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16 October 2014
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Bellaghy - Bellaghy - Seamus Heaney

It was in 1995 that Heaney joined Yeats, Shaw and Beckett as the fourth Irish writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature

Bellaghy Bawn

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Bellaghy Bannerhead

Seamus Justin Heaney was born on April 13, 1939 at the family farmhouse of "Mossbawn" near Castledawson in Co Londonderry, and educated intially at Anahorish primary school.

He won a scholarship to St Columbs College in Derry, and it was while studying here as a young teenager that his family moved to Bellaghy.

In 1957 Heaney travelled to Belfast to study English Language and Literature at Queens' University, from where he graduated in 1961 with a First Class Honours degree.

During his training for a PGCE at St Joseph's Teacher Training College in Belfast, he went on a placement to St Thomas' Intermediate School in west Belfast under principal Michael McLaverty, a distinguished Irish author.

In 1963 he became a lecturer at St Josephs and, in Spring of that year, after contiburing various articles to local magazines, he came to the attention of Philip Hobsbawn, a English lecturer at Queens. Hobsbawn was to set up a Belfast Group of local young poets (to mirror the success he had with the London group) and this would bring Heaney into contact with other Belfast poets such as Derek Mahon and Michael Longley.

In August of 1965 he married Marie Devlin, a school teacher who was originally from Ardboe in Co Tyrone, and in November of the same year his Eleven Poems was published to coincide with the Belfast Festival.

1966 saw the publication of his first volume, Death of a Naturalist, by Faber and Faber which went on to win a host of awards, his appointment as lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen's University Belfast and the birth of his first son, Michael.

His second son, Christopher, was born in 1968 and named after Heaney's brother who was killed in an accident while Heaney was at St Columbs. The painful experience of returning from college as an adolescent to the family home for the funeral is detailed in the poem Mid Term Break from Death of a Naturalist.

In 1969 came Door Into The Dark, the title of which comes from the poem The Forge, in which the figure of the blacksmith may be said to reflect Heaney's view of the poet, linking the physical world of rural Ireland with the spiritual, sacred world of poetry.

After a spell as guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley he returned to Queens in 1971, before leaving again the next year for Co Wicklow. It was here in 1972 that Wintering Out was published, and over the next few years Heaney began to give readings throughout Ireland, Britain and the United States.

In 1975 Heaney published his fourth volume, North, and as with Wintering Out it contained poems dealing directly with the political climate and heightening violence in Northern Ireland.

He became Head of English at Carysfort College in Dublin in 1976, and moved his family to Dublin the same year.

Then four years passed before his next volume, Field Work, published in 1979, followed by Selected Poems and Preoccupations: Selected Prose in 1980.

In 1981 he left Carysfort to become visiting professor at Harvard University, and the following year was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Queens' University in Belfast.

In 1983, along with Brian Friel and Stephen Rea he co-founded Field Day Publishing and in 1984 published Station Island.

It was in 1984 he was elected to the Boylston chair of Rhetoric and Oratory but later that year his mother, Margaret Kathleen, died. In the 1987 volume, The Haw Lantern, Heaney penned a moving examination of his feelings of loss in the sonnet sequence Clearances. Soon after the publication of The Haw Lantern his father, Patrick, died and his 1991 volume, Seeing Things, contains several poems dedicated to his father.

In 1988 the collection of critical essays The Government of the Tongue was published and in the following year he was elected as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, a post he was to hold for five years. Then in 1990 The Cure At Troy, a play based on Greek legend, was published to much acclaim.

It was in 1995 that Heaney joined Yeats, Shaw and Beckett as the fourth Irish writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for what the Nobel committee described as "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".

In 1996 Heaney's latest volume of poetry, The Spirit Level was published.

In 1999 Heaney released an ambitious new translation of Beowulf which was to win him the Whitbread prize and further acclaim.

At age 60 the genius of Bellaghy's Nobel Laureate is still being celebrated at home and abroad.

Although his career has taken him from Bellaghy to Belfast to Dublin and the United States, and even further afield, Heaney has demonstrated through his poetry a faithfulness to his origins, both in terms of his identity and your place and mine.

Speaking in Dublin in 1979 he stated that: "I'm very close to home. I've two homes: this house and the house where I was brought up. When I go back.I merge into it."

Your Responses

Diarmaid Elder - June '08

More evidence of Derry's claim to NI's Capital of Culture!

amy brennan - Feb '08
i think that his story of success is outstanding he really achieved alot in his years he is a great poet i have read some of his poems in my english class they are great .....x

Brendan - Apr '07
Great and very helpful

Shannon donnelly - Sep '06
Is there any pictures of seamus heaney with his life story?

Fearghal Mag Uiginn
Maith an fear Séamas! Tá Baile Eachaidh, Doire agus an tír ar fad iontach bródúil asat. Here's to Seamus Heaney the pride of Bellaghy, Derry and the whole of Ireland. Go raibh maith agat.

Laura Girvin - Sept '05
I'm an A-level English Literature student at Belfat Royal Academy and found this site very useful! I wanted to do some backround reading on Heaney just to get some insight into his works (which are amazing) and this site was packed full of great information, I'll recommend it to my classmates!
Thank you!

 

 

 


See the other sections in this article:

Overview | History | the Bawn | Plantation | Vintners Co. | Local Interest | Curios | Seamus Heaney

 


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