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Death of poet shocks family and friends

Published 31/08/2013

Bimpe Archer




SEAMUS Heaney's death aged 74 came as a shock to family and friends. Although rendered frail in recent years following a stroke, close friends said he was "much stronger than he was a year ago".

The Nobel Laureate died in hospital in Dublin on Friday after treatment following a fall uncovered a problem with a major artery.

It is understood that he passed away before life-saving surgery could be performed.

Requiem Mass will take place at 11.30am on Monday at Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin, with his remains travelling north to Bellaghy cemetery for burial.

The poet who made his name writing about the Co Derry of his childhood had made his home in Dublin for four decades.

However, he travelled extensively and was for a time in the 1980s a visiting professor at Harvard University.

Following convalescence from his last illness, he had once again entered enthusiastically into a busy round of readings and appearances.

On Monday he was due to launch artist Helen Heron's exhibition of a needle and fabric interpretation of his poetry.

Heron had been so moved by his 1979 book Field Work that she felt inspired to create the response in her own medium.

The exhibition was to have opened at Belfast's Linen Hall Library, of which Heaney was a patron.

Field Work was published towards the end of the most fraught decade of the Troubles and Heron said the poet's involvement in the launch was to be "the icing on the cake".

Just two weeks before his death, Heaney and long-time friend and collaborator Belfast poet Michael Longley had given a joint reading at the Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.

At the time, Heaney had been in good health and spirits, his rendition of selected poems receiving a standing ovation from listeners.

A giant on the world stage, the shock of his death has united the political and literary spheres, with tributes pouring in from presidents, fellow poets and Holy-wood actors.

Human rights group Amnesty International paid tribute to a "legendary man of letters".

Seamus Heaney was a long-standing supporter of Amnesty International. He wrote the well-known poem, From the Republic of Conscience, for the organisation in 1985.

He was due to speak at Amnesty International's annual Ambassador of Conscience Award - named after his poem - next month in Dublin.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, said: "Through the beauty and elegance of his writing, Seamus Heaney reminded us of the bonds which unite and our duty to uphold the dignity of all.

"Ireland has lost a legendary man of letters. The world has lost a towering giant of humanity."

He is survived by Marie, his wife of 48 years, sons Michael and Christopher, daughter Catherine Ann and granddaughters Anna Rose, Aibhin and Siofra.