Family and friends bid final farewell to Seamus Deane

Mourners hear of ‘a very indulgent father to all his children’ and ‘devoted Celtic fan’

Seamus Deane loved Derry, his daughter Émer recalled at his funeral service on Monday, remembering the excitement of childhood family trips there at Halloween and Easter.

However, the mood in the family car would quieten as they approached the British army checkpoint at Aughnacloy. "Even as children we could really sense a rush of fury and of grief from Seamus," she said.

But “the mood would lighten again, especially as we’d cross over the Foyle”, she said “and swoop down into the Bogside”, where her father would by now be “sparkling with anticipation and the pained joy of being home”.

One of Ireland's foremost writers and critics, Deane (81) died in Dublin's Beaumont Hospital last Wednesday following a short illness. The funeral service took place at the chapel in Mount Jerome crematorium, Dublin.


He was “going to return to Derry one more time, because he asked that some of his ashes are scattered on the graves of his mother and father, Winnie and Frank, and a brother Gerard”, said Émer.

He was “a very indulgent father to all his children, first with his wife of many years and lifelong friend to the end, my mother Marion, raising me and my three brothers. And later with Emer and in raising their beloved Iseult.”

His son Ciarán disputed a comment about his father by fellow-Derry man Eamon McCann who said Seamus was the best footballer in St Columb’s, then he fell in with the wrong crowd and became a poet.

"Seamus did fall in with the poets but he never turned his back on football. It was central to his life and to our lives together," said Ciarán. His father was "a lifelong Celtic fan.

Remembering the dispossessed

His father’s “weekly devotion to Celtic was a kind of penance, an act of loyalty to the dispossessed and displaced of Ireland’s northwest, ghosts to which the club is a monument”.

Seamus Deane's partner, Emer, read an extract on James Joyce from his 1985 work Celtic Revivals, while his son Cormac read from the introduction to the 1990 Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, edited by his father.

Granddaughter Aodamar read Promise to my Daughter, written by Deane for her mother. While another granddaughter, Sadbh, read the poem Fox in a Bucket.

It was written by her grandfather “for my little brother Fiach” for his ninth birthday this year.” In an accompanying email, he wrote: “I made the point of not using the most obvious rhyme for ‘bucket’.”

Actor Stephen Rea, joint director with Deane of Field Day, read the chapter Religious Knowledge, September 1954 from Deane's novel Reading in the Dark. Daughter Iseult read his poem Migration.

The humanist service was conducted by Brian Whiteside.

Leading the coronavirus-restricted attendance was President Michael D Higgins.

Chief mourners were Deane’s partner Emer, wife Marion, and children Conor, Ciarán, Émer, Cormac, Iseult, as well as his 11 grandchildren.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times