‘International treasure’ who inspired Seamus Heaney poems laid to rest

Barney Devlin was the subject of two poems by Seamus Heaney
Barney Devlin was the subject of two poems by Seamus Heaney
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Hundreds turned out to say farewell to the “international treasure” who inspired, not just one, but two Seamus Heaney poems.

Blacksmith Barney Devlin, who was famously subtitled on the BBC’s Countryfile, was laid to rest beside his wife Peg following Requiem Mass at St John’s in Milltown on Sunday afternoon.

The funeral procession paid tribute to Barney’s life at the anvil, pausing for a moment as they passed his former forge.

Speaking about the “much loved” 96-year-old grandfather and great-father, Father Andy Dolan said he was shared by many.

“When we read and hear all the tributes paid to Barney since the news of his death broke, you as family could never have imagined that you [would] have been sharing him with so many,” he told mourners, .

“Not just a treasure for you as family, not just for us in this place,” he added, “but a national and dare I say it an international treasure.”

Barney’s famous neighbour penned his first poem about him in 1969. The Forge was then followed by another tribute to the local legend in his 2006 collection, District and Circle.

Midnight Anvil recalled the blacksmith ringing in the new year on his anvil - a countdown that was heard by his nephew on the other end of the phone in Canada.

The ‘kind hearted’ blacksmith passed away last Thursday at his Castledawson home.

Said to “love the craic”, he welcomed visitors from all over the world after the 1969 poem was penned in his honour.

The “much loved” grandfather and great-grandfather was the husband of the late Margaret (Peg) and dear father of Clare McCusker, Joe, Anne Scott, Kieran, Barry, Patricia Kelly, Teresa, Gerard and the late Hugh.

A moving tribute to Barney on Time to Consider the Lilies describes him as a man “with heart and craft and good humour”.

“Barney lived for almost a century bringing into his tiny forge thousands of visitors from all over the world,” it said.

“He loved the craic. He loved it when people would stop and give him the time of day.

“Tonight, I think only Heaney would know what to say about Barney’s passing. He would have the right words.”

It is understood Barney kept a visitors book at his forge, in which Heaney left the note: “For Barney, old friend and good example of how to do good work and stay true.’I’ll maybe write a poem.”