Heaney Homeplace Visit

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Whoever thought Bellaghy would seem exotic?

From the confines of our homes it’s getting difficult to remember being out for reasons other than exercise and shopping but only a few short weeks ago Wallace AS English Literature students made their way to Bellaghy. City slickers ( as Lisburn dwellers are) struggle to know where such strange sounding places as Bellaghy, Toomb and Castledawson are but were reassured by a reference to Lough Neagh!

Our destination was the Heaney Home Place in Bellaghy, an outstanding and award-winning facility celebrating the life and work of the village’s most famous son, the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. Housed in a charming building the centre boasts a fully-interactive exhibition spread over two floors and is privileged to possess many items which actually belonged to Heaney. His widow and other family members have donated pictures, poems and possessions resulting in a Heaney-hoard of authentic memorabilia. The students especially enjoyed the replica of Heaney’s study which houses a fax machine ( and yes, the guide does explain that concept! ) and many of his books.

This is now an annual literary pilgrimage for Wallace students and it is to the credit of the Heaney Home Place and its dedicated staff that each year the event gets even better. In addition to the lecture by a QUB staff member and an afternoon seminar the students had an opportunity to work together in groups on both creative and analytical tasks. Sadly, the weather did not permit a visit to the sensory garden where (on warmer, sunnier days) it is possible to listen to Heaney reading a number of his most celebrated works including The Forge.

Following a visit to the said forge and a pilgrimage to Heaney’s grave in the nearby churchyard the group returned duly inspired by the trip.

Year 13 student Abby Conroy said:

“ It was a really great day, both seeing the centre and hearing the lecture which gave us some very helpful insights into the poems. I would have loved more time to look around the exhibition and I definitely plan to visit the Home Place again.”

Organising teacher Mr David Simpson said:

“ The staff at the Home Place work tirelessly to make this a memorable day for the students. We are grateful both for the opportunity to have heard the excellent lecture on the work of Robert Frost and Seamus Heaney and to have viewed so much memorabilia which so richly evokes the life and times of this humble literary giant.”

The Heaney Home Place has some excellent suggestions for activities at home during this season of lockdown ( visit online) and perhaps we can all take inspiration from the words of the text the dying Heaney sent to his wife Marie “ Noli timere”  “ Don’t be afraid.”

Last modified: April 3, 2020