Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Queen's opens book of condolence for its most distinguished alumnus

The late Seamus Heaney with fellow poet, Michael Longley, who led tributes to him at the Lyric Theatre

Hundreds of friends, family, colleagues and humble admirers visited south Belfast this week to pay their respects to the late author and poet Seamus Heaney.

A book of condolence was opened at Queen's University Belfast, where Heaney once studied and taught, while the Lyric Theatre, the scene of his last Belfast public appearance was filled for a special tribute event on Saturday night.

Tickets for the free event were snapped up by literary enthusiasts and the 380-capacity venue heard tributes from fellow poets Michael Longley, Frank Ormsby, Damian Gorman and Sinead Morrison.

Other members of the art and literature world, including actress Stella McCusker and novelist Glenn Patterson, also spoke of how the poet's work had touched them and there was a musical performance from composer Neil Martin

The Nobel Laureate died suddenly in Dublin last week at the age of 74 after a brief spell in hospital with illness.

His requiem mass was held at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin, while he was buried in his native Bellaghy in Co Derry.

A portrait of the world-renowned poet by artist Colin Davidson will be on special display at the Lyric before being moved to its permanent home in The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University Belfast. Queen's Chancellor, Kamalesh Sharma said: "Through a lifetime of creative genius, of immense generosity and gentleness, Seamus Heaney, in a most unassuming way, gave immeasurably of himself to Queen's.

"His association with Queen's as undergraduate, lecturer, wise mentor, friend and most distinguished alumnus of Queen's, uniquely enriched the life and learning of the university. Seamus himself said that poetry 'can entrance you for a moment above the pool of your own consciousness and your own possibilities'.

"We have been entranced by his words, his wit, and above all by his wisdom and humanity. These are Seamus Heaney's profound and enduring legacies to Queen's University and to the world.

"We shall treasure his poetry and our memories, as much as we shall always miss his presence."

Mark Carruthers, Lyric chairman, paid tribute to the distinguished poet: "Seamus Heaney was a long-time friend and supporter of the Lyric Theatre and we are all therefore deeply saddened at his passing. He was a man of enormous talents – easily the greatest Irish poet since Yeats. His loss will be deeply felt beyond the arts world.

"As Lyric chairman, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to his wife Marie and family.

"He will be greatly missed."

The Book of Condolence can be signed at the Welcome Centre in Queen's University's Lanyon Building, from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

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