An Irish poetry courtyard is to be created at the Sea Holly Gallery in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, following the announcement of a further £1m investment by hospitality veteran, Willie Jack.
Mr Jack (58), who owns the Duke of York, the Harp Bar, the Dark Horse and the Friend at Hand whiskey museum in the Quarter recently invested more than £3m in a series of schemes designed to further enhance the area around Commercial Court.
Among the work undertaken was a renovation of the old Harp Bar, the opening of a micro-brewery and provision of space for a cookery school headed up by local restaurateur, Niall McKenna. He also opened the Sea Holly Gallery in Hill Street which now houses more than £500,000-worth of work by artists and authors such as Michael Longley and Neil Shawcross.
It’s here that the poetry courtyard is to be created, featuring an Irish oak tree that will be illuminated via a laser-cut corten steel base featuring the words of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Wishing Tree’.
Speaking recently, Mr Jack explained how the idea had come about:
‘After his mother died in 1984, Heaney wrote a sequence of poems dedicated to her memory. In one of them, he said that he thought of her as the Wishing Tree, lifted root and branch, to heaven.
‘His words and those of other like Louis McNeice, WB Yeats and Oscar Wilde will be reflected in our courtyard where new murals will tell the story of the recent troubles but in a humorous, non-partisan way.’
Mr Jack said that he believed the courtyard was destined to become one of the city’s top tourist attractions in years to come, help to ‘show this amazing city off in a positive light’.