Dermot Healy laid to rest in Sligo amid music, dance and poetry

Writer laid to rest yesterday in the company of poets and artists, musicians and singers, a president and, above all, his neighbours

Dermot Healy’s widow, Helen, is consoled by President Michael D Higgins at St Patrick’s Church, Maugherow, Co Sligo, yesterday. Photograph: James Connolly

Dermot Healy’s widow, Helen, is consoled by President Michael D Higgins at St Patrick’s Church, Maugherow, Co Sligo, yesterday. Photograph: James Connolly

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 01:01

The great Irish writer Dermot Healy was laid to rest yesterday in the company of poets and artists, musicians and singers, a president and, above all, his neighbours .

As Fr Michael Donnelly told the congregation at St Patrick’s Church Maugherow, Co Sligo, Dermot Healy knew the value of neighbours. “It is in the neighbour’s house, the fiction begins,” he had written and for two days the neighbours had waked him at his home in Loughaun, Ballyconnell.

Yesterday they brought him from his home on the edge of the Atlantic, where fellow writers stood alongside President Michael D Higgins, as they comforted Healy’s widow Helen and his children Dallan and Inor.

All was quiet

The breeze whipped in and the sound of the grave diggers told that he was going home. They have a custom in Maugherow that they fill in the grave immediately, even before the prayers begin, and in his poem The Funeral Healy himself had celebrated the music the spade makes as it hits the earth.

“The shovels work like oars rowing the dead man from this world to the next,” he wrote and in Carrigans Cemetery all was quiet yesterday as they rowed him home.

Among writers who came to pay tribute were Roddy Doyle, Pat McCabe, Kevin Barry, Leland Bardwell, Rita Ann Higgins, and friends Michael Harding and Brian Leyden. Film director Neil Jordan was there, and artist, neighbour and friend Seán MacSweeney.

Also there were artist Nick Miller, sculptor John Behan and Margaretta D’Arcy, jailed for protesting at Shannon.

There were jigs and reels during Mass and they carried him from the church to the strains of The Parting Glass. It seemed everyone had a story about a kindness he had done. Healy once said when he looked at the landscape of north Sligo it had little impact but when he wrote it haunted him. Yesterday his spirit seemed to fill the place.