Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 18:37 UK

Turfman piece marks Heaney poem

 Pictured at the unveiling of Turfman was Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Margaret Ritchie, Minister for Social Development and Denis Rooney, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland.
Seamus Heaney said the image of a man digging turf meant a lot to him

A sculpture depicting one of Seamus Heaney's most famous poems has been unveiled in his former home town.

The life-size bronze figure in the County Londonderry village of Bellaghy is an interpretation of the Nobel Laureate's work Digging.

The sculpture, created by Scottish artist David Annand, was commissioned by the Bellaghy Development Association.

Mr Heaney, who saw the work unveiled, described it as a "unique honour".

"The image of a man digging turf means a lot to me but to have this sculpture positioned in Bellaghy makes it especially meaningful," he said.

"I am deeply grateful for the tribute and proud that the sculpture has been commissioned by the Development Association. For many reasons, it is the right image in the right place."

He said the area held many great memories for him.

Under my window a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging. I look down.

*Extract from Digging, Death of a Naturalist, 1966

"Some of my happiest memories are of working in 'the moss'," he said.

"It was a place where you met neighbours, where there was a sense of common purpose and good companionship, and in this way it could stand as a model for the aims and activities of the Bellaghy Development Association.

"The association is admirable because it sponsors the kind of co-operation that leads to new levels of social and economic achievement."

Mr Annand originally used peat to form the figure, before casting it in bronze to create the final artwork.

The project was co-funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the Department of Social Development and Magherafelt District Council.

Jack Graham, Chairman of Bellaghy Development Association, said they had spent years planning how to commemorate the poet's links to the town.

"We are all very excited by this project," he said.

"We first had the idea to mark the huge contribution Seamus Heaney has made to the world of literature back in 2004 and felt a permanent piece of art erected in his home town would be a fitting tribute to a writer who has brought so much joy to so many people not just locally but internationally."

More than 200 guests and members of the public attended the unveiling in front of Bellaghy Bawn on Castle Street.

As part of the ongoing celebrations at Bellaghy Bawn, artist Helen Heron is holding a solo exhibition featuring a a personal interpretation of each of the 27 poems of Seamus Heaney's 'Field Work' published in 1979. It forms part of the festivities surrounding the poet's 70th birthday on 13 April.

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