Snow Patrol front man Gary Lightbody has paid tribute to the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, describing him as the leader of an “invisible tribe” that inspired him to write poetry and eventually become a songwriter.
The 74-year-old poet from Bellaghy died on Friday morning in a Dublin hospital, having suffered ill health in recent years.
In a touching post on his personal blog, the Bangor musician described the first time he heard Heaney’s Digging in school.
“Then Mark McKee started working as an English teacher and brought with him three secret weapons,” he wrote.
“The works of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and one Mr Seamus Heaney. Yes, the day he arrived at the school would change my life but as I say I didn’t know it yet.
“As Mr McKee began to read from the little volume of poetry in his hand I found myself, for the first time that day, maybe that week (sorry mum, this will all be news to you), actually listening…”
The 37-year-old said the poetry he began writing at 15 when he was inspired by Seamus Heaney started him on the path “that would take me to here, sitting in California, writing Snow Patrol’s seventh album after a 20-year career that has taken me around the world many times and shown me things I never dreamed of”.
Lightbody described Heaney as the chieftain of an “invisible tribe” of artists and writers “that touch people on a level that beds deeper into our souls and hearts”.
“People of profound light, love and kindness that simply and maybe even without their knowledge make us and the world around them better,” he continued.
“People that lead with their words and deeds and not with the empty promises of election campaigns or the grandstanding of the pulpit.”
In his eloquent tribute, he said that Seamus Heaney’s word will live forever.
“He luxuriated in the language of the ground behind his feet and the sky above him,” Lightbody said.
“And as he now, sadly, returns to the earth that inspired him we must return to his words for inspiration of our own. A call to arms for the invisible tribe, for the writers, artists, singers, players, thinkers…”
Concluding, he quoted Heaney’s famous poem Digging: “‘Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it’.”
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