Northern Ireland news

Hugh Heaney, brother of Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus, has died

Hugh Heaney, brother of Seamus Heaney. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

A YOUNGER brother of Seamus Heaney, who often recalled their childhood growing up in Bellaghy and the inspiration the Nobel Laureate drew for his acclaimed work, has died.

Hugh Heaney, who was in his late seventies, passed away peacefully at his home in the Co Derry village today.

He has been remembered for "his openness, his friendliness and, of course, his wicked sense of humour".

In a post on social media, the Estate of Seamus Heaney shared an extract of the poem Keeping Going, that the poet had dedicated to Hugh, which praised his stamina and perseverance.

The post added: "We are heartbroken at the passing of Hugh Heaney, the farmer at the heart of our family. Rest in peace."

The Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, which is dedicated to writer's life and literature, also wrote of its sadness at Hugh's death.

"We’re extremely saddened today at the loss of a best friend and an unstinting supporter, Hugh Heaney," it said.

"Hugh knew all our staff by name and was loved by them all for his openness, his friendliness and, of course, his wicked sense of humour.

"We will miss him terribly."

Hugh Heaney often spoke of his pride in his brother's life and work, sharing personal memories of their childhood growing up in Bellaghy.

Two years ago he featured in a documentary and recalled a family tragedy that inspired Heaney's poem 'Mid-Term Break'.

Hugh spoke about how their brother Christopher (4) died after being knocked down in February 1953. He described how he had been with him when the young boy "just ran across the road behind the bus, he just ran out".

He recalled how Heaney had returned home from St Columb's College in Derry for the funeral and later used the devastating period as inspiration for his work.

Hugh also spoke of how he believed "Seamus’s feet never left the ground" and "you could nearly say he never left Bellaghy".

Requiem Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at St Mary’s Church, Bellaghy, at 11am with interment in the adjoining cemetery.

Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news