Subject of Heaney poem to be buried on Sunday

Barney Devlin
Barney Devlin

A blacksmith who inspired the Seamus Heaney poem ‘The Forge’ is to be laid to rest on Sunday.

Barney Devlin was the subject of the 1969 poem, and the 96-year-old died on Thursday at his Castledawson home.

His funeral will be 1pm Mass at St John’s Church, Milltown.

The grandfather and great-grandfather was the husband of the late Margaret (Peg) and father of Clare McCusker, Joe, Anne Scott, Kieran, Barry, Patricia Kelly, Teresa, Gerard and the late Hugh.

A tribute to Barney on the website ‘Time to Consider the Lilies’ describes him as a man “with heart and craft and good humour”.

“Tonight, I think only Heaney would know what to say about Barney’s passing. He would have the right words,” it said.

Here is the poem that Barney inspired:

All I know is a door into the dark.

Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;

Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,

The unpredictable fantail of sparks

Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.

The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,

Horned as a unicorn, at one end and square,

Set there immoveable: an altar

Where he expends himself in shape and music.

Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,

He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter

Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;

Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and flick

To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.