St Mary’s College Clady has received the overall ‘My Place in the Landscape’ Award for their outstanding participation in a unique collaborative project – My Place Within the Landscape – between Lough Neagh Partnership, RSPB NI and Seamus Heaney HomePlace.

The creative achievements of more than 40 students from Magherafelt High School, Sperrin Integrated College, Magherafelt; St Mary’s College, Clady; St Patrick’s College, Maghera and St Pius X College, Magherafelt; were recognised with highly commended certificates, with the writers of the top five poems also receiving a wooden pen. In Heaney’s poem ‘Digging’ which was included in the ‘My Place within the Landscape’ project, he talks of his relationship with the power of the pen.

“Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.”

Award presentations were made by Queen’s University Belfast Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zepff. Myra said: “I am delighted to have been involved in this wonderful project which brought young people, poetry, and the landscape together in such a fresh and vivid way. Their experiences, both of the environment around them and of the creative process will undoubtedly stay with them for a long time”

The project funded by Heritage Lottery, encouraged within the students a love of both landscape and literature, through increasing awareness of their own natural and cultural heritage encompassing various themes including spiritual awareness; creative expression; natural heritage; social studies and use of technology. It provided an opportunity for students to develop the skills and empathy required to respond personally to poetry, as well as giving a better understanding of the rich variety of habitats around Lough Neagh; their biodiversity importance; why they have been designated and how these habitats are threatened.

Conor Jordan, Chair of Lough Neagh Partnership Forum, said: “The poetry produced by the winning students is exceptional and I’ve been told it was difficult to choose the best such was the level of creativity. I would like to congratulate all those who participated in this most enjoyable and truly unique project.  It is an excellent example of how partnership working can help promote a greater understanding of our landscape heritage and the literary value it holds for the observer.

“The cultural significance of Lough Neagh and Lough Beg has been recognised globally thanks to the poetic eloquence of Seamus Heaney and we are delighted to be part of a project that has encouraged young people to look at the landscape with a new heritage awareness.”

Speaking at the celebration, Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Mark Glasgow said, “We are delighted to have participated in this collaborative project that ensures the legacy of Seamus Heaney and his work lives on, and which gives inspiration to new and future generations of young people to pursue their creative dreams. The Seamus Heaney HomePlace education programme and its participation in collaborative shared education programmes like My Place in the Landscape not only provide this inspiration, but also take the poetry of Seamus Heaney as a catalyst for teaching and learning in a wider sense.”

Jess McVicar from RSPB NI added:  “Through this unique project looking at how landscape inspires literature, RSPB NI has connected young people with nature in the important protected landscapes in their area. The project gives students the opportunity to experience first-hand the very landscapes that inspired poems such as ‘Digging’ and ‘The Strand at Lough Beg’. RSPB NI has been delighted to work on My Place Within the Landscape, helping students to learn about the importance of conservation and to recognise the richness of their own natural heritage.”

This is a project of Lough Neagh Partnership under the Landscape partnership programme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.,


‘POETRY IN THE LANDSCAPE’ AWARD: Aaron McGahon, Year 10; St Mary’s


This Farming Life

Silage season (stanza 1)

One bright morning at the break of dawn

At the start of silage season

My brother, dad and I

Got up early to get started at the silage.

When we started up the tractors and the harvester

You could hear the roar of the engine.

It sounded like the incredible hulk.

When we were out in the field there was a

Sweet smell of silage, sweet like honey.

I remember my Granda he loved to be out in the open air,

The sound of his voice the chuckle of his laughter,

He could never be replaced but my dog digger

Fills the empty seat.


Autumn (stanza 2)

One misty morning at the start of Autumn

The air was as cold as ice when it hit off our faces.

I went into the cow field. The first thing I saw

Was Charlie the bull.

A bull with horns, an off white beast.

I look at him and I see a gentle giant.

We start to feed our cows and calves.

They run like lightening across the field

to get the food. It smelt very sweet. It was dirty.

