A towering figure- Seamus Heaney

I spent a couple of hours last week at Seamus Heaney’s Homeplace. I was passing and could not pass up the opportunity. And it was inspirational. Heaney was a towering figure in poetry and the exhibition does him justice. Photos, video clips, the opportunity to hear him read many of his poems and so much about his life.

Those of us who are familiar with his work know that his farming background, his family, his surroundings all played a huge part in his poetry and his poetic development but the exhibition brought it to life. His brother Hugh is on video talking about his boyhood ambition to be a piper. The poem about this is on the wall, and by pressing a button you can hear Heaney read it. You can also hear about the sofa which became a train to the 9 Heaney siblings, the joy of love and family, the detail of a working life in the north of Ireland and about the troubles. The requirement to douse the headlamps at checkpoints for example – particularly chilling as our host had described that very experience as we passed a former checkpoint only minutes before.

What struck me though was not just the groundedness, or the skill he possessed but how much he was loved and esteemed – by family and friends, by colleagues and by the world at large. A man with a rare talent, and a man who used it wisely and diligently. He has always been an inspiration. Even more so now.

Tony Earnshaw

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