Seamus Heaney dies aged 74

The world-famous poet, Seamus Heaney who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, passed away today at 74 years of age.

Seamus Heaney dies aged 74

The world-famous poet, Seamus Heaney who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, passed away today at 74 years of age.

Heaney was reported to have been in ill health for some time at his home in Sandymount, south Dublin.

The Nobel prize-winner was born in April 1939, the eldest of nine children, on a small farm called Mossbawn near Bellaghy in Co Derry, Northern Ireland, and his upbringing often played out in the poetry he wrote in later years.

Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.

Funeral arrangements are to be announced later.

Seamus reading one of his most famous poems, Mid-Term Break. Clip via Poetry Ireland on Youtube.

He was educated at St Columb’s College, Derry, a Catholic boarding school, and later at Queen’s University Belfast, before making his home in Dublin, with periods of teaching in the US.

Heaney was an honorary fellow at Trinity College Dublin and last year was bestowed with the Seamus Heaney Professorship in Irish Writing at the university, which he described as a great honour.

His world renowned poetry first came to public attention in the mid-1960s with his first major collection, Death Of A Naturalist, published in 1966.

As the Troubles took hold later that decade, his experiences were seen through the darkened mood of his work.

Poet Michael Longley, a friend of Heaney, said he produced "miracles right the way through his life''.

Speaking to Eamonn Mallie, he said: “He was a great, great poet, a dear friend, and I’m in shock as you say.”

Mr Longley said Heaney wrote some of the “best nature poems in the language”.

He said: “I was very pleased that a few months ago I was able to tell him that I’d been reading his early poems, the poems he wrote as a young man, and that they struck me as miracles.

“And he joked, he says, ’well they came from Bellaghy, they’d have to have been miracles’.

“And he continued to produce miracles right the way through his life.”

Mr Longley added: “I’m one of thousands of people who feel personally bereaved and I feel as though I’ve lost a brother.

“I just feel an emptiness that this great presence is no longer on us.”

Heaney went on to publish several more collections including Wintering Out and Selected Poems before winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, joining Irish writers Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and WB Yeats.

Arts Minister, Jimmy Deenihan, praised Heaney for his work as a literary great but also for promoting Ireland.

“He was just a very humble, modest man. He was very accessible,” he said.

“Anywhere I have ever travelled in the world and you mention poetry and literature and the name of Seamus Heaney comes up immediately.”

Mr Deenihan recently joined Heaney at an event at the Irish Embassy in Paris where the poet gave readings to an audience of 1,000 invited guests.

“He was a huge figure internationally, a great ambassador for literature obviously, but also for Ireland,” the minister said.

Heaney donated his personal literary notes to the National Library of Ireland in December 2011, joining the ranks of Irish literary master James Joyce and fellow Nobel winner WB Yeats.

During his literary career he held prestigious posts at Oxford University and at Harvard in the US.

Patsy McGlone, SDLP MP for Mid-Ulster, the area of Heaney’s birthplace, said he has left a tremendous cultural legacy to south Derry but also to the literary world.

“Seamus Heaney was the voice of this community, a man of the people who knew his community well and reflected the history and cultural richness of that community,” he said.

“I remember him calling in to my father’s business when I was younger and being struck by his humility.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt described Heaney as a man of global significance.

“His influence ran broader than the arts. We all remember how US president Bill Clinton chose Heaney’s great phrase about when ’hope and history rhyme’ from Heaney’s play The Cure At Troy in his speech in Londonderry, and went on to use it for the title of his book detailing his vision of the US in the 21st Century,” he said.

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