Belfast Telegraph

Twitter reunites Seamus Heaney letter with owner after more than 40 years

A portrait of Irish poet Seamus Heaney
A portrait of Irish poet Seamus Heaney

An letter by Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney to one of his former students has been returned to its original recipient after more than 40 years.

The letter was uncovered by Twitter user Stewart Law who found it in a charity shop eight years ago, who - after uncovering the letter - put an appeal out to track down its original owner.

In the original post he wrote: "Don't often ask for retweets but hoping Irish Twitter will do its thing. Years ago I found this letter from Seamus Heaney inside a 2nd hand book I bought in Belfast. I wonder if the owner would like it back?"

Within thirty minutes he had tracked down the owner Sophia Hillan who wrote she was "pleased and touched that the finder thought to contact me" and that "Seamus was a kind and loyal friend until his untimely death".

In the letter, dated to 1973, Derry poet Heaney apologises for not responding sooner to a request for a reference, and tells his former student: "If you ever want to use my name just go ahead and I'll do what I can."

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Law said he was a regular user of Twitter, and the site did not have the same reach eight years ago when he found the letter as it does now.

He said he uncovered the letter while clearing out books to donate to charity earlier this week, and had earlier thought the letter had been lost in transit.

Sophia said she had been alerted to the discovery of the letter after being told about its discovery by a friend of her son.

A collection of manuscripts, letters and unpublished works by the Bellaghy poet will open in the National Library of Ireland on Friday.

In an interview, the poet's son Michael said the Nobel laureate had delivered his own papers to the Dublin museum in 2011 in the back of his car - something he said was characteristic of his father's modesty.

Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 after a short illness, with an arts centre dedicated to him known as the Seamus Heaney HomePlace opening in 2016.

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