Heaney HomePlace visit

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Year 13 AS English Literature students recently enjoyed a scenic drive through snow covered terrain to visit the Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy. The award winning centre situated in the heart of the Heaney homeland celebrates the life and literature of the poet and Nobel Laureate. The centre houses a fully interactive exhibition spread over two floors and is brim-full of photographs, objects, anecdotes and the voice of the poet himself. The “inspiration” exhibit memorably described by the poet Michael Longley as “an echo chamber for the poet’s beautiful lines” is an especially compelling section of the exhibition. The Wallace students found the recreation of Heaney’s study in Dublin a fascinating insight into the poet’s life; there is even a replica of the fax message notifying Heaney of the Nobel award.

Given the period of Heaney’s early life it is striking that a farming family proved to possess so many images of their family life and this is a real strength of the exhibition. Visitors can see a wide range of photographs of Heaney’s parents, siblings and wider family circle in addition to characters immortalised by Heaney such as the local blacksmith Barney Devlin. Other iconic objects include Heaney’s school bag, a Conway Stewart fountain pen and the traditional duffle coat!

In addition to visiting the centre the Wallace students took time to pay homage at other key sites such as the local forge (duly immortalised in the poem The Forge) and Heaney’s grave in the churchyard in Bellaghy. Heaney had lived in Dublin but he chose Bellaghy as his final resting place and his grave lies close to the Heaney family grave where his brother Christopher was buried. The students also derived great benefit from attending a lecture by a QUB Professor which gave them “a taste of university life” and from participating in seminars with students from other schools. Year 13 student Rachel noted “It was really helpful to hear the perspectives of other students” and all the pupils were unanimous in admiring the beauty of the building itself. The HomePlace has already won many awards and welcomed over 40,000 visitors from 20 countries in its first year. It is genuinely a beautiful tribute to a poet who made the rural life of mid Ulster something of universal significance and whose Nobel citation affirmed him as the author of “works of lyrical beauty.”

Organising teacher Mr David Simpson said “We were delighted to visit the centre again this year and really appreciated the excellent lecture on Frost and Heaney. It is inspiring for the students to actually see so much memorabilia donated by Heaney’s family and seeing the wider landscape really has brought literature to life.”

Last modified: February 9, 2018