MOURNERS at Seamus Heaney’s funeral have been told that the poet’s final words to his wife were “in his favourite Latin ‘nolle timere’ (‘don’t be afraid’).”
The content of the Nobel Laureate’s last text message from hospital was revealed by his son Michael during the funeral at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook.
Heaney – regarded as the best Irish poet since WB Yeats – died at the age of 74 early on Friday in Dublin after a short illness.
He will be buried later in his native Bellaghy, in Co Derry.
Political figures in attendance at this morning’s funeral included President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and former Irish president Mary McAleese.
Those from the world of arts and entertainment were also present at the service: U2’s Bono, Hollywood actor Stephen Rea, musician Paul Brady, playwrights Frank McGuinness and Tom Murphy, poet Garech De Brun and actor Barry McGovern.
Marie – now the widow of the literary great – led the mourners, alongside their three children Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.
Heaney family friend Monsignor Brendan Devlin from Derry was the principal celebrant and said that as a country, “we are keenly aware of our deprivation at the disappearance from among us of Seamus Heaney.”
He added, “I think he might have liked his funeral Mass to be celebrated in a Northern Ireland accent.”
Piper Liam O’Flynn played Port na bPucai during the service.
Heaney’s brother Pat read the first reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, his brother-in-law Barry read out the Psalm and niece Sarah read from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.
The Mass was closed with a reading of one of Heaney’s famous poems The Given Note from his second published collection.
Poet Paul Muldoon gave the eulogy following the service, reflecting on fond memories of his time with his friend Heaney and their families.
He said: “The Seamus Heaney who was renowned the world over was never a man who took himself too seriously, certainly not with his family and friends.”
Heaney’s remarkable career led him to receive the 1995 Nobel prize for literature.
He was also awarded numerous prizes and received many honours for his work throughout his long career.
Books of condolences have also been opened at the Mansion House in Dublin, City Hall in Belfast and the Guildhall in Derry.