Belfast Telegraph

One of Seamus Heaney's final works to feature as part of TV celebrations ... with a little help from Billy Connolly


A new translation by Seamus Heaney – one of his final works – is set to become a major television event in the New Year.

The late Nobel laureate had finished translating the work of the medieval Scots poet Robert Henryson before his sudden death in August. The work makes up the programme which is to be called 'Five Fables'.

They are to be narrated by another, more modern Scottish legend, Billy Connolly, with music composed by Barry Douglas.

State-of-the-art animation has been produced by Holywood-based Flickerpix – part of the Waddell media group – which also produced the Gerry Anderson On the Air series for BBC NI.

The project is set to form part of the celebrations planned to mark the 90th anniversary of the BBC in Northern Ireland.

The Corporation's Northern Ireland director Peter Johnston called it "an amazing example of a very rich cultural programme" to mark the historic birthday. A spokesperson for the BBC in Belfast said no further details – including the intended broadcasting date – have been finalised yet.

But Mr Johnston told Stormont's culture and arts committee: " we approach our 90th anniversary in 2014... we have some really interesting things to come up in that regard.

"One that I will highlight is 'Five Fables', which is a really interesting project. It is from the work of an ancient Scots poet; Henryson. It was translated by Seamus Heaney before he tragically died. It is voiced by Billy Connolly and animated by Flickerpix.

"You will be familiar with some of its work; it is one of the really talented local companies. The music is by Barry Douglas.

"It is an amazing example of a very rich cultural programme that I hope will have a very wide appeal. That is the sort of thing that we need to have, looking ahead, in terms of ambition."

Meanwhile, Seamus Heaney's sister-in-law, the writer and broadcaster Polly Devlin has written of her and the family's devastation following the Bellaghy man's death in August, at the age of 74. He died suddenly in Dublin while waiting to undergo surgery.

In an article for the Observer, she revealed she was in Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod, in the United States when she received news of his death.

"Obviously it was a cosmic tragic mistake.

"His death caught all our hearts off guard and blew them open; we never knew how much we loved him or how much he had given us until he had gone.

"How did he do it? He carried our hopes and aspirations and our longings for a better and more truthful life and he carried them so lightly and with such grace."


The Scottish medieval poet Robert Henryson is believed to have been born between 1425 and 1450. His major work; Morall Fabillis was a translation of Aesopic tales into the Scots vernacular. Little is known of his life, but evidence suggests he was a teacher with training in law and the humanities. His fables are noted for weaving humour and seriousness.

Belfast Telegraph


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