Blacksmith who inspired Seamus Heaney ‘an international treasure’

Barney Devlin was the subject of two poems by Seamus Heaney
Barney Devlin was the subject of two poems by Seamus Heaney

Tributes have been paid during the funeral of the Co Londonderry blacksmith who was immortalised in two poems by Seamus Heaney.

Barney Devlin, 96, died on Thursday at his Castledawson home.

Father Andy Dolan told mourners at Sunday’s Requiem Mass at St John’s Church, Milltown: “When we read and hear all the tributes paid to Barney since the news of his death broke, you as family could never have imagined that you have been sharing him with so many.”

The cleric said Mr Devlin was “not just a treasure for you as family, not just for us in this place, but a national and dare I say it an international treasure”.

Heaney first wrote about Mr Devlin in his poem, The Forge, in 1969.

The poet returned to the subject again in Midnight Anvil, from his 2006 collection, District and Circle, in which Mr Devlin rings in the millennial New Year on his anvil, while his nephew in Canada hears the clangs at that very moment, thanks to a mobile phone held in the air.

Mr Devlin, who has been described as a “much-loved” grandfather and great-grandfather, was buried beside his late wife Margaret at St John’s Church, Milltown.