It felt like cut grass. It’s amazing to see all the wee

calves growing up.

The Winter months (stanza 3)

The winter months

One icy morning in the middle of winter.

All the cows are finally in.

It’s cold outside.

My brother my dad and I went out to feed the cows.

The cows are sad.

The atmosphere is tense they trod slowly to get their feed.

I find a mother that had a late calve.

They both were dead.

Lost friends.


Highly Commended Poems:


My Hometown

As I walk through the peaceful graveyard

I feel a lot of people are with me, but it feels dead.

I see my grandma’s graveyard ahead, I miss her.

As we get to Toner’s Bog giant metal straws suck up

The soaking, soggy, soulless bog leaving a willow tree alone.

On the bog the sphagnum moss sucks up the water making it 20 times heavier,

Better do a few laps of the sperrins shadowing behind it.

Now the wise widow tree sways with the wind,

Now living its last few years in peace.

Long sharp shades of grass flick the wildlife away

With the help of the whispering wind.

We leave to go to the historical Church Island.

We all run wild to the church.

Squelch! Squash! Slop! As our feet leave footprints

The wet gooey ground sucks my shoe as I wiggle it about and sway and

Thump! Onto the soggy chocolate cake.

We get a calling echo “Come back! Come back!”

It silences the place and we all run back.

My feet rise and swiftly drop like a swallow into the dirt

Looking like a bomb exploded

With millions and billions of fragments of dirt going everywhere.

I’m hungry I see a blackberry bush

I pick one and throw it in my mouth. Mmm!

Just as good as my old man’s blackberries.

This was a day to remember at my hometown, Ballaghy.

Seamus O’Sullivan 10B – St. Patricks College Maghera


The Lough Field

As the stone ripples into the water

It turns into something beautiful

Diamond blue water sines in the sun

Water crashes into the boats, hard as rock

The current sparkled like

Shiny jewels.

The butterflies dance all over the fields

As the trees blow, the leaves flutter

To show the beauty of life.

The rushes poke you like mosquitoes

The mud squelches as you walk

The fishermen dance as they catch fish.

When it rains, the puddles fill.

The fishes swimming

Each swimming, hoping they

Wouldn’t be caught by the fishermen.

As the night goes

The day breaks and

I love the place

I’d call it home.

Not many like

The mucky ground

Or the prickly rushes.

But it’s the place I call mine.

For even the Lough is

My home.

Oonagh Doyle Year 8 – Sperrin Integrated College


The Moyola River

The Moyola River snakes through the fields.

Carrying the mountain water down to the sea.

It’s water rich like coffee.

It swells and ebbs.

Pools catch in the corners.

In these dark holes the trout rests.


Below the surface the stillness is suspended.

I drop the line.


The fish swims on.

Steve Wilson Year 10 – Magherafelt High School


Two Dollys in Derrygarve

Round two bends through the hollow trees,

Derrygarve is meant for me.

It might not be where I live

But it’s where all my memories live

Even though the most important person lies alone

Up the Derrygarve road under stones.

I’d pull up at the house,

Hear the click of granny’s heels,

Like the tick of the clock, going over the tiles, towards the table,

Listening to the plumbing of the kettle,

Watching the steam cloud the window, like a cold fog.

With our two cups of tea in hand Hugo Duncan on the wireless

We sing Dolly Paton “I will always love you!”

In tune we hug goodbye,

My head lingering on her shoulder,

A feeling I’ll always remember a smell I’ll always treasure;

It might just be her pomegranate noir, or maybe her washing powder,

But it’s a smell that filled the air wherever she’d enter.

These little everyday unusual things, that seemed so normal,

Now seem so strange and absent now they’re no more

As I move through gales towards the future

Still sniffing the air for your scent.

Round tow bends through the hollow trees,

Derrygarve is meant for me.

Blaithin Donnelly Year 9 – St Pius x College Magherafelt