Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney


Seamus Heaney
The Institute of Irish Studies adds to the list of its prestigious honorary fellows the name of the 1995 Nobel Laureate Professor Séamus Heaney. Professor Heaney's long friendship with and support of the Institute led to his active participation in the very successful meeting, at Queen's University Belfast in June 1995, of the American Conference for Irish Studies and the Canadian Association for Irish Studies, hosted by the Institute and co-ordinated by Drs Brian Walker and Sophia Hillan.

Professor Heaney delivered the opening plenary address, 'More Language' on 26 June and gave that evening, in the Whitla Hall, with his old friends and fellow artists Michael Longley and David Hammond, a poetry reading which was enthusiastically received by over 500 delegates. Throughout the rest of the week, Professor Heaney attended lectures, readings and functions, mingling with delegates from Canada, USA, Europe, UK and Ireland.

In recognition of this and Professor Heaney's many gestures of support for the Institute's aims and objectives since its inception in 1965, the Committee of Management voted that he be made an Honorary Fellow, expressing in conjunction with the rest of the University its delight at his winning the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature. Professor Heaney has accepted the fellowship.

Seamus Heaney, born in 1939, was brought up on a farm - Mossbawn - between the townlands of Toomebridge and Castledawson in County Londonderry. The eldest of nine children, he attended the local school at Anahorish and then boarded at St Columb's College in Derry. In 1957 he enrolled at The Queen's University of Belfast where he graduated with a first class honours degree in English Language and Literature in 1961. After a year as a postgraduate at St Joseph's College in Belfast, followed by a period of teaching in St Thomas's Secondary School on the Whiterock Road, he was appointed to the staff of the College before taking up a lecturing posti n the English department at Queen's in 1966. There he remained until 1972, spending the academic year of 1970/1 as a visiting Professor at the University of California in Berkeley.

While at St Joseph's Seamus Heaney began to write, publishing work under the pseudonym "Incertus". During that time, along with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, James Simmons and others, he joined a poetry workshop under the guidance of Philip Hobsbaum. In 1966 Faber & Faber published his first collection of poems entitled Death of a Naturalist, for which he won several literary awards.

Seamus Heaney's publications include Door into the Dark (1969), Wintering Out (1972), North (1975), Field Work (1979), Station Island (1984), Sweeney Astray (1984), The Cure at Troy (1990), and The Tree Clock (1990) and The Spirit Level (1996).