President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has made an ‘historic’ visit to Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.
President Higgins, a long-time friend of the late poet, toured the exhibition which celebrates the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate, in the company of Marie Heaney and Councillor Dominic Molloy, Mid Ulster District Council.
Over 70 guests, among them members of the wider Heaney family, gathered at the arts and literary centre to welcome the President and his wife, Sabina, as well as to experience a musical performance of ‘Slieve Gallion Braes’ and a poetry reading by the acclaimed actor Ian McElhinney.
Addressing the audience, President Higgins said:
“Seamus was one of the greatest Irish poets of the twentieth century and a man to whom we are indebted for his words, his achievements have left a profound imprint on Ireland’s cultural landscape”.
“The beautiful line ‘Our shadows moved on the wall’ from Séamus’ poem ‘Keeping Going’ came to mind as soon as I entered this place. All around us is the memory, the shadows of Séamus as both the poet and the man. This is a place that belongs to Séamus - a place that echoes with his words and with the memories of those who knew and were influenced by him”.
“Here in HomePlace we are again reminded of the great reach and depth of Séamus’ reputation and impact. But we are also, in ways that are both uplifting and poignant, reminded that Séamus was first and foremost a son of Bellaghy. It is here that Séamus found the beat to which his poetry moved and the inspiration for his great work”.
Speaking at the event, Councillor Molloy, said the visit was ‘a truly historic occasion’ for HomePlace and for Mid Ulster.
“In the 7 years since his inauguration, President Higgins has more than earned the title ‘Champion of Creativity’ and here in Bellaghy, in this place where we celebrate the life and literature of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, we not only have the privilege of helping to preserve the legacy of Seamus Heaney, but also to contribute to the development of the ‘creative communities’ of which the Uachtaráin is a passionate advocate”.
“This has been a truly historic occasion for HomePlace, and for Mid Ulster, and it has been an honour to welcome President Higgins here”.
Michael Heaney said:
“We’re delighted that President Higgins has visited, not just in his official capacity, but as a personal friend and as a poet”.
The President was presented with a bog oak carving inspired by Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Digging’ and created by local potter and woodcarver, Stephen McGuigan. The ancient oak was recovered from a bog near Ballynahone and is in the region of 8,000 years old.
For full images, visit the Seamus Heaney HomePlace Facebook Page.