Seamus Heaney landscape under threat

Road scheme ploughs through Anahorish & Mossbawn

Landscapes like those in Galway surrounding Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park or Patrick Kavanagh’s Inniskeen Co. Monaghan are not only important natural environments in themselves but a part of the world’s poetic heritage as surely as the Cumberland Lake District of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

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Like Yeats, Nobel-Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney is attached to  several landscapes, including the Broagh, Hillhead, Lagan’s Road and the Strand at Lough Beg. However his founding place is Anahorish, the south Derry townland to the west of Lough Neagh which features in some of the poet’s most famous works, including “Digging”, “Blackberry-Picking,” “Death of a Naturalist” and “Mid-term Break”. The poem “Anahorish” begins with a translation of Anach fhíor uisce, the Irish root of the townland’s name. It was, for Heaney, his “place of clear water,” which he called “the first hill in the world”. Bernard O’Donoghue, poet and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, has said of Heaney that the “importance of his life experience to his poetry is a crucial part of Heaney’s work; he is often referred to as “a poet of place,” and Anahorish is central to that place”.

In October 2016 the Northern Irish government will begin to build a dual-carriageway road through Anahorish, setting for much of Heaney’s best-loved poetry, within about a hundred yards of Mossbawn, his family home. Before his death Heaney himself protested against the proposed road scheme, describing an alternative route through an old aerodrome where there is an industrial estate, as less of a “wound on the ecology.”

Heaney was a great friend to Yeats, Thoor Ballylee and the landscape of South Galway, and reportedly described the scheme as unthinkable as putting a motorway through Coole Park. Coole Park faces its own issues as the encroaching dual-carriageway sweeps just past its gates. It would seem that the poetic landscapes of the whole island of Ireland are under threat, just when the importance of culture and place is being widely re-affirmed in schemes like cities of culture (Derry 2013 and Galway 2020).

The revival of the road scheme is particularly poignant at a time when the Seamus Heaney HomePlace visitors centre in Bellaghy is due to open at the end of the month. Heaney died in Dublin in 2013 and is buried in Bellaghy. Work on the nearby dual-carriageway is due to begin in October.

Time is running out if the scheme is to be opposed. A petition against the road has been set up here at Change.org. Further news stories about the scheme can be viewed in the following from the New Statesman, Belfast Telegraph, and Irish News.

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Culture Night at Thoor Ballylee

Music and Mystery

Culture Night at Thoor Ballylee

All welcome. Admission Free

Events from 7pm. Refreshments served.

night of music & mystery with Gaillimh Theas Comhaltas, renowned fiddle player Claire Egan, talented musician Eoin O Neill and a special screening of an exclusive film Words Upon  the Window Pane based on the 1931 play by W.B. Yeats, in which Jonathan Swift visits a seance. Come and be possessed by the spirit of Ireland, old and new.
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NB September opening at Thoor Ballylee:
10am to 5pm Mon to Friday
11am to 5pm Weekends
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Thoor Ballylee temporary closure Sunday 28th August

Due to the Galway Summer Rally taking place in the roads in South Galway around Ballylee, Thoor Ballylee will be closed on Sunday 28th August 2016.  The tower is open to visitors every day for all of the rest of the summer, complete with its new exhibitions and Yeats’s old winding stair.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

Visuals from our newly opened Thoor Ballylee Yeats Exhibition, available to view at Yeats’s Tower

Please accept our apologies for this brief closure. We hope you can arrange to visit another time, and hope to see you back at this historic building very soon.

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Yeats’s Women

Yeats’s Women performed by  Dublin trio, Glynis Casson, fellow actor Daniel Costello and renowned Irish Harpist Claire Roche, brought the poetry of Yeats into another dimension last Friday night at Thoor Ballylee.

