Ukraine Refugees Tea and Poetry Day Ireland and

Tea for Ukraine Refugees

This Saturday 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.

For more details register here .

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.

 

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.

Update: Thoor Ballylee flooding

Thoor Ballylee, the fifteenth-century home of W.B. Yeats and his family, has recently faced serious flooding. As with much of South Galway, recent storms and heavy rainfall have raised the water table to unusually high levels and caused rivers to burst their banks.

Thoor Ballylee was regarded by the poet and fellow Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney as perhaps the most important building in Ireland because of its association with Yeats. Since 2015 a local voluntary group, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, has opened and run this historic building as an important visitor centre.

Unfortunately, for the second time since reopening in 2015, the tower and associated cottages and buildings have suffered yet another major flooding. The event has been extensively reported in the Irish Times and around the world.

Undaunted, this voluntary group is determined that the tower and the newly refurbished Studio at Thoor Ballylee will open again to the public for the 2020 season. Recent major investment and work at the tower cannot fully protect it from flooding but we hope it has helped to make this ambitious target achievable.

To make this happen a major clean up operation will have to take place before fully reinstating interior furnishings.

YOU CAN HELP US. Any donation little or large would be most appreciated by the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society and the wider community.

To donate securely with peace of mind via paypal or credit/debit card visit our DONATE page.

For more details and news visit our website or for quick updates please visit our Facebook page Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society.

Please click on the link below to see what we are facing.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2784937464926651&id=781297711957313

 

With thanks to Colm Farrell and his horse.