The late Dermot Healy’s majesty across the various writing forms is reflected in those who paid tribute to him choosing a different piece of work as their personal favourite. Dermot, who passed away on Monday morning, aged 66, was respected equally as a novelist, poet, short story writer, and memoir writer.
The Bend for Home recalled his youth growing up in Cavan Town, having moved from Finea. Dermot’s work won many awards including the Hennessy Award (1974 and 1976), the Tom Gallon Award (1983), and the Encore Award (1995).
“Dermot Healy will be missed,” fellow writer Tom MacIntyre told the Celt. “He wrote like an angel. Banished Misfortune for example stands as one of the great collections of Irish short stories. Tom Hickey said of it, ‘It was like the stones in the field were talking to you’. I agree.
“Rest easy Dermot, you’re already missed - won’t be forgotten.”
Award winning Redhills writer Shane Connaughton said: “He carved out a bleak place for himself in Sligo and literature; bleak and haunting. The Ballyconnell Colours, and The Bend for Home are by far his best work.”
Shane also fondly recalled Dermot organising the Cootehill Arts Festival in the 1980s, which included productions of Shakespeare plays.
“He was a power house doing that kind of thing. I’ll never forget those productions, especially A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
How do you think he’ll be remembered?
“When somebody famous or infamous dies, there’s a lot of sweeping statements, but nobody knows. All I know is that loved The Ballyconnell Colours, and The Bend for Home.”
Hearing RTÉ replay Dermot reading from his work after his death was announced, John McEvoy from Cavan bookshop Crannóg was reminded of the fabulous quality of his voice. “He was one of the best readers we’ve ever had in the shop,” recalls John.
Although he lived in County Sligo in recent years, Dermot continued to be a frequent visitor to County Cavan, and launched many of his books in Crannóg including his last novel, Long Time, No See in the shop in 2011.
“I always found him very generous with a fantastic sense of humour, I always enjoyed seeing him. He was very welcoming and very helpful,” recalled John.
“I think A Goat’s Song, the novel is an astonishing piece of work, and is one of the major Irish novels, certainly of the last 20 or 30 years. It’s an incredible piece of work and certainly my favourite of his work.”
In terms of poetry John loved A Fool’s Errand, Dermot’s book-length verse.
“It was a beautiful piece of work - a meditation on life, death and everything.”
John also spoke of his generosity to other, less established, writers.
“He was encouraging young writers all the time, and was very supportive, and often did workshops in places like prisons - that was one of the things that a lot of people didn’t know about him, but he was always encouraging in that way.”
President Michael D. Higgins said it was with “great sadness” that he learnt of Dermot’s passing, who he was privileged to count amongst his friends.
“A prolific and most original poet, novelist and playwright, in recent years, Dermot had received the recognition and tributes which his work long deserved.
“He had a great commitment to the Irish emigrant community in London, who feature prominently in his fiction, and a recurring theme of his work is that of displacement. His sensibility to the migratory experience, and the world of in-between had made his poetic prose ring with a universal quality.
"I extend my sincere sympathies to his wife, Helen, his children, Dallan and Inor, his granddaughter, Georgia, and to all his friends.
“We will all miss him.”