Yeats Women July 8th 2016

This performance brought to life the fascinating story of Yeats’s women. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, it uncovers in a dramatic interweaving of life and art the artistic collaborations and personal crises which the poet W.B.Yeats experienced together with an extraordinary cast of striking and hugely talented women: his sisters, his lovers, and his remarkable wife George, presiding spirit of Thoor Ballylee.  George Yeats herself would design and paint much of the interior, creating ‘a beautiful house’, and found she could drop a line from the tower window to fish.

Yeats Music 1

The castle walls resounded to the sound of the magnificent Irish harp as  the group delighted a captive audience with tales of W.B’s life, family, friendships, loves lost and won, through music, poetry, drama and song. While sipping wine or juice during  the interval, members of the audience climbed the winding stair, browsed through the exhibitions, strolled in the garden or sat on the ancient bridge. Following a standing ovation  at the end of the show, the cast mingled with the audience, and very positive feedback about the performance and hospitality was shared over tea and brack .
As well as locals in attendance at the sold-out event, the audience also consisted of people from Galway City, Headford, Loughrea, Dublin, and further afield from Germany, New York, Australia, and China. The performance raised a generous sum of money for Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society and its continuing efforts to restore and refurbish Yeats’s historic tower. 

Part of the new Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition is devoted to the women of Yeats’s life, in a room called Yeats and the Muses, arranged by Joseph Hassett. So it is fitting that a celebration of the life and talents of these extraordinary women should come to Yeats’s tower.

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Thoor Ballylee temporary closure Friday 15th July

Due to ESB doing electricity work in the area Thoor Ballylee will be closed on Friday 15th July 2016. Local power lines and trees need some further work we are told. However the tower is open to visitors every day for all of the rest of the summer, complete with its new exhibitions and Yeats’s old winding stair.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

Visuals from our newly opened Thoor Ballylee Yeats Exhibition, available to view at Yeats’s Tower

Please accept our apologies for this brief closure. We hope you can arrange to visit another time, and hope to see you back at this historic building very soon.

Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore

Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore

Yeats’s Women: performance on Friday 8th July

Yeats’s Women

a dramatic performance in story and song

with

Glynis Casson

Daniel Costello

& harpist Clare Roche

8pm Friday 8th July 2016

Thoor Ballylee

Tickets available to book or on the door

Yeats Women July 8th 2016

This performance brings to life the fascinating story of Yeats’s women. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, it uncovers in a dramatic interweaving of life and art the artistic collaborations and personal crises which the poet W.B.Yeats experienced together with an extraordinary cast of striking and hugely talented women: his sisters, his lovers, and his remarkable wife George, presiding spirit of Thoor Ballylee.  George Yeats herself would design and paint much of the interior, creating ‘a beautiful house’, and found she could drop a line from the tower window to fish.

Part of the new Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition is devoted to the women of Yeats’s life, in a room called Yeats and the Muses, arranged by Joseph Hassett. So it is fitting that a celebration of the life and talents of these extraordinary women should come to Yeats’s tower.

Yeats’s Women: The Performers

Glynis Casson

Glynis comes from the well known Casson theatrical family and has played many leading roles over the years in Gilbert and Sullivan productions, in Gigi, My Fair Lady and Me and My Girl in the Gaiety Theatre Dublin. She has toured her one woman show Oscar and the Sphinx in Ireland, London and Egypt. The Harp That Once and Dauntless and Daring with Harpist Cormac de Barra in Ireland and the Continent, Seven Ages with Daniel Costello, and the comedy show Ladies Who Lunch with Irene Gaffney in venues around Ireland.

Other stage work includes: Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, The House of Bernarda Alba, Very Heaven, and Harold Pinter’s Party Time.  

TV & Film Credits include: Kathleen in RTE’s Fair City, The Clinic and TG4’s Maru crime series. Imelda in winning Irish film 32A, Mauyra in The Riders to The Sea, Pensioner in the short award winning film Bollybrack in which she did Indian dancing for the first time in Moore Street!   www.glyniscasson.com

Yeats Music 1

Daniel Costello, Glynis Casson, & Claire Roche from a recent perfomance in Birr Castle

Daniel Costello

Daniel has recently played Polonius in Hamlet at The New Theatre.

