Today, Sunday May 31st 2015, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society holds a unique fundraising auction. This development fundraising evening takes place at Thoor Ballylee Gort, Co. Galway in the former home of the world-famous poet William Butler Yeats. With shades of the Beatles on the roof at Savile Row or U2 from Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, the auction comes from the rooftop of the tower. Local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV) acts as William Butler Yeats.
Funds raised will be used to re-open the tower to the public thirteen days later on the poet’s birthday (13 June) and to set in stone long-term plans for a permanent Yeats exhibition, a cafe, bookshop, and space for exhibitions, lectures and classes at this most remarkable building, ‘the most important public building in Ireland’ according to the late Seamus Heaney.
At the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society auction on Sunday 31st May 2015 one of the items available is a fine set of the Complete Works of J.M.Synge (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1910, first edition), edited by W.B.Yeats. Yeats edited the volumes after Synge’s death, deeply affected by the example of his life and his work. Meeting Synge as a young man in Paris Yeats had urged him to go to the Aran Islands to give expression to the life there. They became friends and collaborators at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; Yeats was astonished at Synge’s genius without ever quite feeling he fully knew the man himself. After his death he wrote in ‘J.M.Synge and the Ireland of his time’ that ‘the strength that made him delight in setting the hard virtues by the soft, the bitter by the sweet, salt by mercury, the stone by the elixir, gave him a hunger for harsh facts, for ugly surprising things, for all that defies our hope.’ The volumes include this frontispiece portrait by Yeats’s father John Butler Yeats of J.M.Synge during rehearsals in 1907 for Synge’s vibrant and controversial drama The Playboy of the Western World. Yeats’s curtain speech after the orchestrated ‘riots’ that interrupted the production was a major statement in favour of artistic freedom in Ireland.