Belfast Telegraph

Event evokes the people and places which fired the brilliant mind of Seamus Heaney

By Claire Williamson

The life of Seamus Heaney is to be celebrated in a series of landmark events to mark the first anniversary of his death.

This weekend the people of Bellaghy and further afield will gather in his home village to remember the life of the Nobel Laureate in an event entitled The Poetry House.

It comes after the announcement last week that the new Seamus Heaney Centre has been approved for Bellaghy.

Heaney died in hospital in Dublin last August at the age of 74.

Starting on Saturday morning, Bellaghy Bawn will be centre stage for the weekend's events. It kicks off with talks and tours of the site. At 2.30pm, proceedings will move to the cemetery at St Mary's Church, where the poet was laid to rest.

This provides visitors with an opportunity to remember Heaney in a quiet moment of reflection and to hear some poems read by graduates of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University in Belfast.

A procession of celebration will then move through the village to the Turfman sculpture, where there will be choral music in his memory. Under the guidance of Magherafelt's Gino Lupari – of Four Men And A Dog fame – an afternoon of music will follow. The Sands family will perform a memorial concert from 7.30pm in the Bawn marquee, where invited and local guests will hear a songbook specially prepared for the occasion.

Derry man Gerard McChrystal will evoke the poem Mid Term Break through a specially commissioned piece for the saxophone.

Afterwards, the public is invited to The Wall at Ballydermot Road to witness an event at Church Island.

Details are being kept under wraps, but it is believed to be something well worth seeing. On Sunday from 2pm there is an open mic session where visitors can read, write, sing, play or just listen.

A series of coach tours of 'Seamus Heaney Country' will also take place with specialist guides exploring in detail the inspirations that framed the poet's life and work.

Chairman of the organising committee Patrick Brennan said: "The Poetry House has been developed as both an honorific and celebratory occasion that is mindful of the deep loss to his family and friends and to our global culture, while recalling Seamus's good humour, the playful twinkle in his eye, his celebrated mischievous chuckle, his unique voice and his deep love of his place." All events are free except Seamus Heaney Country tours, which is £12 including refreshments.


Seamus Heaney, who was awarded the 1995 Nobel prize, died last August aged 74. The world-renowned poet's native rural village in the heartland of Co Londonderry was a major influence on his writing and provided material for some of his best loved work. Event organisers said back in 2012, when The Poetry House was first mooted to Seamus, he wrote back to commend the idea.

He said: "I greatly appreciate the honorific element in the different items you intend to schedule." He added: "I like the title The Poetry House."

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