Remembering the time of WB Yeats’s death eighty-four years ago, when according to WH Auden he ‘disappeared in the dead of winter’, this year sees WB Yeats’s 158th birthday, and the 100th anniversary of his Nobel Prize for Literature from 1923. At Thoor Ballylee we look back and look forward: we reflect on the past year’s happenings, and anticipate the exciting new season.
The clear out of the exhibitions and fittings in the tower and cottage has long been complete and flood barriers are in place until the spring. Many coats of paint were applied to the downstairs area; rich velvet curtains replaced rotten door & jambs (with the help of Anderson contractors); the audio-visual presentation is newly updated ready for the new year. Through this frosty winter the tower waits in welcome, as for so many years, for pilgrims and visitors from around the world.
Following an enforced two-year closure, we were delighted to back in business to in-person, on-site visitors. The past twelve months for Thoor Ballylee brought lots of hard work and many challenges, but it was our pleasure to welcome back three thousand visitors during the 2022 season, all eager to explore the home of WB Yeats and attend the many organised events.
This year’s season opening began with a warm welcome back as we hosted afternoon tea at Thoor Ballylee. This was followed by an evening concert with Ciaran Cannon & guests, all in aid of the Gort Welcomes Ukraine Fund.
The season also featured:
Two performances of Yeats Joyce and Nora by our local Wild Swan Theatre Company;
an evening with Soprano Helen Hancock;
the annual Poet’s Picnic for WB Yeats, attended by our generous benefactor, Joe Hassett;
…and a special performance of Nora by The Curlew Theatre Company, to mark Bloomsday 100 years of James Joyce’s Ulysses, with musical interlude by Nicola and Karina Cahill.
All week long during Heritage Week as ever the local community took the chance to engage, and the Studio @ Thoor Ballylee was the venue for a book launch on the History of the GAA by Steve Dolan.
For Culture Night Jo Beth Young and guests treated us to an enchanting evening of stories and song with her Shadow Navigation Show.
The long-awaited in-person return of the Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering brought many Augusta Gregory and Yeats enthusiasts, including many Gregory family members, to Thoor, which hosted day two of the Gathering.
The return of The Songbirds brought our visitor events for 2022 to a close.
But that was not all. Thoor Ballylee was represented at the inaugural Gort Community Fair.
The Society was chosen as a delegate in the EU’s Cultural Heritage in Action Programme and was included on the list of Best Practice Sites in Europe.
Mary Hanley’s sons paid a visit and donated a precious and valuable collection of books to the tower.
And schools and education groups returned to the tower to learn about its history and heritage.
We hosted a civil wedding ceremony for a lovely Texan couple and a several wedding parties chose Thoor and its surroundings for wedding day photos.
And his was a year for documentaries! – starring Miriam Margolyes, Julia Bradbury, and our own Ronnie O’Gorman and Rena McAllen. Highlighting the natural world and cultural impact of Thoor Ballylee, RTE, Channel 4, Bat Conservation Ireland, and a German TV crew came to film in the tower beside the stream at Ballylee.
We are indebted to our generous benefactors for their continued support. This year with their help we were able to acquire an original Elizabeth Corbett Yeats picture from 1934.
Our thanks go to our army of volunteers and craftworkers and professional contractors helping us at Thoor Ballylee.
Most of all, our appreciation goes to the fantastic group of volunteers (ten of whom joined our team this year) who threw open the doors and shutters, lit the fire and the candles and welcomed in the many guests, pre-booked tours, schoolchildren, and other groups and individual visitors, seven days a week over a period of six months. We thank Pat O Looney, Paul O Donnell, Tonii Kelly, Pauline Kennelly, John Morgan, Aidan Eames, Anne Leahy, Gerry Conneely, Dido, Ruth Lynch Delassus, Gerry Wynne, and more! The call for a Meitheal for the spring clean was responded to with much enthusiasm.
To our reliable car park team Gus and JJ who guaranteed our safety during events, thank you, and for lighting our way to the tower – so spectacularly – thank you JJ Finn.
To our mainstays – the hardworking Nichola Baverstock and Anthony Coppinger – Míle Buíochas.
All requests re maintenance were speedily addressed by local partners: shutters were replaced and painted, presses, windows & doors repaired, a new boiler installed, leaking toilet fixed and a grand new bridge erected in the picnic park.
Thanks go to Eugene Murphy, work on renovating and reinstating the mill wheel continues. The project has caught the interest of former Minister and TD Frank Fahey and other locals, and as a result, a fundraising drive has been set in motion to fund the restoration of the mill wheel.
Let us not forget the tremendous support of Failte Ireland and our many donors and friends.
We have completed another successful and inspiring year at Thoor Ballylee. Whether flood waters arrive or not, we look forward to a wonderful new year in 2023.
Míle Buíochas do cách. Meanwhile if you’d like to contribute however modestly to all the cultural and community work that we do and to the upkeep of this unique building and surrounds please visit our donate page.
Our first visitors of 2023 came all the way from Tennessee! We hope to see you too during this coming season.