Thanks to ‘Heaney’s people’

My warmest thanks to the people of Bellaghy in Co Derry. After the interment of the poet Seamus Heaney, we received wonderful hospitality in the parish hall.

Congratulations to the tireless, cheerful volunteers who provided us with tea, sandwiches and cakes. We were touched by the welcome of the local people, including the PSNI, who were courteous, and tolerant of our erratic parking.

It was wonderful to see the portraits of Seamus displayed in the local shop windows. We were left in no doubt as to the esteem in which he was held by his own people.

I will not forget the musicians, Liam O’ Flynn and Neil Martin, performing the haunting ‘Port na bPucai’ as the sun shone through the ash and the sycamore trees over the poet’s new grave.

There was no ‘sunlit absence’ on this historic day. The burial service concluded with the singing of the Gregorian chant, ‘Salve Regina’. Among the vast crowd, I noticed another Nobel laureate, John Hume, and fondly remember him singing the same hymn years ago in a local hotel in Gweedore, Co Donegal, while I accompanied on an old-fashioned Wurlitzer organ.

It was a great privilege for me to have been a friend of Seamus. He was a humble genius.

But he also had a great sense of humour and a mischievous streak, and he liked nothing better than to surprise us with his love of ‘the marvellous’ and to catch our ‘hearts off guard and blow them open’ with his masterly verse.

To our renowned Saoi, who has gone to join his other generous colleague, the poet Dennis O’Driscoll, I say, ‘slán Seamus, mo chara dhílis’.

Michael Holohan


Co Louth

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