For Heaney-as-a-boy the bricklayer was king of the post-war building site and therefore a giant of the world. In ‘Sandpit’ (from Station Island, 1984) he referred to his ‘demobbed bricklayer’, to the ‘merriment in the spirit level’s eye’ and the ‘song of his trowel’; he will return to the figure in ‘District and Circle’ of 2006: Mick Joyce is like a ‘demobbed Achilles ( ) Prince of the sandpiles’. In Damson Heaney likens him to a kind of altruistic ‘Odysseus in Hades’. The sequence is an interweave of people, circumstances and myths, triggered by the homely smell of damsons being simmered to make jam to which he will return at the end. The boy-watcher’s attention has been caught by […]