Highlights of 2018

The curtain has come down on another successful season at Thoor Ballylee.
Around 4,400 appreciative visitors came to Thoor Ballylee during from April to October 2018.

Many also came to our programme of special events.

The Songbirds with their wonderful harmony and lyrics proved to be a popular public closing event, performing to a full house. This year the season was extended to facilitate the Architecture at the Edge festival 2018. Many first-time visitors from the locality and afar, took advantage of our open house day to visit the home of W.B. Yeats, and even began with an hour of Architectural Yoga conducted by Sarah from the Gallery Café. With his eastern and esoteric interests W.B.Y. might well have approved.

Other successful events held during the year include two Talks for Leaving Certificate students courtesy of Denis Creavan, and a riveting production of The Only Jealousy of Emer by Galway based DancePlayers, including members of NUI Galway’s Drama department.

As a special treat for W.B.Y’s birthday we enjoyed a Sunday afternoon of medieval music in the medieval tower, with the talented & delightful Coole Music troupe, dressed in medieval costume. We even had a birthday cake. A second celebration of the birthday featured wine and amazing food, provided by the very talented Anna and featured poetry reading by the mill. Thanks again to Anna O Donnell and to Brendan Murphy, for their demonstration of Lady Gregory’s brack cake and stories from the Abbey. This was our nod to Heritage Week.

For Culture Night, the composer and sound artist Francis Heery brought poetry to Thoor Ballylee and an immersive sound installation in his presentation of A Vision.  Supported by the Arts Council, this, one of the main events in County Galway, was unquestionably a memorable night, quite out of the ordinary for lots of reasons. Francis even proposed to his fiancée on the battlements just before the show & she said ‘yes’. It all happens at Thoor Ballylee! Indeed two local wedding parties chose Thoor Ballylee and its beautiful, tranquil, surrounds for their wedding photographs. We were joined also by the Professor Roy Foster, distinguished historian and biographer of W.B. Yeats, prior to his lecture on Thoor Ballylee for the Galway International Arts Festival first thought talks.

The Galway Film Fleadh came on tour in a special event to Thoor Ballylee. Three films from the archives of the Irish Film Institute about Yeats and Lady Gregory, Coole Park and one of Gregory’s plays from the Abbey Theatre were screened in our spectacular audiovisual room in July.

Lovers of the art of spinning and weaving enjoyed an afternoon trying their hands at the spinning wheel, thanks to the Irish Spinners and Weavers Guild from Clare and Galway. Our appreciation goes also to Coole Music Junior Quartet who entertained spinners and visitors alike. Kate and Ruth our local intrepid Headford Bat Rangers put together an interpretive piece on Thoor Ballylee and the Lesser Horseshoe bats which nest in the tower. We had any number of visitor groups throughout the summer from locals like Gort ICA to the Yeats International Summer School, and many individual and family visitors from all around the world. The final day of the Yeats and Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering brought September to a close with a lecture and a film about the life and loves of Lady Gregory. That was also the day that W.B.Y.’s candlesticks, handsome brass altar pieces came home to Thoor Ballylee, proudly standing by the hearth after ninety years away. Our heartfelt thanks go to our wonderful benefactors.

None of this would be possible without a great number of helpers, volunteers, artists, gardeners, skilled craftspeople, and a host of supporters from here and abroad. Our esteem and appreciation goes to our dedicated staff, led by the wonderful Rena McAllen: Nichola, Frank, Gary, and Krzysztof. And to our knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and most generous volunteers: Phil, Pat O L., Rose, Tonii, Karen, Pat F., Rosemary, Anna C. Dominic. A special thank you also to intern Gerry who generously offered to cover every Saturday up until now. Thanks to JJ for manning the car park and lighting our way in the dark during events.

This is the fantastic team that has kept the home of W. B. Yeats open to the public for all six months of the summer, for seven days a week during the height of the season and for eight hours (and more) a day.

Our visitor book records the appreciation, delight, and gratitude of the thousands of people who came and experienced the atmosphere and spirit of Thoor Ballylee. They enjoyed discussing the Yeats family over a cup of tea with staff, viewed our exhibitions and AV presentation, climbed the winding stair, lingered in the many original rooms, admired the spectacular 360 degree view, read poetry, sang, played music, or took selfies on the battlements (and not one fell off).

Thanks in particular to Failte Ireland for continued help with maintenance and repairs. Work has already begun on the conversion of the garage into a studio for artists in residence so we look forward to exciting times at Thoor Ballylee.

Most of all our thanks and appreciation to our wonderful friends and benefactors, whose generosity and financial support enables us to keep the spirit of Yeats and his extraordinarily talented family alive.

Go fada buan sibh.

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