On Friday, August 30th, 2013, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Heaney was the eldest child of nine born to a farming family in County Derry, Northern Ireland. He won a scholarship to St. Columb’s College, Derry, beginning an academic career that would lead through Queen’s University Belfast, where his first books of poems were written, to positions including Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard and the Oxford Professor of Poetry. Among his many awards are the Nobel Prize for Literature 1995 and the Whitbread prize (twice); he was made a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1996. On June 6, 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.
In addition to photographs of Heaney in the Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Archives, the John J. Burns Library owns a small but significant collection of original manuscripts and correspondence from Heaney. While the Burns Library’s holdings of Heaney manuscripts and correspondence are relatively modest, its holdings of Heaney’s printed works, including books, broadsides, pamphlets, cards, and ephemera, are among the best anywhere. Heaney visited Boston College on a number of occasions, many times as a speaker for the Lowell Humanities Series. During one such occasion, Father William Neenan S.J. introduced Heaney as “an artist who has transformed the poem . . . as he explores the themes of life, death and love” and compared Heaney to Irish authors such as Yeats, Joyce and Beckett (The Heights, November 18, 1996.) According to Burns Librarian Dr. Robert O’Neill, Heaney maintained a close connection with Boston College, “Even after Heaney won the Nobel Prize and was in constant demand, he always seemed to find time for Boston College. Heaney also developed close friendships with members of the University’s Irish Studies Program, especially its co-founders Adele Dalsimer and Kevin O’Neill, and generously gave of his time to speak at Irish Studies events and to Irish Studies students. In 1991, Boston College awarded Heaney an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at Commencement.”
The Bobbie Hanvey Photographic Archives are part of the Boston College University Libraries Digital Collections and are available online at bc.edu/hanvey. For more information on the Hanvey collection or the Seamus Heaney Collection at the Burns Library, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or firstname.lastname@example.org.