“Legenderry” 2013 : Seamus Heaney

Second largest city in Northern Ireland, historical Derry or Londonderry is said to be amongst the best preserved of walled cities in Europe. Throughout 2013 it has been themed ‘Legenderry’ to reflect its designation as U.K. City of Culture. The accolade was officially transferred as a continuity from London’s ‘2012 Cultural Olympiad’, the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements. A vast programme of historical tours, literary, cultural, sports and a variety of music events from Ireland and beyond are being featured, added to which the All Ireland traditional Fleadh held there from 11 to 18 August 2013 has enhanced the focus on … “a small city becomes huge”. The literary and cultural life of Derry and elsewhere in Northern Ireland are renowned for inspiring its famous past and contemporary writers. The majestic Mourne Mountains sparked the imagination of C.S. Lewis who created the beloved Chronicles of Narnia. Following his countrymen William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925) and Samuel Beckett (1969), Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt every day miracles and the living past.”International Newspapers
To coincide with the Fleadh, on 14 August Legenderry 2013 hosted an exclusive performance of The Poet and The Piper that is known to audiences worldwide and has been featured in many stage and sound track for television programmes. Designed to echo W.B. Yeats St. Patrick’s Day reading of poetry with music in 1934, it was originally recorded and released as an album in 2003 with a listing of twenty-seven titles.
The Celtic sojourn alternates between poetry and music with the friendly, intimate voice of Seamus Heaney reading his own verse and the eclectic music choice of Liam O’Flynn, acknowledged internationally as an outstanding contemporary master of the Uilleann pipes. The electric dynamic between both artists was communicated to the collective audience in an extremely moving way at the Millennium Forum with a long standing ovation.
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
The news of Seamus Heaney’s death in hospital on 30 August 2013 after a short illness has saddened the world of literature and beyond for those who admired this “elder statesman” of poetry. Acknowledged as Ireland’s leading contemporary writer, the sweeping landscapes of Co. Derry and its people fuelled his passion. Many eulogies to him and obituaries about his life will confirm a lasting legacy to Ireland and the world.
Born on 13 April 1939 into a Catholic farming family in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland, he was the eldest of nine children. His father was a farmer while his mother’s family had been workers in the local linen industry. Although he had studied and travelled extensively, he remained “a simple and humble man” grounded in the physical world of his native soil. Known in Ireland as “Famous Seamus” he was a gifted playwright, translator, lecturer and renowned academic holding many titles and high positions at home and abroad.
The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Belfast, was established as a focal point for the writing, criticism and appreciation of modern literature, working to ensure the continuance of the tradition Seamus Heaney did so much to develop in his years as a student and lecturer at the university. In his words …”I’ve always associated the moment of writing with a moment of lift, of joy, of unexpected reward.”
Ita Marguet, 30 August 2013
Note : Acknowledgement is given to sources used in this text. It follows a visit to ‘Legenderry’ and presence at The Poet and The Piper, Millennium Forum, 14 August 2013.