Other stage work includes: Nicolas in Pinter’s One For The Road, Friar Laurence in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Solange in Genet’s The Maids, Duke of Ferrara in De Vega’s Justice Without Revenge, Antonio in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Jimmy Jack in Friel’s Translations, Sir Peter Teazle in Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, Carl in Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living, and Clov in Beckett’s Endgame.

TV & Film credits include: Bachelor’s Walk, The Clinic, & Fair CityAlbert Nobbs, Situations Vacant, Breakfast on Pluto and The Magdalene Sisters.

Claire Roche

Claire studied harp and voice with Maírín Feiritear in Sion Hill Convent Dublin, who encouraged her to compose her own songs, and at the age of 13 set ‘To A Child Dancing In The Wind’ to the music of harp. Poet Brendan Kennelly inspired Claire ‘to set some more’ when she was studying Anglo-Irish Literature in Trinity College Dublin, so in all she arranged eight of Yeats’ poems for the Harp. Michael Yeats kindly gave this permission before the copyright had run out on his Father’s work. Claire has had very successful tours of singing with her harp accompaniment in America, Australia and Ireland. www.claireroche.com

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Thoor Ballylee temporary closure Monday 4 July

Due to ESB doing electricity work in the area Thoor Ballylee will be closed Monday Monday 4 July 2016. Unfortunately the tower cannot operate without electricity, and power will be cut to allow work on high-level wires. However the tower is open every day for all of the rest of the summer, complete with its new exhibitions and Yeats’s old winding stair.

Please accept our apologies for this day of closure. We hope to see you back at this historic building another time very soon.

Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore

Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore

Yeats’s Women

Yeats’s Women

a dramatic performance in story and song

with

Glynis Casson

Daniel Costello

& harpist Clare Roche

8pm Friday 8th July 2016

Thoor Ballylee

Tickets available to book or on the door

Yeats Women July 8th 2016

This performance brings to life the fascinating story of Yeats’s women. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, it uncovers in a dramatic interweaving of life and art the artistic collaborations and personal crises which the poet W.B.Yeats experienced together with an extraordinary cast of striking and hugely talented women: his sisters, his lovers, and his remarkable wife George, presiding spirit of Thoor Ballylee.  

Glynis Casson

Glynis comes from the well known Casson theatrical family and has played many leading roles over the years in Gilbert and Sullivan productions, in Gigi, My Fair Lady and Me and My Girl in the Gaiety Theatre Dublin. She has toured her one woman show Oscar and the Sphinx in Ireland, London and Egypt. The Harp That Once and Dauntless and Daring with Harpist Cormac de Barra in Ireland and the Continent, Seven Ages with Daniel Costello, and the comedy show Ladies Who Lunch with Irene Gaffney in venues around Ireland.

Other stage work includes: Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, The House of Bernarda Alba, Very Heaven, and Harold Pinter’s Party Time.  

TV & Film Credits include: Kathleen in RTE’s Fair City, The Clinic and TG4’s Maru crime series. Imelda in winning Irish film 32A, Mauyra in The Riders to The Sea, Pensioner in the short award winning film Bollybrack in which she did Indian dancing for the first time in Moore Street!   www.glyniscasson.com

Daniel Costello

Daniel has recently played Polonius in Hamlet at The New Theatre.

Other stage work includes: Nicolas in Pinter’s One For The Road, Friar Laurence in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Solange in Genet’s The Maids, Duke of Ferrara in De Vega’s Justice Without Revenge, Antonio in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Jimmy Jack in Friel’s Translations, Sir Peter Teazle in Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, Carl in Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living, and Clov in Beckett’s Endgame.

TV & Film credits include: Bachelor’s Walk, The Clinic, & Fair CityAlbert Nobbs, Situations Vacant, Breakfast on Pluto and The Magdalene Sisters.

