The Nobel Prize winning Irish poet and playwright Seamus Heaney died today, after a short illness. Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and has been described as Ireland's greatest writer since Yeats. He was 74 years old.
Born in April 1939, in Co Derry, Northern Ireland, Seamus was the eldest of nine children. He is survived by his wife Marie, and children Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann. His family have requested privacy at this time.
Heaney was educated at St Columb's College in Derry, a Catholic boarding school, and later at Queen's University Belfast, before making his home in Dublin. During his career he held prestigious posts at Oxford University and at Harvard in the US. He was an honorary fellow at Trinity College Dublin and last year was bestowed with the Seamus Heaney Professorship in Irish Writing at the university, which he described as a great honour.
His world-renowned poetry first came to public attention in the mid-1960s with his first major collection, Death Of a Naturalist, published in 1966. As the troubles took hold later that decade, his experiences were seen through the darkened mood of his work. His childhood and youth also played out in the poetry he wrote in later years. In December 2011, he donated his personal literary notes to the National Library of Ireland, joining the ranks of Irish literary master James Joyce and fellow Nobel winner WB Yeats.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, and a former president of Saint Columb's College, said in his tribute today: "We were all quietly ambushed by sadness at the announcement today of the death of Seamus Heaney RIP, Ireland's foremost poet. Honoured on the world stage, our Nobel Laureate was always at heart a quiet Irish man who wrote our story without rhetoric. In his work he observed ordinary country people going about their ordinary lives.
"His father, his mother, his aunts, his neighbours were Seamus's quiet heroes as he became ours. Anthologised for primary and secondary students for decades, his poetry excavated the past and found coordinates for the present. He saw history as our story - the story of ordinary humankind.
"Seamus Heaney was a poet of compassion, a great teacher and a gentle man in every sense. My prayers today are with his beloved wife Marie, his sons Christopher, Michael and his daughter Catherine Anne.
May he rest in peace.
"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis"
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