Yeats Birthday Poets’ Picnic

Everyone is invited to join the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society for our annual birthday celebrations! This live picnic will be held at a socially-distanced event in the grounds of Thoor Ballylee at 3pm Sunday June 13. All attendees are invited to read their favourite Yeats poem and say why it matters to them.

Sunday marks the poet WB Yeats’ 156th birthday, but this year the committee would like especially to honour the artists Lily Yeats (her 155th birthday) and Elizabeth Yeats (her 153rd birthday) after whom the Studio at Thoor is named. 

Poetry, song, hampers, cakes, the sound of laughter and running water – all the joy of a birthday picnic – what’s not to like! Especially if you’d like to read, prospective participants should contact aodonnell111@gmail.com

Lily (Susan Mary) Yeats (1866-1949): Landscape at Night

Lily Yeats’s work as an embroiderer is increasingly highly regarded, and not before time. This fine example of her needlework earlier this year exceeded the estimate in auction, going for over nearly €7500.


Yeats, Gregory, Martyn in online revival

In these unsettled times cultural and historical life in Galway is thriving.

At Thoor Ballylee itself, while always abiding by government public health guidelines, work on rethatching the cottage, restoring the mill wheel, and other ventures continues apace, to be ready for visitors whenever they arrive. Updates and images follow in subsequent posts.

But there’s no better evidence of a revival than the wealth of films, drama adaptations, exhibitions and writings now available online. Perhaps more than ever before local cultural happenings can make international waves. WB Yeats, himself a pioneer of radio broadcasting and someone who treasured the odd intimacies of long-distance technologies, would no doubt be one of the first to be involved. Here are just a few interesting recent and upcoming events and resources related to Yeats and associated authors like Augusta, Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn. All are strongly connected to south Galway, and most are available in one way or another to audiences or readers online.

WB Yeats (aged 21) by John Butler Yeats (currently featuring in the National Gallery of Ireland’s Drawing Inspiration)

The Heather Field by Edward Martyn

Although a founding member of the Irish Literary Theatre, Edward Martyn’s contributions to the theatrical landscape of Ireland are often maligned and unrecognised. His play, The Heather Field (1899), which opened the first season of the Irish Literary Theatre along with Yeats’s The Countless Cathleen in 1899, has not received a staged production since the 1920s. Directed by IRC scholar Martin Kenny, with a cast of NUI Galway students, this rehearsed reading hopes to begin the work of reclaiming the importance of Martyn’s work, and expose it to new audiences.  See NUI Galway’s Festival of New Work.

Edward Martyn by Sarah Purser

Augusta Gregory, Queen of Coole

Queen of Coole, a documentary chronicling the life of Augusta, Lady Gregory, particularly the major role she played in the foundation and development of the Abbey Theatre, is launched on Tuesday May 25 and can be viewed at https://queenofcoole.com.

The film has been made by MARA Collective – Ananya Rajoo (India), Merve Yillmaz (Turkey), and Hugh Murphy (Galway), who are students of the MA in Creative Practice at NUIG. For more see the Galway Advertiser. The film is part of the university’s Festival of New Work.

Augusta Gregory by John Butler Yeats

New York Gregory Exhibition

Ray Burke writes… “A major New York exhibition ‘All this mine alone’ on the life and works of Galway woman Augusta Gregory of Coole Park – shut down by Covid-19 after only one week – will not re-open to the public…but it can now be viewed online.

Lady Gregory’s earliest writing, An Emigrant’s Notebook, dating from 1883 in her own handwriting but unpublished until 2018, is on display, alongside drafts of some of her plays and her translations of ancient Irish poems, including Donall Og (The Grief of a Girl’s Heart) and Ceann Dubh Dilis, and some of the Patrick Pearse poems that she translated after his execution. Also on display are pages from her journals and diaries, and the typewritten agreement under which her widowed daughter-in-law allowed her to continue living ‘year by year’ in her home at Coole Park, near Gort, ‘so long as she pays all charges and expenses’.

The exhibition’s last display cabinet includes a photograph of Coole Park, roofless and windowless during its demolition in 1941, provided by the Kiltartan Gregory Museum. It also includes lots of correspondence to William Butler Yeats before and after the rising, and Lady Gregory’s final letter to Yeats, written in February 1932, some three months before her death. “Dear Willie”, she wrote, “I don’t feel very well this morning, rather faint once or twice – It may be the time has come for me to slip away”. She added: “I do think I have been of use to the country – and for that in great part I thank you”. The exhibition jointly curated by the writer Colm Tóbín and Professor James Pethica, of Williams Colllege, Massachusetts, who is completing an authorised biography of her for Oxford University Press, can be accessed at: https://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/all-this-mine-alone.”

