President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has visited the museum dedicated to the poet Seamus Heaney in Bellaghy.
President Higgins, a long-time friend of the late poet, toured the exhibition at HomePlace, which celebrates the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate, in the company of Marie Heaney and Councillor Dominic Molloy from Mid Ulster District Council.
Over 70 guests, among them members of the wider Heaney family, gathered at the arts and literary centre to welcome the President and his wife, Sabina, as well as to experience a musical performance of ‘Slieve Gallion Braes’ and a poetry reading by the acclaimed actor Ian McElhinney.
Addressing the audience, President Higgins said: “The beautiful line ‘Our shadows moved on the wall’ from Séamus’ poem ‘Keeping Going’ came to mind as soon as I entered this place.
“All around us is the memory, the shadows of Séamus as both the poet and the man. This is a place that belongs to Séamus - a place that echoes with his words and with the memories of those who knew and were influenced by him”.
“Here in HomePlace we are again reminded of the great reach and depth of Seamus’ reputation and impact. But we are also, in ways that are both uplifting and poignant, reminded that Seamus was first and foremost a son of Bellaghy. It is here that Seamus found the beat to which his poetry moved and the inspiration for his great work.”
Cllr Molloy said the visit was "a truly historic occasion" for HomePlace and for Mid Ulster.
“In the seven years since his inauguration, President Higgins has more than earned the title ‘Champion of Creativity’ and here in Bellaghy, in this place where we celebrate the life and literature of one of Ireland’s greatest writers, we not only have the privilege of helping to preserve the legacy of Seamus Heaney, but also to contribute to the development of the ‘creative communities’ of which the Uachtaráin is a passionate advocate,” he said.
Seamus Heaney's son Michael said the family was delighted that the President visited “not just in his official capacity, but as a personal friend and as a poet”.
On Saturday the Mr Higgins and his wife visited the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh.