Radio review: Recalling journalist Seamus Kelters

Nuala McCann

Sunday Sequence Radio Ulster

Five Poems I Wish I Had Written Radio 3

Sunday Sequence featured just one of a series of moving tributes to BBC and former Irish News journalist Seamus Kelters who died recently.

Former Irish News editor Nick Garbutt said it was the first funeral he had been at where he heard a direct address from the person who died – as read by Seamus’s two sons.

Seamus had written his own farewell, both funny and intensely moving – with a distinctive dry and endearing edge to it.

“I hate funerals,” he said. “Especially this one”.

Even in death, he held his audience enthralled and had us laughing and crying at the same time.

Garbutt spoke about the man’s deep sense of integrity, his honesty and dedication to the truth.

He spoke for many when he said: “I can’t imagine how much he will be missed.”

Poet Don Patterson is a straight talking man with a deadpan delivery and a warm burr of a Scottish accent. He recalled another Seamus.

“We all remember where we were when we heard Seamus had died,” he said of the poet Seamus Heaney in the first in a series of essays about poems he wished he had written.

When he got the news about Heaney he was on the steps of a railway station and he sat down and “had a griet to myself”.

He chose Heaney’s The Underground – a poem about a young honeymoon couple running through the tunnels in London because they are late for the proms.

“I wish I had written just anything by Seamus Heaney,” he said drily.

People might say that Heaney makes it look like it all comes easily to him. But that is like saying that Bach had an ear for a cracking tune, said Patterson.

Then he deftly unpacked the poem, layer by layer through the mythical allusions and the shifting harmony.

It was a magical 15 minutes – delivered in a no-nonsense way right down to the fact that Patterson said he once asked Heaney’s wife Marie about the image of the red stain on the white coat.

“He got beetroot on my coat in the pub,” she told him.

Genius tends to work with whatever is to be had, said Patterson.

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