Just two weeks after his gentle voice hushed an audience in Glór, County Clare has been paying tributes to literary giant Seamus Heaney.
The 74-year-old Nobel Laureate died in hospital in Dublin on Friday after a short illness. He was in Clare with friend and fellow poet Michael Longley as part of the Merriman Summer School last month.
Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara paid tribute to the late poet, saying his death is a loss for Ireland.
“However, he will always live through his poetry and his ability to speak to the heart with compassion and the understanding of a seer,” he said.
Deputy McNamara also spoke about the impact of the poet and his work on him personally. “Seamus Heaney influenced generations of young people who studied him at school or who read his poetry for other reasons. When I once had occasion to meet him as a student, I found him kind, warm and considerate with none of the aloofness one might expect of a Nobel Laureate. After the death of my father, I sought refuge in Heaney’s poetry for its illumination on the myriad complex relationships between father and son and the land. I am one of the very many who will always remember him with affection,” said Deputy McNamara.
Cumann Merriman, which organises the Merriman Summer School, also paid tribute to the Derry man. “It was a great honour for us that Seamus agreed to become patron of Cumann Merriman, a role which he held for the five years from 2008 until his death. Seamus addressed a number of Merriman Schools over the years and always to appreciative audiences. However, it was only a fortnight ago that he, along with his friend Michael Longley, gave us a night of poetry that we will never forget, with the gentleness of his own personality and the enchantment of his compositions.”
Seamus Heaney was a regular visitor to Clare and in his poem Postscript exalts the beauty of Clare and in particular the Flaggy Shore. Clare TD Pat Breen described Seamus Heaney as one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures, whose poetic legacy will live on forever.
“I was saddened to hear of the death of Seamus Heaney. I had the privilege of meeting him on a number of occasions. The first time I met him was at a diplomatic event in Dublin and he made a very big impression on me. Sadly, the last time we met was only two months ago in a Dublin restaurant when he was celebrating a family birthday event. On that occasion, he came over to greet me and took pride in introducing his wife Marie, daughter Catherine Ann, his sons and family. He was in great form and he was so very friendly. He was very interested in hearing about County Clare. He loved his visits to Clare and his poem The Flaggy Shore, which exalts the beauty of the North Clare Coast, reflects the esteem in which he held the county,” the Fine Gael TD stated.
Deputy Breen described the Nobel Laureate as “a very charismatic and interesting man whose ability to bring poetry to life endeared him to all generations of Irish People”.
Seamus Heaney is survived by his wife Marie; sons Michael and Christopher and daughter, Catherine Ann; as well as brothers Hugh, Pat, Charlie, Colm and Dan; extended family and friends. After a funeral mass in Donnybrook, the poet was laid to rest in Bellaghy Cemetery, County Derry.
Seamus Heaney also had a special association with Sixmilebridge. In 1995, his Noble Laureate year, the poet gave a special gift to the village. He signed 200 copies, specially inscribed and numbered, of his collection Station Island, to launch the conservation of the former Church of Ireland building in Sixmilebridge as Kilfinaghty Library.
The signed books were then sold to individuals, companies and organisations in Sixmilebridge, Clare and beyond.
“I had the honour and privilege of meeting Seamus Heaney when I collected the signed copies from his home in Dublin. I treasure this memorable occasion. I met and enjoyed his company over coffee in his kitchen. His generosity of spirit and time successfully launched the conservation of the former Church of Ireland building as our local library. He was lovely, generous and wise man,” said David Deighan, chairman of the Church Conservation Project Committee.
The Gallery in the library is named The Seamus Heaney Gallery as a permanent acknowledgement of his contribution and generosity to Kilfinaghty Library.