I returned to County Londonderry in late February and was able to take advantage of settled weather prior to the arrival of the “beast from the East”.
I had several objectives in mind: further exploration of the Moyola river and identification of the Riverbank field referenced in Heaney’s poetry; the two limits (as Heaney described them) of his childhood imagination, namely the mountain Slieve Gallion and Lough Beg; the Sluggan, little more than a ditch, but forming the boundary between two townlands and two dioceses, a liminal signifier to which Heaney attached great significance.
The construction of the Belfast-Derry motorway extension is now encroaching within yards of Heaney’s birthplace at Mossbawn and the adjacent meeting-hall of the Ancient Order of Hibernians is being demolished. I was pleased to have photographed the Hall on my visit last November.
From County Londonderry, I travelled to Boa Island in County Fermanagh – the site of the two-faced “Janus” stone which was the subject of Heaney’s poem, “The January God” – and thence to Station Island, a site of Catholic pilgrimage, the title and inspiration of Heaney’s verse sequence referencing among other things the horrors of the Northern Ireland “Troubles”.