Week 42: In the word-hoard

This week, ML and I returned to Ireland for a short trip to see my aunt Anne. This weeks’ title comes from a poem by  Seamus Heaney, “North”, a great poem about what it means to live in northern Europe. He talks of voices he hears coming from the sea:

[…]It said, ‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Heaney was born only a short distance from where I grew up. In fact my Aunt taught his wife in school. Heaney, his wife and my aunt and her husband went on holidays together in the 1960s, and there is in fact a poem he wrote on one of these trips, “Girls bathing, Galway 1965”. His wife and my aunt are in there:

The swell foams where they float and crawl,
A catherine-wheel of arm and hand;
Each head bobs curtly as a football.
The yelps are faint here on the strand.

[…] As through the shallows in swimsuits,
Bare-legged, smooth-shouldered and long-backed,
they wade ashore with skips and shouts.
So Venus comes, matter-of-fact.

My Aunt tells the funny story of how, afterwards,  they raffled the piece of paper that Seamus wrote the poem on, and she won it but … alas ! She lost it in the years that followed.

In 1995 he became the first Irish poet since W. B. Yeats to win the Nobel prize for literature. Despite this, he never lost contact with where he grew up. He died in 2013. Just a week or two  ago in Bellaghy, where he grew up, they opened the “HomePlace”, a building dedicated to exploring the links between Heaney’s work his childhood; his sense of place was always strong in his poems. So that’s where I went with my aunt and ML during my short return home.  I asked jokingly at the front desk if my aunt would get in for free because she was actually inside in a Heaney poem but, alas, no.

Driving there from Tyrone (to the south and east) one can see things like this:


Drive slowly

The region is still very agricultural, as it was in when Heaney grew up. In the centre there is a wonderful display with a map of the area together with the location of each poem with a corresponding number linked to a recording of the poem in Heaney’s voice. There is also a detailed story of Heaney’s life and family:


AA at the Heaney “Home Place”


A bust of Heaney.

Here is the ‘word-hoard’, a cloud of some of the words that Heaney liked to use in his poems. He was an incredible scholar and had a great knowledge of ancient languages.


The word-hoard made real

Anyway, it is definitely worth a visit if you are in the north. I guess it is about forty minutes or so from Belfast on the motorway.

I didn’t have much time to take pictures on this trip, we were only there for a few days, but here are a few. Here is a picture of a bog in a nearby park. This is one where Irish bog snorkelling championships takes place !


Bog snorkelling happens here!

Finally, another portrait of my aunt. I do spend a fair amount of my time trying to take portraits, and they are incredibly hard to get right. I haven’t shown too many of them here on 52rolls, but I have a section devoted to them over on my new website. It’s something I like a lot, and I think film photography is really unbeatable for pictures of people.


AA in her kitchen

That it for this week. Next week – some pictures from a recent expo in Paris.

Here are my previous posts on 52rolls.

And…here is my new website.

Technical notes. Camera: A Leica M6 with a Summicron-M f2.0/50mm. Film: Tri-X 400 @ 1600 in HC110 B at 14mins.


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