Roy Foster on Thoor Ballylee

Reading Ireland spring/summer 2021 focuses on the genre of “Big House” literature. In addition to a wide ranging interview with John Banville, the issue include essays by Roy Foster on W.B. Yeats’s Norman tower at Thoor Ballylee ‘When All Is Ruin Once Again’, Gerard Dawe on Eilís Dillon, Graham Price on David Thompson, Sarah Harsh on Elizabeth Bowen and Adrienne Leavy on Jennifer Johnston. Brian McCabe, Nuala O’ Connor and Adrienne Leavy contribute book reviews, photography is by Robert O’Byrne, and a detailed bibliography of Big House Fiction and related critical studies is included.

Thoor Ballylee at New Year

Wishing all our friends and everyone around the world Nollaig shona dhaoibh and a happier, brighter new year.

This year many of us have lost friends, family, and colleagues, and we take a moment to remember them: in WB Yeats’s understanding, the best way of keeping them with us. Alongside luminaries such as Dr Margaret MacCurtain, at Thoor Ballylee we particularly remember two good friends, powerful advocates for women and for the arts: Mary McPartlan, singer and cultural activist whose concert closed last year’s season, and Lois Tobin, co-founder of the Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering, whose determination, generosity, and style ensured that our literary and cultural heritage was shared across generations and borders.

‘Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold’. If you have felt so this year more than ever you are not alone. ‘The Second Coming’, written during a worldwide Spanish flu pandemic when Yeats’s wife George was pregnant and dangerously ill the disease, has been on many lips. The poem, celebrating its one hundredth anniversary after first publication in the The Dial of November 1920, seems curiously made for modern times, as this advent rereading discovers.  

Elihu Vedder, The Questioner of the Sphinx (1863)

Yet Thoor Ballylee stands. With your ongoing help and support, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society charged with its guardianship emerges from the old year if anything stronger. While Thoor Ballylee was closed to physical visitors for most of the year, we have been open for virtual events, and began a series of films highlighting the place and its hidden delights.

Work has begun on our mill wheel, as part of our plan to remake with craft in metal and wood the fine centrepiece of the old mill just downstream from Yeats’s tower.

While physical labour is paused due to winter flooding, our astonishing volunteers, engineer Eugene Murphy and his team, have produced these blueprints for the new wheel, looking like something out of Yeats’s A Vision:

Eugene Murphy, Mill wheel plan (detail), Ballylee (2020)

This is the first step in a larger project to restore the old mill to become a fitting endpoint of glorious millstream walk. Donations are now open: take this chance to have your name remembered as part of this enduring project. Email us for details of how to sponsor a paddle board! Or as ever donations named or anonymous for this and all our work are gratefully received here.

As every year, The Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering made a big impression in September. Held virtually this year, and featuring contributions by (among others) Druid director Gary Hynes, and curator of the New York Public Library Exhibition James Pethica, this means events are still available to view online.

This year the DruidGregory project brought the plays of Lady Gregory in outdoor productions nearby Coole Park and other locations in Galway. With them they brought W.B. Yeats’s poems in performance, with fine videos available supported by the Poetry Foundation.

FeliSpeaks reads WB Yeats, ‘When You Are Old’ at Coole Park

Coole Park and the wonders of the heavens were also celebrated in this live outdoor concert by The Coole Players, featuring Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and exciting new commissions.

The International Yeats Society held a virtual conference this December in Lodz, Poland, on the topic of Yeats and Popular Culture – with full details available on this website.

One hundred years ago, as the year was reaching an end, Yeats was finishing his poem ‘All Soul’s Night’. The strange spiritual revelations he and his wife George were investigating held out the promise of new beginnings – not always comfortable, but rich in thought:

I have a marvellous thing to say,

A certain marvellous thing

None but the living mock,

Though not for sober ear;

It may be all that hear

Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.

In this spirit we wish all our friends around the world a rich and revelatory new year, and we look forward to welcoming you all back to Galway and to Thoor Ballylee, spiritually and in person.

Swans on the road to Thoor Ballylee (photograph and film by Rena McAllen)

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering video available now

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020 

Join Garry Hynes, James Pethica, Joseph Hassett, and Ronnie O’Gorman for discussion of Lady Gregory and Yeats: with song from Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill. 

