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World Famous Irish Poet Seamus Heaney Dies

seamus-heaney-portrait3The greatest poet of our age has died today. The world-famous poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1995), Seamus Heaney (13th April 1939 – 30th August 2013) passed away today following ill health, at the age of 74.

Heaney was born one of 9 children, on the 13th of April 1939 at the family farmhouse known as Mossbawn, between Castledawson and Toomebridge in Northern Ireland. His family later moved to Bellaghy, a few miles away, in 1953.

Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb’s College from Anahorish Primary School and in 1957 he travelled to Belfast to study English Language and Literature at the Queen’s University of Belfast, graduating in 1961 with a First Class Honours degree. It was while in St. Columb’s College that he learned of the death of his four year old brother, Christopher, from a traffic accident and which led to the poem “Mid-Term Break.”

Mid-Term Break –  (Extract)
Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Heaney first began to publish poetry in 1962. In August 1965 he married Marie Devlin, a school teacher and native of Ardboe, County Tyrone, herself also a writer, (Over Nine Waves, a collection of traditional Irish myths and legends.). In 1966, he was appointed as a lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen’s University Belfast and his first son, Michael, was born. A second son, Christopher, was born in 1968 and later a daughter Catherine Ann.

Following a short spell as guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972, Heaney left his lectureship at Belfast and moved to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, working as a teacher at Carysfort College.  He was also the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University from1985-1997 and Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence, at Harvard 1998-2006.

In August 2006 he suffered a stroke from which he recovered, and in 2011 he was named one of “Britain’s top 300 intellectuals” by The Observer newspaper.

A member of Aosdána, amongst the numerous awards that this ‘master of words’ received were the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999).

Thurles born poet, the late great Declan O’Driscoll, in his book, Stepping Stones, (published in 2008) interviewed Seamus Heaney, and was short-listed for the ‘Book of the Decade,’ in the Irish Book Awards 2010. In this book Heaney’s responses to Dennis O’Driscoll’s subtle questioning, casts an intimate light on Heaney’s work and on the artistic and moral challenges he faced, providing an original, diverting and fascinating collection of reflections, attitudes and memories.

Funeral Arrangements: Removal to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, Dublin, arriving at 6.45 pm on Sunday evening. Burial on Monday after 11.30 am Mass, remains then brought to Bellaghy Cemetery, Co. Derry (arriving there at 5.00 pm approx.).

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam dílis.

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