Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Seamus Heaney: They sit, read his poems and take time to reflect

Seamus Heaney, pictured in 1995
Seamus Heaney, pictured in 1995
21/12/2011: Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland
21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland
21/12/2011: Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland
22/06/2013. Kennedy homecoming. Seamus Heaney pictured as a bust of the late Senator Edward Kennedy is unveiled at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown Co Wexford
Seamus Heaney - poet / writer
Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
16/06/2011. Seamus Heaney receives Ulysses medal. Playwright Brian Friel (left) and poet Seamus Heaney prior to the Bloomsday conferral ceremony where Mr Heaney was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature
16/06/2011. Seamus Heaney receives Ulysses medal. Nobel Laureate, Poet, Seamus Heaney with poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in the grounds of University College Dublin (UCD) where he was presented with the Ulysses medal
Seamus Heaney pictured on his 70th birthday at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham
File photo dated 20/06/06 of Seamus Heaney who has died aged 74
Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Irish poet, Seamus Heaney as Irish President Mary McAleese, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Dr. Martin McAleese look on before a State Dinner at Dublin Castle, on May 18, 2011 in Dublin
File photo dated 22/06/13 of Seamus Heaney reading a poem in front of a bust of Senator Ted Kennedy
Seamus Heaney (L) talks with Sir Ian McKellen after attending a memorial service for actor Paul Scofield on March 19, 2009 in London
Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney
PACEMAKER Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney guest speaker at the Holocaust Memorial event in the Waterfront Hall. 27/01/04
Seamus Heaney was a past pupil at Annahorish Primary School in Toome
Seamus Heaney Pic: Mark Condren 4/4/08
The University College Dublin Ulysses Medal was awarded to Seamus Heaney in 2011. This is the highest honour that the university can bestow
Seamus Heaney at Sandymount in Dublin, 1995
Seamus Heaney at Sandymount in Dublin, 1995
File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney(M) with Dunnes Stores Workers at a anti apartheid demo. 19/10/1985 Photo: Eamonn Farrell Photocall Ireland
Pacemaker: 10/09/09 Poet Seamus Heaney unveils the key stone on the site of the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast
Pacemaker: Field Day Theatre Company performing "The Cure at Troy" by Seamus Heaney, directed by Stephen Rea
A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled Thursday 2nd April 2009 by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney
A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled Thursday 2nd April 2009 by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney
A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled Thursday 2nd April 2009 by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney
6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened by Seamus Heaney (right), picutred with Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson.
6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened by Seamus Heaney
6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened by Seamus Heaney
10/09/2009: Poet Seamus Heaney at Lyric Threshold Stone unveiling at the widely recognised Lyric Theatre as the unveiling of the threshold stone highlights the progress that has been made with the construction of the new theatre

A fortnight ago Bellaghy was a quiet country village much like any other, but just a week after the sad passing of its most famous son there are signs that country life here will never be the same.

In the graveyard beside St Mary's church tucked neatly beside a dry stone wall and sheltered by the branches of a large sycamore tree is the final resting place of Seamus Heaney.

It was his wish that he was buried near his family plot and it is here that a steady stream of people come all day and into the night to pay their respects to this man recognised the word over as one of the greatest Irish poets.

They come and stand to pay their respects, say a prayer and take time to read the note on his grave written by Marie Burns who was to play her harp for Seamus in Belfast's Linenhall Library on September 8.

It reads:

"We will cross worlds

Not cross words

Catriona Morran and her daughter Hannah at Seamus Heaney's graveside
Catriona Morran and her daughter Hannah at Seamus Heaney's graveside
A tribute bottle of 'Writers Tears' in Bellaghy
Seamus Heaney's grave in Bellaghy where there has been a stream of people paying their respects to the Nobel Prize winning poet
Nuala Quinn from Portstewart recites the Seamus Heaney poem Digging

We will say that the bell

Means beautiful

And Bellaghy is the field

So now you are in

A beautiful field

Indeed with my dictionary

It may be clay

You are back

From whence you came

Your feet in clay

Your words set in stone."

A tiny bottle of whiskey with the label 'Writer's Tears' rests between the wreaths while the sides are festooned with bouquets and bunches of carnations, lillies and roses.

A freshly crafted St Brigid's cross is at his head and a blessed candle flickers.

Day and night people come to the graveside from far and near.

They sit, read their favourite poem, play music and take time to reflect just what Seamus Heaney meant to them.

Nuala Quinn and Maureen Roddy came to do just that.

Nuala had a copy of the textbook of Seamus Heaney's poems that she used for her O-Level English exams.

It is faded and marked but she read aloud from the book over the author's grave.

Among those gathering yesterday was Peter Dynes from Coalisland who said: "I was travelling nearby and made the detour because I just wanted to pay my respects to this great man.

"I wasn't a great poetry man but Seamus Heaney was special and what made him special was his ordinariness.

"He was a man of the country like myself."

Graham Elliot arrived in Ireland from his home in Germany and he came to Bellaghy for two reasons.

He wanted to pay his own respects but he was here on behalf of his friend who lives in Chicago.

Mr Ellitot said: "My friends teaches Irish literature so I thought it would be a good thing for me to come here and take some photographs until he can get here himself.

"I like that people are coming here. I think that it will comfort the family and I think that it won't be just a tourist thing," he said.

"I think people genuinely care."

Caoimhe Kennedy lives on the same road where Seamus grew up in Anahorish and attended the same primary school. Like so many of the people of Bellaghy who were also at the grave, she is pleased people are visiting.

She said: "I was at Yeats' grave in Sligo not so long ago and I suppose this grave will be the same now. It is happening already but I hope that whatever way it is handled the essence of how things are is not lost.

"The grave is simplistic, not ornate or fussy and that was Seamus Heaney and I think it would be fitting if that remained."

Perhaps there is no better tribute on Seamus Heaney's grave than the panel of turf that runs central to the grass echoing one of his best loved poems, Digging.

PJ Rea was the man tasked with this digging last Sunday, a job he described as a "privilege and an honour".

He said: "I was here last Sunday when I dug the grave for Seamus and I have been here every day since. I have to say I'm a bit surprised by the crowds, they are here non-stop.

"I came here at eight o'clock on Thursday morning thinking I would get the grave tended but there were already seven people at his grave.

"I don't know what Seamus would have made of it but I think he might be pleased enough."

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