Seamus Heaney and Clongowes - Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 9th September 2013

Clongowes Wood College SJ

Each year the pupils of Clongowes and Portora Royal School, Enniskillen compete for the Beckett-Joyce award, which honours two of our most famous writers and helps to link the schools which they each attended. In 1997 the late Seamus Heaney was the adjudicator for the prize, which was won that year by Daniel Bennett from Clongowes. Seven years later Barry McStay (OC’2004) won the award in his final year before taking a degree in English Literature and History at Trinity College. Since then Barry has pursued a successful career as an actor, written his first full-length play and is working on several others as well as performing improvised comedy along the way.

Barry attributes a great deal of the artisitic impetus that propels and compels his life to Clongowes, where he was provided with several outlets that satisfied his literary energies. Writing recently in his blog ‘Dazed in the Life’ (, Barry paid tribute to the passing of Séamus Heaney. He vividly remembers learning ‘Mid-Term Break’ at school with the late great Fr Joe Brereton, while ‘A Constable Calls’ was the first poem Martin Wallace had his class study before the Leaving Cert. Barry also recalls being struck, even then, by the evocative language of ‘The Skunk’: “Every Irish school child has a relationship with Heaney which, often against our will, permeated us. It’s only now he’s dead that his profound power and depth of his reach has been revealed to us.”

Barry has penned his own tribute to Heaney and we are proud to publish it here:

We Write Poetry

– for Séamus Heaney


and we write poetry again

because we must –

the imperative impressed

by he, anyman and everyman

and just a man and what a man.

today your words spring and burst

on social networks,

spattered with mud, blackberry stains,

mildew patterns and swirls

on a dampening wall –

skunks and Tollund Men,

blacksmiths and black bicycles,

schoolboys and lover-boys –

parading half a century of us.

a pride, a grandfather,

a lighthouse, a keeper,

a teacher to us all

when we were taught early,

caught early in a cobweb

of words and wonder

and gifted knowledge of ourselves –

of the troubles we create

and the imaginings we sigh

and the chances we take –

you knew us better than we did

and we were lucky.

and no one knew we’d lose you

but we know it now you’re lost

and follow you into the dark

just to glimpse your sparks

and hear your whinnying

and taste your tang again.

you caught us off guard

and blasted a nation open

so we can do nothing

so we write love-letters

because we must

and, because of you,

because we can.



Categories: Clongowes Stories
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