The main ballroom at the Highlands Hotel was packed out tonight for the opening of this year’s MacGill Summer School and Arts Week.
British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, who officiated at the opening, spoke of the “maturing relationship” between Ireland and Britain, reflected in the reciprocal visits of the Heads of State.
He told an enthralled audience. “I hope it won’t be thought unseemly to recall Seamus Heaney’s objection in 1982 to being included in a collection of British poetry. His riposte was ‘Be advised, my passport’s green/ No glass of ours was ever raised/To toast the Queen’.”
Thirty years, later, Seamus Heaney was seated at the top table, near Queen Elizabeth II, at the State Banquet in Dublin Castle. At Windsor Castle this April, as the Queen welcomed President Michael D. Higgins, she expressed her sadness on Heaney’s passing.
It was a fitting and moving anecdote, given that this year’s MacGill School is focusing on The Loss and Legacy of Seamus Heaney.
Dr Maurice Hayes, who delivered the 14th Annual John Hume Lecture, said: “Seamus Heaney was our dowser. The loss is profound but the legacy is enduring, inexhaustible and gracious. As long as language lives, as long as people care for words, as long as we can quote him, Seamus lives on, as guide, philosopher and friend.”
Both speakers touched upon many vital issues of the day as well, given that the other main theme of the school is “Without Fundamental Reform of our Politics and Institutions, Can We Meet the Challenges Ahead?”.
Read this Thursday’s Donegal Democrat for in-depth coverage of the school’s proceedings.