Due to COVID-19 and government health restrictions this year’s programme of events was streamlined, and is viewable here for remote audiences.

Now available below!

Or see Lady Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020: youtube

Hosted by Ronnie O’Gorman (Galway Advertiser)

Garry Hynes (Druid Theatre) on staging Lady Gregory’s plays for Galway 2020

James Pethica (Williams College) on All This Mine Alone – the New York Public Library Exhibition curated by Professor Pethica with Colm Toibin.

Joseph Hassett (Buffalo) on his new book Yeats Now: Echoing into Life (2020)

with poetry readings, and music from renowned singer Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill

For more see interviews with Druid cast and Irish Times review for DruidGregory’s 2020 events.

For more on the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering and its annual programme of events see the website autumngathering.ie

Augusta, Lady Gregory, by John Butler Yeats

Coole Park live concert

 

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020 

and

Coole Culture

present

What is the Stars

An outdoor concert at Coole Park honouring the 200th birthday of the Royal Astronomical Society and the celestial spirits of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Augusta, Lady Gregory with world premieres of newly commissioned pieces. Featuring David Brophy and the Coole Park Band.

 

Play on website or stream on vimeo

What Is The Stars

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” Psalm 19.1.

Timothy Ethan Doyle: Lente

Anselm McDonnell: Liniakea

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: ‘Jupiter’ Symphony 41 in C – K551

with conductor David Brophy (Choir of Ages, High Hopes) and the Coole Park Band

All these pieces explore the heavens: Liniakea is Hawaiian for immense heaven (our Milky Way), Lente ‘imagines a fragment of Sibelius’s 7th Symphony in a black hole’, and Mozart’s 41st Symphony (1788) is named after Jupiter and his thunderbolts.

Presented by the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering and Coole Culture.

Due to COVID-19 and government health restrictions this year’s programme of events were streamlined, and indeed streamed and recorded for remote audiences, as well as available live to select invited guests. For more on the gathering’s annual events visit:

autumngathering.ie

Autumn Gathering goes online!

 

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020 

Saturday 26 September 2020 (and after)

live and online!

autumngathering.ie

Join Garry Hynes, James Pethica, Joseph Hassett, Ronnie O’Gorman for discussion of Lady Gregory and Yeats: with music from Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill and a special concert Coole Celebrations featuring world premieres with James Brophy and the Coole Park Band!

Due to COVID-19 and government health restrictions this year’s programme of events is streamlined, and indeed streamed for remote audiences, as well as available live to select invited guests.

Augusta, Lady Gregory, drawn by John Butler Yeats

7pm Saturday 26 September  (via ZOOM livestream)

autumngathering.ie

James Pethica (Williams College) on ‘All This Mine Alone’ – the New York Public Library Exhibition curated by Professor Pethica with Colm Toibin.

Garry Hynes (Druid Theatre) on staging Lady Gregory’s plays for Galway 2020

Joseph Hassett (Buffalo) on his new book Yeats Now: Echoing into Life (2020)

with music from renowned singer Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill

and hosted by Ronnie O’Gorman (Galway Advertiser)

To Join Zoom Meeting:

see interviews with Druid cast and Irish Times review for DruidGregory’s 2020 events

and earlier

5pm Saturday 26 September  (for a live invited audience)

(available online from Tuesday 29 September @ Thoor Ballylee facebook)

Coole Celebrations

An outdoor concert at Coole Park honouring the celestial spirits of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Augusta, Lady Gregory with world premieres of newly commissioned pieces

Anselm McDonnell: Liniakea

Timothy Ethan Doyle: Lente

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: ‘Jupiter’ Symphony 41 in C – K551

with conductor James Brophy (Choir of Ages, High Hopes) and the Coole Park Band

All these pieces explore the heavens: Liniakea is Hawaiian for immense heaven (our Milky Way), Lente ‘imagines a fragment of Sibelius’s 7th Symphony in a black hole’, and Mozart’s 41st Symphony (1788) is named after Jupiter and his thunderbolts.

