Tuesday 28 January 2020

Seamus Heaney declutters home and donates personal notes to National Library

Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney

Lyndsey Telford

NOBEL Laureate Seamus Heaney has donated his personal literary notes to the National Library of Ireland.

The poet handed over his collection, comprising notebooks given to him and signed by his children as gifts, to an audience including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

"It's a privilege and honour to have my own work sheets and drafts and manuscripts and text scripts in our National Library joining the great writers of the past and the great writers of the present," said Dr Heaney.

"It's all part of a chain, a written chain. We'll call it a human chain."

The 72-year-old's personal notes and work books will join those of Irish literary masters James Joyce and fellow Nobel Prize winner WB Yeats. As well as present writers Roddy Doyle, Colm Toibin and President Michael D Higgins.

Given the move to electronic records, the collection, which also includes typescript and manuscript drafts of prose works such as The Government of the Tongue, is likely to be one of the last paper archives of a major writer held at the library.

Dr Heaney joked he was pleased the boxes full of papers and notes would no longer clutter his home, saying: "It's a happiness to feel no regrets at the removal of the stuff from the house, but to feel a cause for gratitude and pride."

Derry-born Dr Heaney, whose first major collection of poetry, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966, was joined by his wife Marie and children Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann at the reception in the Reading Room of the National Library.

He said he was particularly honoured by a speech given by the Taoiseach to mark the important occasion.

"Your work has brought a clarity, a light to our nation," said Mr Kenny.

"It's a privilege to be here sir in your company. Thank you very much for what you've done for our country."

Mr Deenihan also paid tribute to Dr Heaney's contribution to Irish literature and thanked him for his donation to the library.

He said it was fitting that the writer, who has held prestigious academic posts at Queen's University Belfast, Oxford University and Harvard University, should give his works to the library considering he spent a lot of time researching, working and writing there.

The Minister also thanked Mrs Heaney, who serves on the library's board of trustees, for her commitment and dedication.

National Library of Ireland director Fiona Ross described Dr Heaney's collection as comprehensive in its range and multiplicity.

"It is likely to attract many researchers, cultural tourists and other visitors to Dublin for many years to come," added Ms Ross.

"The library is proud to become a centre for Heaney scholarship and we look forward to making this collection available to scholars and researchers from all over the world."

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