Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Mourners gather for Heaney funeral

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney died unexpectedly in hospital on Friday after a short illness

Family and friends of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney have gathered with his contemporaries and dignitaries to pay last respects to one Ireland's literary greats.

The internationally acclaimed 74-year-old writer died unexpectedly in hospital on Friday after a short illness.

Mourners at his funeral at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in the south of Dublin - near where the Northern Ireland-born poet made his home - were led by his widow Marie and children Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann.

Irish President MIchael D Higgins, himself a published poet, attended along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.

Heaney will be buried this evening in his native Bellaghy in Co Derry - a village that inspired so much of his work.

His lifelong friend and poetry contemporary Michael Longley were among the mourners, along with musician Paul Brady and U2 stars Bono - with his wife Ali Hewson - Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton.

Heaney has been hailed as the greatest poet Ireland produced since William Butler Yeats.

Former US president Bill Clinton has been among those paying tribute, describing Heaney as "our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives" and a "powerful voice for peace".

A hastily arranged celebration of the poet's life in Belfast's Lyric theatre on Saturday night was packed to capacity as the audience was treated to poignant recitals of his best known works.

Books of condolences are open in Derry, Belfast and Dublin.

Mr Kenny has said it would take Heaney himself to describe the depth of loss Ireland felt over his death.

The 1995 Nobel prize-winner was born in April 1939, the eldest of nine children, on a small farm called Mossbawn near Bellaghy, and his upbringing often played out in the poetry he wrote in later years.

The citation for the award praised Heaney "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".

Chief celebrant of the Mass, Monsignor Brendan Devlin, opened the service with the remark that Heaney might have liked to have his funeral celebrated by someone with a Northern accent.

He summed up why the poet was held in such high regard by people from all walks of life.

"He could speak to the King of Sweden, an Oxford don or a south Derry neighbour with the directness of a common and shared humanity," he said.

Monsignor Devlin, a family friend, celebrated the mass with Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Eamonn Walsh, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and Mark Patrick Hederman from Glenstal Abbey.

He told the mourners that the island of Ireland felt the deprivation of the loss of Heaney.

A posy of flowers from the garden of the Heaney family home in Sandymount and a book of some of Heaney's works were offered as gifts during the service.

The Mass was ended with a reading of one of Heaney's poems, The Given Note, from his second published collection.

Paul Muldoon, a teacher, poet and friend of Heaney, gave the eulogy following the service.

"We remember the beauty of Seamus Heaney as a bard and today in particular in his being," he said.

Michael Heaney, one of the poet's sons, spoke briefly to thank those who cared for his father and those who have offered support and praise since his death.

He revealed that his father had sent a text message to his mother, Marie, last Friday.

"His last few words in a text message minutes before he passed away in his favourite Latin were 'nolle timere' ('don't be afraid')," he said.

Politicians who attended the service also included Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's deputy prime minister, senior Sinn Fein figures Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, and the leader of the opposition in Ireland, Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin.

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