Belfast Telegraph

Old school pal's picture 'captures his essence'

By Anna Maguire

THEY were taken three years ago, during a casual meeting between friends after many years.

This characteristic portrait of Seamus Heaney is one of a collection of photographs taken three years ago and published for the first time today.

"Marie [Heaney's wife] thinks – and I agree – that they get me very well 'at this stage' as she puts it," Heaney wrote in a thank-you note to the photographer, John Patton.

John and Seamus had boarded together at St Columb's College in Derry (separated by a few years) in the 1950s, and stayed in contact throughout the Troubles and more recent years.

In 2010 they met during a poetry festival at St Andrews, Scotland, where John had moved from his native Derry many years ago.

They walked around the grounds of St Salvator's College on a bright, bitterly cold March day, chatting about old times as John snapped away.

John recalled: "All the Heaney qualities were on display; he wore his scholarship and fame lightly.

"Scheduled to do a sold-out reading in the afternoon, he dismissed it as 'that carry-on'.

"Seamus was not just an outstanding writer but a great man as well."

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