About Seamus Heaney

Explore Seamus Heaney’s Life

Seamus Heaney HomePlace is the perfect place in which to explore every stage of the poet’s life. The exhibition follows Heaney from his formative years in the Bellaghy area to becoming a Nobel Laureate.

Until we welcome you to HomePlace, here are some of the questions we are most frequently asked about Seamus Heaney’s life.

  • Who is Seamus Heaney?

    Seamus Heaney is one of the world’s best-known and most loved poets, and one of the greatest Irish writers of all time. For answers to questions about his work, please visit Seamus Heaney’s Literature.

  • When was Seamus Heaney born?

    Seamus Heaney was born on 13 April, 1939.

  • Where was Seamus Heaney born?

    Seamus Heaney was born and raised on the Heaney family farm of Mossbawn, near Castledawson, in rural County Derry, Northern Ireland. In his Nobel lecture, Heaney described his childhood as ‘an intimate, physical, creaturely existence… in suspension between the archaic and the modern’.

  • Who were Seamus Heaney’s parents?

    Seamus Heaney’s parents were cattle farmer Patrick Heaney (1901–1986) and his wife Margaret ‘Totti’ McCann (1911–1984), whose relations were employed in the local linen mill.

  • How many siblings did Seamus Heaney have?

    Seamus Heaney was the eldest of nine children born to Patrick Heaney and Margaret ‘Totti’ McCann. His younger brother Christopher tragically died in a road accident aged four. He was hit by a car while walking near the family farm at Mossbawn in February 1953.

    Seamus Heaney was boarding at St Columb’s College, in Derry, at the time of Christopher’s death. His poems ‘Mid-Term Break’ and ‘The Blackbird of Glanmore’ describe returning home to attend his brother’s funeral.

  • Where did Seamus Heaney go to school?

    Seamus Heaney attended Anahorish Primary School. In 1951, he started secondary school as a boarder at St Columb’s College in Derry. The separation from his parents is poignantly described in the poem ‘The Conway Stewart’. Poet and academic Seamus Deane, who would become a lifelong friend of Heaney’s, was among his classmates at St Columb’s.

    In 1957, Heaney went on to study English Language and Literature at Queen’s University Belfast, graduating with First Class Honours. He earned his teaching diploma from St Joseph’s College of Education in 1962.

  • Where did Seamus Heaney teach?

    After qualifying as a teacher at St Joseph’s College of Education in 1962, Seamus Heaney taught at St Thomas’s Secondary School, in Belfast, and later returned to St Joseph’s College of Education as an English lecturer. He went on to become a lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast. After three years focusing solely on his writing, Heaney took up a teaching post at Carysfort College of Education in Dublin in 1975. He subsequently became a professor at both Harvard University and the University of Oxford.

    We continue Seamus Heaney’s love of learning at HomePlace, where we deliver educational and creative activities for learners of all ages.

  • When did Seamus Heaney get married?

    Seamus Heaney married Marie Devlin in 1965. Marie grew up about 15 miles away from her future husband in Ardboe, County Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh.

  • How many children did Seamus Heaney have?

    Together with his wife Marie, Seamus Heaney had three children: Michael (born in 1966), Christopher (1968) and Catherine Ann (1973).

  • Where did Seamus Heaney live?

    Seamus Heaney lived at Mossbawn, the family farm near Castledawson, for most of his childhood. When Heaney was aged 14 and boarding at St Columb’s College, the family moved to a new farm, The Wood, outside the village of Bellaghy.

    After his marriage to Marie Devlin in 1965, Seamus Heaney lived in Belfast until 1972, when the family moved to County Wicklow. They lived for four years in Glanmore Cottage, a small gate lodge owned by their friend, the Canadian academic Ann Saddlemyer. In 1976, the Heaney family moved to Sandymount, in Dublin, where Seamus Heaney lived for the rest of his life.

  • When did Seamus Heaney die?

    Seamus Heaney died on 30 August, 2013, in Dublin, following a short illness. He was 74 years old when he died. His funeral was held in Donnybrook, Dublin, close to his family home in Sandymount.

    In accordance with his wishes, he was buried at St Mary’s Church in Bellaghy, in the same graveyard as his parents, younger brother Christopher and other family members. His headstone bears the epitaph: ‘Walk on air against your better judgement.’ The quote is from Heaney’s poem ‘’The Gravel Walks’, and was used in his 1995 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

  • What is Seamus Heaney’s legacy?

    Undoubtedly, Seamus Heaney’s greatest legacy is his substantial body of work, which continues to move and inspire. Heaney’s poetry is taught in classrooms around the world and was recited at President Joe Biden’s inauguration celebration in 2021.

    Heaney is remembered among his peers in the literary community for his generosity of spirit and his championing of younger writers. His personal warmth, humility and kindness is recalled by international figures and those who met him in the chip shop in Bellaghy alike.

    Through the Estate of Seamus Heaney, the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast and here at HomePlace, we work to continue Seamus Heaney’s legacy by bringing new audiences to his poetry and serving those beginning their exploration of his life and literature.

  • Learn more about Seamus Heaney

    If you’ve got more questions about Seamus Heaney, we would be delighted to welcome you to Seamus Heaney HomePlace, in Bellaghy, where you can explore the poet’s life and literature through our exhibition.

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