Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Seamus Heaney: Poet laureate's final plaudits as he's laid to rest in Co Derry homeland

The family of  Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, carry his coffin at St Marys Church Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry where he will be buried. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The family of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, carry his coffin at St Marys Church Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry where he will be buried. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. John Hume.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
People watch the remains of Seamus Heaney, being carried for burial at St Mary's Chiurch, Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
People watch the remains of Seamus Heaney, being carried for burial at St Mary's Chiurch, Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Marie Heaney (centre) the widow of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney accompanied by daughter Catherine Ann, walk behind his coffin as it is carried at St Marys Church Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry where he will be buried. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The family of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, carry his coffin at St Marys Church Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry where he will be buried. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at St Marys Church Bellaghy, in Co Londonderry where he will be buried. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 2, 2013. See PA story FUNERAL Heaney. Photo credit should read: Liam Paul Faith/PA Wire
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's widow, Marie.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's son, Michael.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's son, Michael.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's widow, Marie.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's widow, Marie.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's widow, Marie.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland 2nd September 2013 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney is laid to rest in his native Bellaghy in County Londonderry. Acclaimed by many as the best Irish poet since Yeats, the 74-year-old died in a Dublin hospital on Friday. Seamus Heaney's widow, Marie.
The coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney is carried from the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin by his sons Michael (left), Christopher (right): Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Marie Heaney (left) the widow of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney accompanied by daughter Catherine Ann as they leave the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin after the funeral mass.
A mourners lays his hands on the coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney before his funeral at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin.
Family flowers on the coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney after his funeral at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney leaves the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin after his funeral. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Family flowers on the coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney after his funeral at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Family flowers on the coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney before his funeral at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
U2 frontman Bono with his wife Alison Houston, attend the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin
Irish President Michael D Higgins attends the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Family flowers on the coffin of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney after his funeral at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Former Pogue's frontman Shane MacGowan attends the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Deputy Leader of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuiness, speaks to Marie Heaney, after the funeral of her husband the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Deputy Leader of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuiness after the funeral of the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Marie Heaney after the funeral of her husband the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Actor Stephen Rea after the funeral of the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Deputy Leader of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuiness and former Irish President Mary McAleese, speak with a priest after the funeral the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Irish President Michael D Higgins speaks to Marie Heaney after the funeral of her husband the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin, after the funeral of the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
English actor Dominic West after the funeral of the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, after the funeral of the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Singer and actress Bronagh Gallagher after the funeral of the Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Church of the Scared Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin. McBurney/PA Wire
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness attend the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin.Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Irish Poet Peter Fallon attends the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
U2's The Edge with band member Larry Mullin Jr (background) attend the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A mourners attends the funeral of Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney at the Sacred Heart Church in Donnybrook in south Dublin. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Seamus Heaney

In the same peaty soil into which his father drove a spade, Seamus Heaney was laid to rest this evening in the quiet Co Derry village that inspired so much of his work.

Digging, with its evocative description of the earth of his south Derry homeland, was perhaps the Nobel Laureate's best known poem and in Bellaghy a sculpture of a man toiling the fields is fitting tribute to its most famous son.

In life he was there to see it unveiled and today, in death, the bronze figure stood as silent monument as the poet was brought back home.

"May the green sod of Bellaghy rest gently upon him," Father Andrew Dolan told the hundreds of mourners that packed the graveyard of St Mary's parish church to bid farewell.

They had begun to congregate in the picturesque setting hours before the hearse ended its journey of 125 miles from Donnybrook church in Dublin, where requiem mass was held this morning.

A sea of faces gradually grew among the weather beaten white crosses a top the headstones.

Many wore dark glasses to shield their eyes from the low hung sun. It was the start of September, but this was one of the warmest days of the year.

As they awaited the cortege, some perched on the stone borders of the plots.

A few leafed through the pages of Heaney's works, lost in the words, while nearby a young family sat on the grass and ate a picnic.

Among the notables that had gathered to pay respects were former SDLP leader John Hume, Sinn Fein leaders Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, Foyle MP Mark Durkan and the former bishop of Derry Edward Daly.

At the other side of the graveyard, on a raised pathway running in front of the slate roofed church, a row of well-prepared mourners sat on a hotch potch of fold-away chairs.

They were almost too far away to see.

Like the rest, they rose to their feet when the first bars of a lone piper's lament indicated the poet had finally arrived.

Children from two local primary schools - St Mary's and St John Bosco - formed a miniature guard of honour as Heaney was carried along the winding path to the secluded corner that holds the family plot.

His widow Marie, comforted by other family members, followed close behind.

She was joined at the graveside by the couple's children Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann.

Under the shade of overhead sycamore and ash trees, they listened in silence as Father Dolan urged people to reflect on the significance of the moment - particularly for the family but also for the whole community.

The cleric said the turn-out spoke volumes for the regard in which the bard was held.

"We welcome home Seamus to Bellaghy," he said.

"The parish is honoured that Seamus Heaney chose to be buried here. The name Seamus Heaney and this place will be forever entwined. Today we proudly and warmly welcome him back, back home in Derry, south Derry.

"We are privileged to be able through this rite of burial to fulfil Seamus's deepest wish - that he be buried here in the place that he never left really and among the people also who influenced him so much."

For the burial of a poet, symbolism was never going to be in short supply.

A glance to the occasional bird flitting between the high hedgerows near the open grave, scouring for any last scraps of food before sunset, would surely have given lovers of Heaney pause to reflect on the eponymous subject of the poet's Blackbird of Glanmore and its final two lines.

"On the grass when I arrive, in the ivy when I leave."

That poem also referred to the death of Heaney's four year-old brother Christopher in a car accident. The tragedy was the focus of his acclaimed work Mid-term Break.

Tonight, more than 60 years later, the 74-year-old lies reunited with his brother in the family's burial plot.

At end of the service, mourners broke into a spontaneous round of applause.

Seamus Heaney...receiving plaudits to the very end.

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