“History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.”
Seamus Heaney was awarded numerous prizes over the years and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He was born to a farming family at Mossbawn near Bellaghy in Co Derry on 13 April 1939 and was the eldest of nine children born to Margaret and Patrick Heaney. His upbringing often played out in the poetry he wrote in later years. Educated at the St Columb’s College Catholic boarding school in Derry, he later studied at Queen’s University Belfast, before making his home in Dublin, with periods of teaching in the United States. Among the academic posts he held were professorships at Harvard and Oxford universities. Heaney was an honourary fellow at Trinity College Dublin and was bestowed with the Seamus Heaney Professorship in Irish Writing at the university, which he described as a great honour.
The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry is located at Queen’s University Belfast, and the Seamus Heaney HomePlace centre, is built on the site of a former police station in Bellaghy, Co Derry.
The day after his death, a crowd of 81,553 spectators applauded Heaney for three minutes at an All-Ireland football semi-final match on 1 September. His funeral was broadcast live the following day on RTÉ television and radio and was streamed internationally at RTÉ’s website. RTÉ Radio 1 Extra transmitted a continuous broadcast, from 8 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. on the day of the funeral, of his Collected Poems album, recorded by Heaney in 2009. His poetry collections sold out rapidly in Irish bookshops immediately following his death.
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