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

Countdown to Easter Reopening

Easter reopening

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to announce our Easter reopening, and welcoming back our visitors – after a two year closure – on Easter Saturday 16th April 2022!

It’s been a hard road, but after two years socially distanced or online, and with plenty of ongoing work to the thatch, the mill, and latterly our spring clean-up – and 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!

The new thatch at Thoor Ballylee

Kiltartan Gregory Museum

Meanwhile we highlight other gems of the area for our visitors, and invite you to visit the award-winning Kiltartan Gregory Museum. The following film showcases this hidden gem, based in the old schoolhouse at Kiltartan Cross (mentioned in Yeats’s poem ‘The Irish Airman Foresees His Death’), devoted to Lady Gregory and Yeats and featuring all kinds of fascinating art, books, letters, publications, and memorabilia concerning the area and its literary heritage.

In the run up to 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.

Returning to Thoor Ballylee

New films about Yeats and Galway

In the run up to our spring reopening, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is presenting the online premiere of new films about Yeats and Galway. These short films highlight places in County Galway important to Yeats and which feature in some of his finest poems, from ‘The Tower’ to ‘Coole and Ballylee 1931’.

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 produced this film series highlighting the importance of the tower and the Society’s work in “Spreading the News” about the literary connections of WB Yeats and beyond. These films are designed to attract audiences near and far to the delights of Galway, and help bring visitors to Thoor Ballylee and the many other important sites in our region.

Returning to Thoor Ballylee

Returning to Thoor Ballylee features a thin figure in cloak and hat – the ghost of an old poet perhaps? – returning to a place where he was once so fulfilled.

This reintroduction to the landscape and sounds of Thoor Ballylee features Yeats’s poems ‘To Be Carved on a Stone at Thoor Ballylee’ and ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’. It is voiced by Marion Cox and Ronnie O’Gorman with camera by Morgan Creative.

The film inaugurates Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society’s own YouTube channel, on which more content is expected over the next weeks and months. The film is part of an ongoing series promoting Thoor Ballylee, Kiltartan, Coole Park, Doorus House and The Flaggy Shore.

The film invites you, too, to return to Thoor Ballylee this spring, in the summer, sometime in the future, or just in imagination. Long live the returning spirit of WB Yeats and his family!

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society youtube channel

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.

27th Lady Gregory-Yeats Gathering – online!

The Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering are delighted to invite you to the 27th edition of the Autumn Gathering.

7pm (Irish Time) Saturday 25 September 2021 (online)

This year’s gathering features a wealth of exciting speakers packed into a short programme. Plus it is available to all-comers anywhere in the world, as it is being celebrated online (see link below).

Lady Gregory 1893, pastel by Lisa Stillman

7pm (Irish Time) Saturday 25 September 2021 (online via Zoom)

Melissa Sihra, Head of Drama and Associate Professor School of Creative Arts, Trinity College Dublin, will Chair the Gathering.

Actor Úna Clancy will discuss her role as Lady Gregory and the creation of the recent Irish Repertory Theater production in New York, Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregorywith clips from the performance.

James Pethica (Professor of Theatre and English, Williams College), will preview his edition of Lady Gregory’s Shorter Writings 1882-1900, to be published later this year.

Barry Houlihan, Archivist at NUI Galway, will preview the 90th Anniversary of Lady Gregory in 2022 as well as remembering Gregory through the decades, from exhibitions to performance.

Christopher Frayling, Cultural Historian, will discuss John Ford and Lady Gregory. 

Time for Q&A, sip tea with a slice of brack in the comfort of your own living-room, and celebrate the magic of Coole Park! Ronnie and Marion and all the crew at the Autumn Gathering do hope you can join them.

The whole evening is now available online to view! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU90DuzD1uA

For more see the website of the Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering, or please contact Marion Cox on monaleen@msn.com

Wild Child at Thoor Ballylee

Come away, O human child! 

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand…

WB Yeats ‘The Stolen Child’ (1888)

Would you like to explore the natural beauty of WB Yeats’ home at Thoor Ballylee in County Galway? Hear his folk and fairy tales, make magic wands and fairy doors? Come and share his love for nature and the legends of the past?

Then join us for our Wild Child celebration this Heritage Week on Wednesday 18 August!.

The event is designed to connect children to the wild wonder of the place, and ignite the magic of the realm that Yeats so loved. There are fairy tales and fables from Yeats as well as poetry and song. We are also preparing a fairy walk with fairy volunteers imparting exciting titbits of woodland lore to children and adults.

This is a free event, but due to Covid 19 restrictions registration for workshops is necessary.

Workshops will be held at the following times:

Wild Child Workshops

Wednesday 18 August 2021

11am, 1pm, 3pm

Suitable for children under 12 years of age, and all those young at heart.

For more information and registration see Wild Child at Thoor Ballylee on Eventbrite.

Please note due to public health guidelines the interior of Thoor Ballylee remains closed for visitors. However our grounds and walks are open to all year round.

Any questions regarding the Wild Child event, please email Anna on aodonnell111@gmail.com.

Yeats Birthday Poets’ Picnic

Everyone is invited to join the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society for our annual birthday celebrations! This live picnic will be held at a socially-distanced event in the grounds of Thoor Ballylee at 3pm Sunday June 13. All attendees are invited to read their favourite Yeats poem and say why it matters to them.