Presented by the Autumn Gathering and Coole Culture.

autumngathering.ie

Then and Now: stories and folklore at Kiltartan and Thoor

THEN AND NOW

our intangible culture in South Galway

 

Celebrating folklore & storytelling for Heritage Week

with playwright Marina Carr

storyteller Rory O’ Shaughnessy 

folklorist and musician PJ Curtis

and the children of Kiltartan

 

Saturday 15 August 2-5pm Kiltartan Gregory Museum

Saturday 22 August 2-5pm Thoor Ballylee

On Saturday, 15 August 2-5pm  children are invited to come to the Kiltartan Museum  2pm-5pm to see the copybooks of the children who visited their grandparents, parents and elderly neighbours a hundred years ago, and wrote down their customs and beliefs in the copybooks which will be on view in the museum.  The children of today can see the museum and embark on a similar project: to visit their older relations and neighbours and to record in notebooks or on their phones, over the months until Christmas, the ways and practices of today in beliefs, customs, cures, stories  and so on. The storyteller, Rory O’ Shaughnessy, will be on hand to help, and there will be other talks outdoors,  and a picnic in the museum grounds.

On the following Saturday, 22 August 2 -5pm pm,  we will follow up, outdoors at Thoor Ballylee, with the children who have decided to take on the project,  as well as their families and any interested people. The playwright Marina Carr will talk about Lady Gregory’s folklore collections, and about myths and legends of old  – and the folklore and musical expert and historian, PJ Curtis will be present with others to picnic and to share stories and knowledge to get this enjoyable heritage project started with gusto!

Notebooks and support will be provided during this winter and we plan a booklet and recording of the findings and an award celebration in 2021.

For more contact Lelia Doolan, Yvonne Nolan, Nichola Baverstock, Rena McAllen – try  086 825 2164!

 

 

Thoor Ballylee blooms for Yeats’s birthday

Every year a Poet’s Picnic is held in celebration of the birthday of WB Yeats. This year is no different. On afternoon of Saturday 13 June 2020 from 2 pm, the poet’s tower in Galway hosts a video event of poetry, music, and memories. This is the first in a series of events held all summer long at Thoor Ballylee, as the tower opens virtually and for outdoor visitors in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

or go to

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

We are delighted to say the waters have long gone, our volunteers and staff have removed all sand bags, tidied away all flotsam, and the gardens are thriving: these are all recent photographs! Though due to current restrictions we have not been yet allowed inside, the grounds are spectacular for visitors. And this weekend Thoor Ballylee blooms again to celebrate the 155th birthday of WB Yeats.

First, a reminder of our story.

WB Yeats bought the old Norman tower at Ballylee for a song in 1916, and had it renovated by local builder Michael Rafferty under the direction of architect William A. Scott, with whom Yeats had a lively relationship, describing him on one occasion as a ‘drunken genius’. With its attached thatched cottage it became a comfortable summer home for his wife George and their two children, Michael and Anne, and the Yeats family returned year after year.

Living there inspired Yeats to write some of his best poetry. Fruits of this work were published in two volumes considered by critics among his best: The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair (1933). They contain such poems as ‘The Tower’, ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, ‘Coole Park 1929’, ‘Blood and the Moon’, and many others, some featured in this weekend’s birthday celebrations.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

The tower, which Yeats named Thoor Ballylee, fell into disrepair after the poet’s death in 1939. It was given by the children of the poet to Board Failte, who opened it as a tourist information office, while offering tours showing its extraordinary literary heritage.

Built by the de Burgo family in the 14th century as a Hiberno-Norman stronghold, the tower stands beside the Streamstown River and is subject to sporadic winter flooding. It truly is a livestream: the floods have been severe in recent years, so in 2009 the tower was shut by Failte Ireland who decided that it was no longer economically viable. It remained closed until a group of volunteers, with the grand-sounding name of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, appealed to Failte Ireland to let them re-open the Tower as a visitor centre once again. This was granted, and after restoration and repair work the tower was opened with music and song in June 2015, the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth. Exhibitions, tours, and all kinds of cultural events have attracted thousands of visitors. His birthday has been celebrated there ever since.

This summer, these events are set to continue. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society continues to adhere to all the COVID-19 guidelines from the Government of Ireland. While this does not currently allow for visitors inside the tower, the Society continues to host special events with social distancing in place in the grounds, by the mill wheel, by the river, and online.

In addition to the Poet’s Picnic taking place this Saturday 13 June 2020, there are ambitious plans in the coming year to hold the type of events the tower has become famous for: poetry readings, plays, musical get-togethers, talks of historical, natural, and literary interest, including virtual multimedia tours, talks, and readings from WB Yeats’s inspirational home, and from our new studio space dedicated to art and cultural workshops which opened just last year.

