Heaney and Ballagh set benchmark for creativity
IT was the first day back in class for two creative schoolboys as poet Seamus Heaney and artist Robert Ballagh unveiled their latest creation.
The bench, which was designed by Ballagh and holds two bronze plaques inscribed with a Heaney poem in both English and braille, was installed in a garden at St Joseph's Centre for the Visually Impaired in Drumcondra, Dublin, yesterday.
It was unveiled as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the National Braille Production Centre, which is housed in the grounds of the school and is currently transcribing thousands of textbooks to be used by 410 students around the country.
In his poem, 'Seeing the Sky', Heaney recalled a blind neighbour from his childhood in Co Derry, Rosie Keenan, and explained the influence that she had upon his life.
"Rosie opened the path to a kind of inwardness, gave space to imagination and beauty in a world of tough reality," Heaney explained.
The bench that was unveiled yesterday is made of cedar wood and Wicklow granite and has a semi-circular design. According to Ballagh, it is meant to "embrace" those who sit on it. He explained: "Some of the kids board here and their parents come up. "I thought it would be a nice idea to have an enveloping space, particularly if the child is in a wheelchair.
"The wheelchair could go in the middle and they would be surrounded by their family -- so it's that kind of embracing idea."
Referring to the school, he said: "I was really impressed with what goes on here, the care and the love. That's what stimulated me to get involved and also stimulated the design."
Education Minister Mary Coughlan joined the two men to cut the ribbon on the bench.
She said that despite increased demand for digital textbooks with audio files, braille still has an important role to play.