Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Professor from Queen's University Belfast let off £8,500 fine for book overdue by 47 years

Jack Foster
Jack Foster

A university professor has been spared a fine of more than £8,500 after discovering he was in possession of a library book that was 47 years overdue.

Emeritus Professor John 'Jack' Foster, from Queen's University Belfast's Institute of Irish Studies, recently discovered the book by Victorian poet Arthur Hugh Clough, a contemporary of Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson, when he returned to Vancouver to clear out his locker at the University of British Columbia where he had been based for a number of years.

There he saw The Poems Of Arthur Hugh Clough still had a due date stamp of October 11, 1966.

Professor Foster, an undergraduate at Queen's, said the discovery was something of a mystery.

He said: "I had been a fan of Clough's, but I had left Queen's by that time and was at the University of Oregon as a doctoral student.

"I saw that it also had a stamp saying that Queen's had obtained the book in May 1921 so it was definitely their book and it was 47 years late, so outrageously overdue.

"Fines from the McClay Library are 50p per day for their seven-night loans so I was looking at a steep bill. As the Americans say: 'You do the math!'"

Queen's said it was pleased to get the book back and would not be looking for Professor Foster to stump up the £8,577.50 fine.

"I suppose the moral of the story is if you discover an overdue book make sure it's really, really overdue before you think about returning it," the professor said.

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