Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering

Join us for the 28th annual Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2022!

Saturday 24 September 2022

0930-1600 (Coole Time)

and

Sunday 25 September 2022

1000-1400 (Thoor Ballylee Time)

In Coole Park, Lady Gregory provided the space and support needed by the literary giants of the time to shape the nation’s artistic and literary response to events. At Thoor Ballylee WB Yeats wrote some of his finest poems responding to monumental national events like the Irish Civil War. The magic of the Autumn Gathering is to bring people together from all corners of the world – to listen and learn, laugh and share, with academics and artists, local historians and literary figures; to meet descendants of Lady Gregory and Yeats, renew friendships and make new friends – all enjoying and celebrating the prominent role of Lady Gregory in shaping the theatrical, poetic and cultural life which thrives today.

After registration from 9.30, to mark the 90th anniversary of Lady Gregory, Jane Murray Brown, Great-Granddaughter of Lady Gregory, will formally open the Gathering at Coole Park Visitor Centre on Saturday at 10.00 and cut the famous Barm Brack.  Barry Houlihan, Archivist NUIG, will Chair the Gathering. Christopher Griffin, Smithsonian Journeys Lecturer, will speak of Gregory, Yeats, and the Political Violence in the Gort Area 1919-1923.  Dr. Cecily O’Neill, Author and international authority on Drama Education and Theatre, will present Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man: Letters of John B. Yeats from New York. Ella Swift Redding, a self-confessed Lady Gregory ‘SuperNerd’ since her Master’s thesis at Trinity College, and Creatrix of Burly Mermaid Media, will present Revolutions Ahead — Augusta Gregory’s Bold Spin with Victorian Bicycling.  Enjoy the Open Forum with our speakers and Robin Murray Brown, Great-great Grandson of Lady Gregory, and a guided walk in Coole Park Nature Reserve courtesy of the National Parks & Wildlife Service.

On Sunday at 10.00 in Thoor Ballylee, Ronnie O’Gorman, Director Autumn Gathering and Thoor Ballylee, will share The Unexpected Gift of BooksAnna O’Donnell, Chair Thoor Ballylee, will speak about the Mill Wheel Restoration and the Biodiversity Project at Thoor Ballylee, including George’s Garden and WB’s Poetry! Also, a second staging of Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man: Letters of John B. Yeats from New York will be held in the tower.

Saturday Cost: €60 per person, tea/coffee/barm brack break included.  Lunch can be purchased in Coole Park Tearooms.  Candlelight Dinner and Entertainment in Coole on Saturday evening at 1900 – €75 per person. Please advise your guest numbers asap.

Sunday Cost: €20 per person, tea/coffee break and lunch included; pay at door of Thoor Ballylee.

For full details please go to https://autumngathering.com/programme/

For booking, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/lady-gregory-yeats-autumn-gathering-2022-tickets-414867859937

To advance book the Thoor Ballylee Sunday leg go to: Thoor Ballylee Gregory gathering eventbrite

You can also contact the event organiser on:

Marion Cox email: monaleen@msn.com  Tel: 086-8053917. https://autumngathering.com

We look forward to welcoming you!

Portrait of a Lady

Continuing our summer programme of cultural events, don’t miss your chance to attend our next concert.

Portrait of a Lady

at Thoor Ballylee

Friday 24 June at 8:00 PM

The concert features Helen Hancock (Soprano), Catriona McElhinney Grimes (Piano), and our guest Kitty Sabry (Violin).

Join us for an evening of eclectic music – from French song and German lieder to Irish song and arrangements of Irish music for solo piano.

The programme explores the voice of women and includes a song cycle by Clara Schumann, songs by Lili Boulanger and Catriona’s own arrangements of Irish music for piano solo. Irish song settings and songs by Fauré, Schubert and Mozart will also feature.

Come find us in the historic venue of Thoor Ballylee, Gort, Co. Galway where Yeats himself lived and where many powerful female voices were heard!

Click to book your tickets at eventbrite. Tickets available on the door, but going fast!

Plays and Poets Picnic

2022 is a literary summer season! In the run up to WB Yeats’s 157th birthday on 13 June, and Bloomsday on 16 June celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses, we have special cultural events taking place at Thoor Ballylee.

Poets Picnic

3pm Sunday 12 June 2022

+

4pm Wandering Stars

performed by the Wild Swan Theatre Company

Poets Picnic

Our Poets Picnic is free to all young and old! It is an annual gathering of poetry lovers and all folk interested in poetry and culture, in honour of WB Yeats’s birthday. Do come along for our magnificent outdoor picnic spread, with readings of Yeats’s poems, thoughts about his life and legacy, and reflections and poems by other artistic figures.

Wandering Stars

This year the Poets Picnic is followed by a play performed by The Wild Swan Theatre company. Written by Joe Hassett and directed by Marion Cahill-Collins, this explores the intertwined lives of Yeats and Joyce and Nora Barnacle. Admission to the play which starts at 4pm inside the tower is €10 with tickets available on the door.

Cast: Claire O Donnell as Nora, Justin McDermott as Joyce, Gerry Conneely as Yeats.

Ukraine Refugees Tea and Poetry Day Ireland

Tea for Ukraine Refugees

On Saturday 30th April Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is hosting a fundraiser in aid of the Ukrainian refugee crisis. It is a fitting venue as much of Yeats’s work, including “Meditations in Time of Civil War”, conceived and written at Thoor Ballylee, considered the nature of war and violence, and led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The event on April 30th 2022 will consist of a afternoon tea served at the cottage in the 14th century tower between 3pm and 4.30pm.

