New year, new era at Thoor Ballylee

In this new year work is continuing apace at Thoor Ballylee on all kinds of projects poetical, digital, and practical..! Despite the inevitable challenges of these pandemic-hit times, it’s been an exciting few months on and off line, and we face the new year with new confidence as we look forward to welcoming back visitors in the spring.

Thoor Ballylee App

Yeats’s Norman tower has moved into the digital world with the help of local expert Stephen Forde who designed an app for Thoor Ballyee, so even when the doors are closed in winter time or during summer evenings guests can engage with the space. As part of the initiative QR codes have been placed on waterproof panels in suitable locations throughout the site providing an immersive experience for visitors mixing history, poetry and song.

Rena McAllen, new chair Anna O’Donnell, and Stephen Forde at the launch of Thoor App

As our own Rena McAllen explains:

We have put in place 10 ‘hotspots’ marked by QR code panels throughout the site at Thoor Ballylee, containing stories, pictures and audio files of Ger Conneely reading Yeats’s poetry. This technology, which is free for anyone to use will enable visitors using our interpretive app technology to learn more about the Nobel Poet Laureate and his time at Thoor Ballylee. All visitors need is the Great Visitor Experiences App available on App Store or Play Store.

New films about Galway and the Burren

With the help of the Spot-lit programme for literary tourism, drawing on both their expertise and funding, and the work of some crack producers and content creators, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society helped produce a series of short films highlighting the importance of the tower and the Society’s work in “Spreading the News” about the literary connections of WB Yeats and beyond. Part of an ongoing series promoting Thoor Ballylee, Kiltartan, Coole Park, Doorus House and The Flaggy Shore – these films will hopefully entrance audiences near and far and help bring visitors to Thoor Ballylee and the many other important sites in our region. Look out for more soon.

Award-winning Thoor Ballylee

Thanks to the work of our helpers and wonderful participants, Thoor Ballylee’s Wild Child event for Heritage Week was awarded runner-up in our category in the National Heritage Week Awards 2021!

Site improvements

An attractive new sign, erected by The Burren Discovery Trail, awaits all who next visit Thoor Balllee! As part of the Burren Loop, Thoor Ballylee is an essential destination for visitors to South Galway.

.Work on the mill wheel continues, and we thank all involved in this very valuable work of restoration and reminder of local industries and culture. Eugene and PJ Murphy are supervising this difficult and authentic project with Stephen Burke sawmills cutting the raw oak into usable pieces.

With the help of local craftsmen, the cottage this year received a very welcome new thatch! (The poet’s son Michael remembered all sorts of creatures dropping slow from the thatch into his bed beneath).

Sr Mary de Lourdes Fahy, our celebrated author and historian, planted a rose bush in George’s walled garden at Thoor Ballylee, on 14 October to mark the recent closing of the Gort Mercy Convent and, after one hundred and fifty-four years, the end of an era.  

Our picnic to celebrate Yeats’s 13 June birthday brought admirers and readers new and old to Thoor Ballylee, and reminded us of the power of words (and food!).

ReJoyce: looking forward

We thank Marion Cox heartily for her wisdom and leadership, and welcome Anna O’Donnell as the new chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society committee, taking the helm in challenging but inspiring times.

With the one hundredth anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses on the author’s birthday 2 February 1922, this looks likely to be a year of much attention on Ireland’s literary greats. In the opening (‘Telemachus’) chapter Stephen Dedalus recalls singing his own setting of Yeats’s ‘Who Goes With Fergus’ to his dying mother (‘I sang it alone in the house, holding down the long dark chords. Her door was open: she wanted to hear my music’):

And no more turn aside and brood

On love’s bitter mystery

For Fergus rules the brazen cars […]

Remembering the losses and hardships so many have suffered in the last while, we look forward again to the coming of Fergus, and to welcoming visitors back to Yeats’s place of revolution and reverie in the spring.