Sunday marks the poet WB Yeats’ 156th birthday, but this year the committee would like especially to honour the artists Lily Yeats (her 155th birthday) and Elizabeth Yeats (her 153rd birthday) after whom the Studio at Thoor is named. 

Poetry, song, hampers, cakes, the sound of laughter and running water – all the joy of a birthday picnic – what’s not to like! Especially if you’d like to read, prospective participants should contact aodonnell111@gmail.com

Lily (Susan Mary) Yeats (1866-1949): Landscape at Night

Lily Yeats’s work as an embroiderer is increasingly highly regarded, and not before time. This fine example of her needlework earlier this year exceeded the estimate in auction, going for over nearly €7500.


Yeats, Gregory, Martyn in online revival

In these unsettled times cultural and historical life in Galway is thriving.

At Thoor Ballylee itself, while always abiding by government public health guidelines, work on rethatching the cottage, restoring the mill wheel, and other ventures continues apace, to be ready for visitors whenever they arrive. Updates and images follow in subsequent posts.

But there’s no better evidence of a revival than the wealth of films, drama adaptations, exhibitions and writings now available online. Perhaps more than ever before local cultural happenings can make international waves. WB Yeats, himself a pioneer of radio broadcasting and someone who treasured the odd intimacies of long-distance technologies, would no doubt be one of the first to be involved. Here are just a few interesting recent and upcoming events and resources related to Yeats and associated authors like Augusta, Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn. All are strongly connected to south Galway, and most are available in one way or another to audiences or readers online.

WB Yeats (aged 21) by John Butler Yeats (currently featuring in the National Gallery of Ireland’s Drawing Inspiration)

The Heather Field by Edward Martyn

Although a founding member of the Irish Literary Theatre, Edward Martyn’s contributions to the theatrical landscape of Ireland are often maligned and unrecognised. His play, The Heather Field (1899), which opened the first season of the Irish Literary Theatre along with Yeats’s The Countless Cathleen in 1899, has not received a staged production since the 1920s. Directed by IRC scholar Martin Kenny, with a cast of NUI Galway students, this rehearsed reading hopes to begin the work of reclaiming the importance of Martyn’s work, and expose it to new audiences.  See NUI Galway’s Festival of New Work.

Edward Martyn by Sarah Purser

Augusta Gregory, Queen of Coole

Queen of Coole, a documentary chronicling the life of Augusta, Lady Gregory, particularly the major role she played in the foundation and development of the Abbey Theatre, is launched on Tuesday May 25 and can be viewed at https://queenofcoole.com.

The film has been made by MARA Collective – Ananya Rajoo (India), Merve Yillmaz (Turkey), and Hugh Murphy (Galway), who are students of the MA in Creative Practice at NUIG. For more see the Galway Advertiser. The film is part of the university’s Festival of New Work.

Augusta Gregory by John Butler Yeats

New York Gregory Exhibition

Ray Burke writes… “A major New York exhibition ‘All this mine alone’ on the life and works of Galway woman Augusta Gregory of Coole Park – shut down by Covid-19 after only one week – will not re-open to the public…but it can now be viewed online.

Lady Gregory’s earliest writing, An Emigrant’s Notebook, dating from 1883 in her own handwriting but unpublished until 2018, is on display, alongside drafts of some of her plays and her translations of ancient Irish poems, including Donall Og (The Grief of a Girl’s Heart) and Ceann Dubh Dilis, and some of the Patrick Pearse poems that she translated after his execution. Also on display are pages from her journals and diaries, and the typewritten agreement under which her widowed daughter-in-law allowed her to continue living ‘year by year’ in her home at Coole Park, near Gort, ‘so long as she pays all charges and expenses’.

The exhibition’s last display cabinet includes a photograph of Coole Park, roofless and windowless during its demolition in 1941, provided by the Kiltartan Gregory Museum. It also includes lots of correspondence to William Butler Yeats before and after the rising, and Lady Gregory’s final letter to Yeats, written in February 1932, some three months before her death. “Dear Willie”, she wrote, “I don’t feel very well this morning, rather faint once or twice – It may be the time has come for me to slip away”. She added: “I do think I have been of use to the country – and for that in great part I thank you”. The exhibition jointly curated by the writer Colm Tóbín and Professor James Pethica, of Williams Colllege, Massachusetts, who is completing an authorised biography of her for Oxford University Press, can be accessed at: https://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/all-this-mine-alone.”

Roy Foster on Thoor Ballylee

Reading Ireland spring/summer 2021 focuses on the genre of “Big House” literature. In addition to a wide ranging interview with John Banville, the issue include essays by Roy Foster on W.B. Yeats’s Norman tower at Thoor Ballylee ‘When All Is Ruin Once Again’, Gerard Dawe on Eilís Dillon, Graham Price on David Thompson, Sarah Harsh on Elizabeth Bowen and Adrienne Leavy on Jennifer Johnston. Brian McCabe, Nuala O’ Connor and Adrienne Leavy contribute book reviews, photography is by Robert O’Byrne, and a detailed bibliography of Big House Fiction and related critical studies is included.