His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has visited Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy with the Duchess of Cornwall.
Over 100 guests, among them members of the Heaney family, gathered at the arts and literary centre which celebrates the life and literature of the poet and Nobel Laureate, to welcome the Royal couple.
A school choir, consisting of children from three local primary schools, greeted Their Royal Highnesses on arrival, who then toured the exhibition which is spread over two floors and features hundreds of personal stories, photographs and artefacts, and is also filled with the voice of the poet himself.
Drama, music and poetry reading followed in The Helicon, the performance space at HomePlace, after which HRH The Prince of Wales, addressed the guests, calling Seamus Heaney ‘one of the most outstanding poets of our time’:
“I had the privilege of meeting Seamus Heaney when, despite his enormously busy schedule, he very generously accepted an invitation to teach on the literature summer schools run by my Teaching Institute.
“It was my conviction then, as it still remains, that art and literature are utterly essential to understanding what it means to be human. That is why I was so glad that one of the most outstanding poets of our time, and one whose work I admire so greatly, was prepared to come and share his vision with the teachers from state secondary schools whom we had gathered on those occasions.
“Despite the praise and the prizes, he never forgot the place that was the centre of his ever-widening circle of friendship and understanding…it was this place, above all else, that was the never-failing source of his vision.
“In seeing the work you have accomplished here: the wealth of material displayed so imaginatively - the myriad ways in which the visitor is invited to appreciate, to participate, and even, perhaps, to create themselves, it is clear that you have reciprocated the tremendous pride which your famous son felt for his native soil”.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Trevor Wilson, called the occasion an historic one for HomePlace, for Bellaghy and for the wider Mid Ulster District.
“I was honoured and delighted to welcome Their Royal Highnesses to HomePlace today. The occasion held a special significance to all of us gathered here, and from the Royal couple’s response, the experience certainly seemed to resonate with them, particularly Prince Charles who is such a great admirer of poetry and in particular, of the work of Seamus Heaney.”
HRH The Prince of Wales personally selected and recorded one of Seamus Heaney’s poems ‘The Shipping Forecast’ for inclusion in the exhibition at HomePlace. It was released on National Poetry Day in October 2016.