Seamus Heaney’s family ‘incredibly proud’ as HomePlace opens its doors

Official opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace Centre in Bellaghy.

Marie Heaney, Catherine Heaney, Christopher Heaney and Michael Heaney  with Councillor Trevor Wilson, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Anne-Marie Campbell, Director at Mid Ulster District Council and Brian McCormick, centre manager pictured at the opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace Centre in Bellaghy.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Official opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace Centre in Bellaghy. Marie Heaney, Catherine Heaney, Christopher Heaney and Michael Heaney with Councillor Trevor Wilson, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Anne-Marie Campbell, Director at Mid Ulster District Council and Brian McCormick, centre manager pictured at the opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace Centre in Bellaghy. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Although feeling “emotional” at the launch of Seamus Heaney HomePlace, the poet’s son and daughter said they were “incredibly impressed” by the monumental building.

Snuggled into the hills of Bellaghy, the impressive barn-like building cuts a striking figure as you enter the small village.

Family Members including Marie (wife), Catherine (daughter, Christopher (son black jacket ) and Michael (son Beije)  at The official opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a new arts and literary centre marking the life and work of the Nobel Laureate at his home town Bellaghy on Thursday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Family Members including Marie (wife), Catherine (daughter, Christopher (son black jacket ) and Michael (son Beije) at The official opening of Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a new arts and literary centre marking the life and work of the Nobel Laureate at his home town Bellaghy on Thursday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

But far from being too small for such a momentous project - which some might say would better fit a city - Michael and Catherine said it was just the right place for it and that any qualms they had about the project - just three years after their dad’s death - “evaporated” at the final reveal.

The brainchild of Mid Ulster District Council, the £4.25m building was designed to celebrate the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate.

Just inside, you are greeted with two striking images of Heaney, both as a boy, and then the man most of us will remember.

Mid Ulster Council Chair Trevor Wilson told the Mail these images were his favourite part of the building, which he says has something for everything in the community.

Mid Ulster Council chair Trevor Wilson welcomes guests as Heaney looks on

Mid Ulster Council chair Trevor Wilson welcomes guests as Heaney looks on

Welcoming journalists from all over the world for their first glimpse of HomePlace, he said: “From the day of its inception, this project would not have been possible without the tremendous support and close involvement of the Heaney family.

“We are incredibly grateful for their guidance and invaluable contribution every step of the way, and we know we are extraordinarily privileged to be part-custodians of the legacy of this man and his work.”

But family members have passed on credit for the impressive ode to their husband and father.

“All the teams that have put it together have done brilliant work,” said Heaney’s daughter Catherine. “I think he would be impressed and I think he would be very proud of it.”

View of Bellaghy from HomePlace

View of Bellaghy from HomePlace

But, alluding to his father’s grace, Michael said, he might also “have been a bit nervous about it”.

“He would have understood the need for it and the desire among the people of Bellaghy to commemorate him,” Catherine added.

“But as Michael said, the part of him that maybe didn’t always want to be in the limelight - the scale of it might have unnerved him a tiny bit.

“But overall I think the building is incredible.

Seamus Heaney, the boy, greets you as you enter

Seamus Heaney, the boy, greets you as you enter

“What pleases me and would have pleased dad is that the poetry and the poems are front and centre.”

Michael went on to say that he was nervous about the project so soon after his father’s passing.

“You’re slightly nervous,” he explained. “He’s only dead three years (but) certainly, when we came in yesterday (Wednesday) any tiny qualms you might have had sort of evaporated because it’s so well done.”

Particularly impressed by the kid zone, Catherine went on to say: “The creative stuff for children is inspired. they’ve thought of everything.”

Inside SeamusHeaney HomePlace words take centre stage.

From the impressive hanging mobile of lyrics he used in his poems, to the inspirational and educational phrases emblazoned across walls throughout, Heaney’s tools are the star of the show.

The beginning of the last poem Seamus ever wrote

The beginning of the last poem Seamus ever wrote

And if you search hard enough, you can even read the last poem the master wordsmith wrote - the uncollected In Time for his granddaughter Siofra.

It was penned on August 18, 2013.

As for whether Bellaghy was the right place for the literary centre, neither Michael, Catherine or centre manager, Seamus Heaney’s nephew, Brian McCormick had any doubts.

“Even though dad hadn’t lived here for many decades, in a way this area is home to the poems, home to the poetry and so in that sense, it absolutely makes sense to have this centre here,” said Catherine, while Michael said was the “logical choice”.

“This was the only place for it,” said Brian. “Seamus Heaney himself returned time-and-time again for so much inspiration for his works.

“He still has family in the community and he still knew a lot of people and so we actually look upon the fact that it’s in this area as a virtue and we are very excited by it.”

Asked if his relationship with the Nobel Laureate help him bring anything special to his role as centre manager, he added: “I am very proud of the fact that Seamus Heaney is my uncle.

“To be lucky enough to take on this role, managing SeamusHeaney HomePlace, is one that’s very very special to me and it’s one that I’ve enjoyed the last number of months.

“I’m really looking forward to getting the building opened, and welcoming visitors to HomePlace for the first time.”

The impressive exhibition space

The impressive exhibition space

The kid zone

The kid zone

A recreation of his study

A recreation of his study

A fax machine in his study with Nobel prize congratulations

A fax machine in his study with Nobel prize congratulations