Peter Berresford Ellis

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Peter Berresford Ellis
Peter Berresford Ellis.jpg
Peter Berresford Ellis in Emly, Ireland
Born (1943-03-10) 10 March 1943 (age 73)
Nationality British
Other names Peter Tremayne, Peter MacAlan
Education Brighton College of Art;
University of London
Alma mater North East London Polytechnic
Occupation writer
Known for Celtic history, literary biography, historical novels

Peter Berresford Ellis (born 10 March 1943 in Coventry) is a historian, literary biographer, and novelist who has published over 98 books to date either under his own name or his pseudonyms Peter Tremayne and Peter MacAlan. He has also published 100 short stories. Under Peter Tremayne, he is the author of the international bestselling Sister Fidelma historical mystery series. His work has appeared in 25 languages.

Early life[edit]

Peter Berresford Ellis was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, England. His father was a Cork-born journalist who started his career on The Cork Examiner.[1] The Ellis family can be traced in the area from 1288.[2] His mother was from an old Sussex family of Saxon origin that traces its lineage back through 14 generations in the same area. Her mother was of Breton descent.[3]

Educated at Brighton College of Art and the University of London,[4] Ellis graduated from North East London Polytechnic (now part of the University of East London) in Celtic Studies in 1989.[5] He also has a master's degree in Celtic Studies from the University of East London (1993).

Work and writing career[edit]

He began his career as a junior reporter on an English south coast weekly, becoming deputy editor of an Irish weekly newspaper and was then editor of a weekly publishing trade journal in London. He first went as a feature writer to Northern Ireland in 1964 for a London daily newspaper. His first book was published in 1968: Wales: a Nation Again, on the Welsh struggle for political independence, with a foreword by Gwynfor Evans, Plaid Cymru's first MP.[4]

In 1975 he became a full-time writer. He used his academic background to produce many titles in the field of Celtic Studies and he has written academic articles and papers in the field for journals ranging from The Linguist (London) to The Irish Sword: Journal of the Irish Military History Society (University College Dublin). In 1999 The Times Higher Education Supplement described him as one of the leading authorities on the Celts then writing.[4] He has been International Chairman of the Celtic League 1988–90; chairman of Scrif-Celt (The Celtic Languages Book Fair in 1985 and in 1986); chairman and vice-president of the London Association for Celtic Education 1989–95, and now is an Honorary Life Member.[4]

He was also chairman of his local ward Labour Party in London and was editorial advisor on Labour and Ireland magazine in the early 1990s. He is also an honorary life member of the Connolly Association (founded in 1938) to examine and promote the life and teachings of the Irish patriot James Connolly (1868-1916). He introduced and edited James Connolly: Selected Writing (Penguin, 1973) and wrote a regular column for the Association’s newspaper Irish Democrat from 1987-2007. He is a member of the Society of Authors.[4]

Popular fiction[edit]

Apart from his Celtic Studies interests, Ellis has written full-length biographies on H. Rider Haggard, W. E. Johns, Talbot Mundy, E. Charles Vivian (E. C. Vivian), and critical essays on other popular fiction authors. His output in the fictional field, writing in the genre of horror fantasy and heroic fantasy, began in 1977 when the first "Peter Tremayne" book appeared. Between 1983 and 1993 he also wrote eight adventure thrillers under the name "Peter MacAlan".[6]

As of June 2015 he had published 98 books, 100 short stories, several pamphlets, and numerous academic papers and signed journalistic articles. Under his own name he wrote two long running columns: 'Anonn is Anall' (Here and There) from 1987–2008 for the Irish Democrat, and, "Anois agus Arís" (Now and Again) from 2000–2008 for The Irish Post. His books include 35 titles under his own name 55 titles under his pen name of Peter Tremayne and eight under the pen name of Peter MacAlan.[7] He has lectured at universities in several countries, including the UK, Ireland, America, Canada, France and Italy. He has also broadcast on television and radio since 1968.

The popularity of his Sister Fidelma mysteries led, in January 2001, to the formation of an International Sister Fidelma Society in Charleston, South Carolina, with a website and a print magazine called The Brehon produced three times a year.[8][9] A book called The Sister Fidelma Mysteries: Essays on the Historical Novels of Peter Tremayne (MacFarland) was published in 2012, edited by Professor Edward J. Reilly and David Robert Wooten, which includes contributions about the series from numerous international authorities. His historical work was examined in an article "Peter Berresford Ellis and Popular History' by Professor Jim Smyth in History Ireland, September/October, 2010.

His novel, The Devil's Seal is forthcoming from St. Martin's Press in 2015.

Awards and honours[edit]

He was given an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of East London in 2006 in recognition of his work.[10] He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1996) and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (1998). He was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd (1987) for his work on the history of the Cornish languageThe Cornish Language and its Literature (published in 1974). He received an Irish Post Award (1989) for his work on Celtic history, and the French Prix Historia (2010) for best historical crime novel of 2010.[4][11] As well, he was made Honorary Life President of the Scottish 1820 Society (1989),[12] and Honorary Life Member of the Irish Literary Society (2002).[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ White, Gerry; O'Shea, Brendan (2006). The Burning of Cork. Cork: Mercier Press. [page needed]
  2. ^ "The Ellis Family of Millstreet". Millstreet: a Considerable Town. Aubane Historical Society. 2003. [page needed]
  3. ^ Ellis, Eva Daisy (Randell) (2003). Daisy: growing up in a Sussex village. Hurstpierpoint: Hurstpierpoint Historical Society. [page needed]
  4. ^ a b c d e f Rielly, Edward; Wooten, David Robert (2012). The Sister Fidelma Mysteries: Essays on the Historical Novels of Peter Tremayne. MacFarland. [page needed]
  5. ^ "UEL Alumni Network". University of East London. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Book and Magazine Collector. London. March 1993.  Missing or empty |title= (help) (contains an overview of life and work and bibliography to that date).
  7. ^ More details of his fiction work and career appear in the Tremayne entries in:
    *Clute, John; Grant, John, eds. (1997). The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy. New York; London: St. Martin's Press; Little, Brown and Company. ;
    *Ashley, Mike, ed. (2002). The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction. London; New York: Robinson; Carroll & Graf.  and
    *Joshi, S.T.; Stefan, Dziemianowicz, eds. (2005). Supernatural Literature of the World: an encyclopaedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 
  8. ^ Book and Magazine Collector. London. October 2004.  Missing or empty |title= (help) (contains a detailed look at the Sister Fidelma Mysteries)
  9. ^ Details of his work and career are posted at the International Sister Fidelma Society website.
  10. ^ "News". University of East London. 2006. Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. 
  11. ^ Historia. Paris. October 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Who’s Who in International Affairs. London. 1990. 
  13. ^ The Irish Post. 22 November 2002.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Entries on Ellis's career at various times can be taken from his entries in reference works:
    *International Authors and Writer's Who's Who (8th onwards ed.). Cambridge, England. 1977 onwards.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
    *Contemporary Authors. 81 onwards. Detroit. 1979 onwards.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
    *Who's Who in the World (5th onwards ed.). Chicago. 1980 onwards.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
    *European Biographical Directory. Belgium. 1990. ;
    *Who's Who in International Affairs. London. 1990. ;
    *Who's Who of Authors and Writers. Europa Publications. 2004. ;
    *The Cambridge Blue Book. Cambridge, England. 2005. ;
    *The Writers' Directory. Detroit. 2005. 

External links[edit]