Mid Ulster Council receives almost £700,000 lottery cash to showcase ‘Heaney country’

Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 aged 74
Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 aged 74

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has granted £688,700 to Mid Ulster District Council for a project to showcase the places, sights, sounds and traditional ways of life that Seamus Heaney celebrated in his poems.

During his lifetime Heaney was the world’s best known and best loved poet. His poems accounted for two thirds of book sales of all living poets. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Many of his best known poems are set in his native south Derry. Yet many of these places are inaccessible to the public and traditional ways of life are slowly fading from memory.

The HLF is granting the money to the Living Past Project which that aims to connect Heaney’s great poems to people and communities in the area; to preserve the traditional rural life that inspired Heaney and to make some of the sites that feature in his poems accessible to locals and tourists alike.

There are plans for a literary trail: Heaney made reference to many local sites some of which are not currently accessible to the public. The trail will feature nine of them including Lagan’s Road, Anahorish and the eel fishery at Toome.

There will be children’s activities including a post primary programme connecting his poetry to the landscape.

The project will include elements on rural life: collecting stories and making videos of activities inspired by poems such as Churning Day, Blackberry Picking and The Forge.

Links are also being established with universities and colleges in Ireland, north and south as well as the two universities where Heaney taught: Oxford and Harvard.

The project will establish South Derry on the literary map, encourage tourism and boost the local economy.

Paul Mullan head of HLF for Northern Ireland said: “This is a wonderful project that we are proud to fund, so I’d like to say a big thank you to National Lottery players. Heaney is our greatest poet, a literary giant. His inspiration came from the people, the landscape and the rural traditions of South Derry. What better way to celebrate his legacy than to re-connect local people to his work and make many of the sites that millions all over the world have been mesmerised by through his poems accessible for all to see.”

Councillor Linda Dillon, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council said: “Our new facility in Bellaghy which opens this year, will tell the story of Seamus Heaney’s life and work and, together with the literary trails, education programme and community engagement activities will inspire visitors, just as this place and its people inspired Seamus Heaney himself.

“We are delighted to receive such a substantial award from the HLF and look forward to welcoming visitors and locals alike to enjoy the experience”.