The Blackbird Logo
The Seamus Heaney Centre’s blackbird logo was designed by Jeffrey Morgan and is inspired by a ninth-century piece of Irish marginalia, sometimes given the title ‘The Blackbird of Belfast Lough’.
We don’t know the author, but the poem could have been written at Bangor Abbey, situated on the southern shore of Loch Laíg (Belfast Lough). The Abbey was founded in 559 by St Comgall and and by the time he died, in 601, as many as three thousand monks looked to the Abbot for guidance. The Abbey was one of the finest places of learning in Europe, producing renowned scholars and missionaries. Perhaps its most famed associate was St Columbanus (540 – 615) who founded prominent monastic communities in Luxeuil (Burgundy) and Bobbio (Northern Italy).
Ciaran Carson, director of the Seamus Heaney Centre, has written on the significance of ‘The Blackbird of Belfast Lough’ for the first volume of The Yellow Nib, the journal of the Seamus Heaney Centre:
It was the occasional practice of Irish scribes so to divert themselves from the copying of ecclesiastical texts. This poem looks like a typical piece of marginalia, in its brevity and clarity, its sudden, focused attention to the natural world….
|Int én bec
ro léc feit
do rinn guip
ós Loch Laíg,
lon do chraíb
9th Century Irish
The small bird
the little bird
Carson, Ciaran, ed. The Yellow Nib: The Literary Journal of the Seamus Heaney
Centre for Poetry. Vol. 1. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2005.
Edmonds, Columba. "St. Columbanus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 28 Jan. 2009 http://www.newadvent.org/ cathen/04137a.htm.