This summer the magic of the tower can thus be experienced in a number of ways. The grounds remain open to visitors practising social distancing, while the tower hosts small gatherings for invited attendees, and an exciting series of events broadcast to the world by video or audio link.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

To donate to this voluntary group, our webpage yeatsthoorballylee.org has updates, and see also the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society facebook page. Visitors this summer still be able to enjoy the charm of Ballylee, and perhaps agree that it is the perfect place for a poet to rest and write.

 

Still singing: folksinger and friend of Thoor Mary McPartlan dies

Yesterday we heard the sad news of the death of Mary McPartlan. Leitrim-born McPartlan was a singer, actor, director, promotor and well-known cultural activist for music and the arts in Galway and nationally. She was also a force of nature: despite spending significant energy over a number of years battling with cancer, she always came back stronger, full of new ideas and collaborations; and still singing.

Throughout a varied career, Mary McPartlan worked with Druid theatre, TG4, and RTÉ, as well as helping to found Galway theatre company Skehana, the Galway singers club Riabhóg, the Galway Youth Theatre and Glór, the national Irish music centre in Ennis. With TG4 she founded the thriving Gradam Ceoil National Traditional Music Awards and produced and presented the music show FLOSC.

Working at the National University of Ireland Galway she set up Arts in Action sparking new art projects and bringing together artists, musicians, actors, writers and performers from around the world. Even in these restricted times the series continues to find an audience online.

Her first love though was music. She founded folk duo Calypso in the 1970s, and more recently she received a Fulbright award for her work collecting and editing folksong from Ireland and Scotland to America and beyond. Her debut album The Holland Handkerchief (2004) was heralded as folk album of the year by MOJO Magazine, follow-up Petticoat Loose (2008) featured more of her award-winning solo singing, and she continued to record and tour.

As a longstanding friend of Thoor Ballylee she took a leading role in the last concert held here in October 2019.

Mary McP

As tributes came in from around the world, from RTÉ, Breakingnews.ie and the Irish Times, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins released a statement:

“It is with deep sadness that Sabina and I have heard of the death of a dear friend, Mary McPartlan, musical director, broadcaster, and one of Ireland’s great folk singers.

She leaves a legacy of achievement for the arts that will endure. […]

Her invocation of place, history and feeling was unique. Sabina and I were among the many who were privileged to call her our friend, and we will all miss her so much.

For myself, I will always hold wonderful memories of being on tour with her and of her singing her tribute to Victor Jara at those five gigs we did together in 2011 in Leitrim, Donegal, Wicklow and Kerry; the wonderful company she was; and later I often admired how brave she was, indomitable, transcending loss and adversity with a nobility of heart and a powerful reach of humanity that was of course always there in her singing and in her life.”

Mary McParlan is featured in many fine performances and live recordings, too many to name here. Her solo version of ‘Lord Gregory’ (also known as ‘The Lass of Aughrim’) from The Holland Handkerchief expresses the strange grief that so inspired James Joyce’s story ‘The Dead’, where a rendition of the song ‘in the old Irish tonality’, ‘made plaintive by distance’ reminds Gretta Conroy of her Galway youth and precipitates the story’s climax.

Mary McPartlan is survived by her husband, Paddy, and daughters Mairéad and Meabh. All at Thoor Ballylee remember well her courage, vivacity and spirit, which continues wherever music is played in Galway.

 

Thoor Ballylee rises again

In these trying times it is a pleasure to report some good news.

The recent spell of dry weather has enabled Thoor Ballylee once more to stand proud of the waters. Here is Yeats’s tower yesterday morning in spring sunshine.

IMG_2200

We have come a long way.

At their height, floodwaters reached nearly to the top of the windows.

Earlier in the month, what Yeats called ‘the road by my door’ was a river.

cof_vivid

And the bridge was invisible from view.

oznor_vivid

Even on St Patrick’s Day there was still waters surrounding the tower:

Thoor low flood

Now the flood waters have finally begun to pass, the job can begin of recovery and cleaning. As soon as social distancing guidelines allow.

In the meantime, stay well and stay safe. Remember poetry and art in these times: Thoor Ballylee will still be here for visits when we get back to normal. If you wish to help with our clean up and recovery effort, join us or donate: go to our Donate page.

In case you missed it, a reminder of why Thoor Ballylee is so important to Ireland and to all admirers of WB Yeats and his family: Roy Foster in the Irish Times on Thoor Ballylee.