Heaney: “He was a kind, modest man in every way”

The Parish priest of Culdaff, Fr James McGonagle, has described the late Seamus Heaney as a ‘decent man, a modest man and a gentleman who would always be remember as such.’

A class mate of the Nobel Laureate at Derry’s St Columb’s College between 1951-57 Fr. McGonagle was at pains to modestly point out that he was ‘not at Seamus’ ‘ standard academically’.

Speaking with the Journal this week Fr. McGonagle said: “Everyone thinks Seamus was just good at English. He was outstanding in science, he was a very talented artist, and he excelled at languages. There were a few high flyers there at the time and he was amongst them.”

The Inishowen based cleric recalled their old Latin teacher as being aware early on just how able academically the late poet was.

“I recall him saying something like ‘could do better’ when say Seamus got 84% in Latin.By way of contrast when I got 55% he said ‘well done’, He knew what people were capable of..”

And he said what was remarkable about Heaney was that he remained the same.

“Over the years we would meet up the reunions and despite all the accolades and fame Seamus remained the same - one of the lads. No airs or graces. That’s how we will all remember him.”