Literary legend: Seamus Heaney

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Lough Neagh, County Antrim

Poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney drew his inspiration from the land of his childhood. Come and explore the places that fuelled his imagination

Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney’s work showed us the wonder to be found in the ordinary, in everyday objects and in the quiet beauty of rural Ireland. But his poems spoke to the whole world, earning him millions of devoted fans. He travelled a long way, from his childhood on a small farm in Northern Ireland to acclaim as one of the world’s greatest poets. 

By the time he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1995, he was one of the most beloved names in poetry, praised by the judges for his "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past". And in his home place, Bellaghy in County Londonderry, an exciting visitor centre, Seamus Heaney HomePlace, celebrates this wonderful wordsmith's life and legacy.

I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney Homeplace
Seamus Heaney Homeplace

A famous son

Housed in a former police station, Seamus Heaney HomePlace honours the poet’s brilliance with all kinds of creative and literary events, video recordings from friends, world leaders and, of course, the dulcet voice of the poet himself.

Photographs and memorabilia bring to life this warm, witty man. And if you wander inside the replica of his study – the place where many of his words were put to paper – perhaps you’ll be inspired, too.

Lough Beg, County Londonderry
Lough Beg, County Londonderry

Home is where the heart is

The land around the village of Bellaghy fuelled Heaney’s imagination, no matter how far away he travelled. This little corner of Northern Ireland, east of the Sperrin Mountains and north west of Lough Neagh, with its bogs, rivers and fields, nurtured a genius. Heaney might have lived and worked far away as the years rolled on, but his heart remained in Bellaghy and the surrounding area, and he is buried there, in St Mary’s Church under a simple gravestone of Kilkenny limestone.

Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney

These gentle lanes and rolling fields inspired poems such as Digging, Blackberry-Picking, and Follower. His work is steeped in the love of people and of the countryside, and around Bellaghy you can visit the places that meant so much to him and featured in his work.

Sandymount Strand, Dublin
Sandymount Strand, Dublin

Teaching and finding fame

Seamus Heaney moved to Dublin to teach in the 1970s. He lived in Sandymount for decades (“near a famous strand”, as he put it, referencing James Joyce’s Ulysses) and travelled to America and Britain to lecture, until his death in 2013.

In honour of this beloved poet, an exhibition "Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again" is hosted in the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre on Dublin’s College Green (from 6 July 2018). The National Library’s collection of Heaney’s original manuscripts, along with letters, diaries, photographs and unpublished works will also be on display. College Green, in the heart of literary and social Dublin, is the perfect setting for a very Irish writer who loved company, family and the land of Ireland – and somehow turned those into words of universal beauty.

"Walk on air against your better judgement" Seamus Heaney

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