You will be spoiled with a selection of delicious treats kindly provided by local restaurateurs and businesses.

A photograph from the event: all proceeds go to Ukrainian refugee organizations. For more details visit here. And below Nicolay Homenko shows off his artistic skills – this piece was created during the concert!

Poetry Day Ireland

Poetry Day Ireland takes place today, Thursday 28 April 2022. The theme is ‘Written in the Stars’.

Poetry Ireland ask us all to share a poem, read a poem, speak a poem, participate in a Poetry Day Ireland event or programme your own event on the day. Everyone is invited to join in and celebrate, just remember to tag them on #PoetryDayIrl. 

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society joins in with this weird millennial poem from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). It refers to a mythical battle of ancient Ireland whose terrifying violence seems to come again, whereupon the speaker humbly submits in peace before the fates written in the stars, dictated by the demiurge, or prime mover of the heavens.

‘The Valley of the Black Pig’

The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears

Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,

And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries

Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.

We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,

The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,

Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you

Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

WB Yeats, from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

‘AE’ (George Russell), ‘Lordly Ones Appearing to a Turf Cutter’

Easter Reopening

Easter Saturday 16th April 2022

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to announce our Easter reopening, and welcoming back our visitors – after a two year closure – from 11am this Easter Saturday 16th April 2022! Comhaltas Gaillimh Theas will provide entertainment between 12 noon and 1pm.

Each weekend in April we’ll be open 11-4pm. Further opening hours will be announced for the summer.

Especially thanks to our many helpers, contractors, and volunteers (to help or join us see below) we are primed and ready, and excited to welcome you back!

Volunteers readying the tower for opening!

This Easter Saturday and beyond into spring and summer, come along and learn about the life and work of WB Yeats, the poems he wrote at Thoor Ballylee, and he and his family’s deep connections to the area and the west of Ireland. The cultural revolution his family began would involve the whole island in arts and crafts, so it is fitting that the restoration of the the restoration of the tower with local materials is continued today in the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society’s efforts with local craftworkers and landscape gardeners on the gardens, the Studio at Thoor Ballylee, and the Mill.

Clare Champion

The Clare Champion has an article about us!

Galway Films

For our spring reopening, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is presenting the online premieres of new films about Yeats and Galway. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society youtube channel

With the help of the Spot-lit programme for literary tourism, with camera and editing by Morgan Creative and Seanchas Productions, and featuring local musicians and contributors, these short films are voiced by luminaries like Marie Mullen from Druid Theatre and some of our very own members. They highlight places in County Galway important to Yeats and which feature in some of his finest poems, from ‘The Tower’ to (as here) ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, as a ghost returns to old haunts.

Come and help!

Thoor Ballylee historic fourteenth Century tower house, once home to Nobel Prize winning poet WB Yeats and his family, is managed and run by an amazing group of volunteers. We are currently adding to our volunteer pool so if you have a love of literature or history, enjoy interacting with people and have four hours a week to spare, please contact Thoor Ballylee at +353 85 862 0935, email thoorballylee@gmail.com, or contact us above.

We are a voluntary group with no permanent external funding. We’d love for you to help us keep this unique heritage site going for all of us today, and for future generations. To join us or donate any amount large or small see the donate page above.

Tidying at Thoor Ballylee

Getting Yeats’s tower ready for Easter

In readiness for our grand reopening on Easter Saturday, our team of volunteers took advantage of the spring sunshine and tidied and pruned and carried and cleaned and gardened and wheeled and worked and generally made the C14th Norman tower and its surrounds ready for visitors.

Committee members Lelia Doolan and Rena McAllen and other volunteers young and old muck in with the gardening and landscaping at Ballylee.
Our dedicated team of volunteers (and dog) take a break.

After over two years of waiting Thoor Ballylee will reopen for visitors Saturday 16 April 2022. The countdown continues!

Coole Park

Speaking of gardening, when you visit Thoor Ballylee, why not stop at Lady Gregory’s great gardens and woods at Coole Park? The latest of our short films highlighting Galway places features Yeats’s poem ‘Coole and Ballylee 1931’ and celebrates the place, the people, and all the inspiration to which it gave birth. Voiced by Marie Mullen from Druid Theatre.

With the help of the Spot-lit programme for literary tourism, with camera and editing by Morgan Creative and Seanchas Productions, and featuring local musicians and contributors, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is presenting the online premieres of new films about Yeats and Galway. For more see Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society youtube channel

Wild Swans in Coming Home

Culture Night leaving you hungry for more? Come and join us this weekend at Thoor Ballylee for an exciting al fresco play performance.

The Wild Swan Theatre Company presents:

Coming Homee

by Niall Finnegan

4pm Sunday 19 September

The Mill, Thoor Ballylee

Free Admission

In this short play written by the Wild Swan Theatre Company’s own Niall Finnegan, a chance meeting in the Burren revives both happy and sad memories for two old friends and leads to a lively conclusion…

Performed by Justin McDermott, Max Lee, Judith Gantley and Rose Finnegan.

The play is performed in the beautiful surrounds of the Yeats family’s C14th Norman Tower, Thoor Ballylee. Park in our free car park, walk up the stream, and find us by the mill.

This is an open air venue. If you wish (as well as a jumper!) do bring your own seat.

By the stream at Thoor Ballylee, Galway H91 D8F2

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)

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.