scope and content note added, Sylvia Plath notes added and Paul Mosse's additional letter added.
  • 2022-10-27: GBR/1058/COO/9/3/1 added with cross-references.
  • 2023-01-13: GBR/1058/COO/1/4/2/8 updated with information from M. Moore.

Repository Details

Part of the Pembroke College Library Repository

Pembroke College
Cambridge CB2 1RF United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 764151