Claire Roche

Claire studied harp and voice with Maírín Feiritear in Sion Hill Convent Dublin, who encouraged her to compose her own songs, and at the age of 13 set ‘To A Child Dancing In The Wind’ to the music of harp. Poet Brendan Kennelly inspired Claire ‘to set some more’ when she was studying Anglo-Irish Literature in Trinity College Dublin, so in all she arranged eight of Yeats’ poems for the Harp. Michael Yeats kindly gave this permission before the copyright had run out on his Father’s work. Claire has had very successful tours of singing with her harp accompaniment in America, Australia and Ireland. www.claireroche.com

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Yeats Thoor Ballylee Exhibition opening in media

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Yeats Thoor Ballylee exhibition opened by Sabina Coyne Higgins

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee exhibition opened by Sabina Coyne Higgins featured widely in local media reports over the last few days.

The Galway Advertiser reported on the event with this piece by Ronnie O’Gorman, quoted below:

“On Saturday the sun bathed South Galway for the unveiling of the new Yeats Exhibition in Thoor Ballylee which is now open to the public every day over the summer.

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society was delighted to welcome Sabina Coyne Higgins who officially opened the exhibition, and shared her perspectives on the significance of love in Yeats’s poetry. Since the tower flooded last winter, it was unimaginable that the beauty and tranquility of Ballylee would be enjoyed so soon again.

Fidelma Healy Eames, Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society remarked, following this year’s redecoration, that the tower gets better after every flood. Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Michael Connolly was also present and together with Minister Sean Canney, pledged to ensure that Thoor Ballylee would continue to be prioritised in local flood management programmes.

Cllr Connolly also stressed the important role that Thoor Ballylee had to play in bringing national and international visitors to the area and stressed its importance as an integral part of the Galway 2020 offering. Without the generosity of Yeats scholar Joseph Hassett, the exhibition would not have been possible.

Mr Hassett was thrilled at the event and gave a sterling speech about the symbolism of the tower in so much of Yeats’s poetry. The new exhibition, curated by Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English at NUIG, explores Yeats’ relationship with the people and places that most inspired his work.

It looks at the culture of the west, its crafts, stories, and songs; the central importance of the women in his life, most especially of his wife George; and his close connections with the landscapes and people of County Galway, with Coole Park and with Thoor Ballylee.

Children attending the opening were also delighted to complete the new Thoor Scavenger hunt which will be available for all families to complete over the summer. A series of cultural events will be organised over Summer 2016 to honour Yeats’s memory, his heritage and his links with the literary revival and with 1916. The Tower and Exhibition will be open to visitors throughout the summer from 10am to 6pm Monday – Sunday.”

The curator of the new Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition, Dr Adrian Paterson, commented:
“It is especially fitting that Thoor Ballylee is open thanks to the support of the Galway community. Many local families have a strong connection with the tower, going back even before the arrival of Yeats and his family, and the tower will remain long after we have all gone. As the worldwide Yeats2015 celebrations made clear, Yeats has a worldwide audience from Seoul to San Francisco, but again and again he made a commitment to west of Ireland as his home and as the nourishing soil for his imagination. Thoor Ballylee is the emblem of that commitment.
“The Thoor Ballylee Yeats exhibition is an attempt to reflect the importance of the west to W. B. Yeats, to illustrate his many artistic collaborations, and to understand the role of the women in his life. Thoor Ballylee represents so much for Yeats, as it still does for us. It is a reminder of Ireland’s turbulent history; a magical symbol drawn deep from the well of our collective memory; the setting for stories and songs about local beauty Mary Hynes; a centre for local crafts and collaborations; a home for Yeats’s family, his wife, children, and their pets; a place of inspiration for some astonishing poetry; a beacon for the arts and all artistic communities; and a monument to lasting creative achievement. Now it has a new exhibition, there are even more reasons to visit this special place.”
Yeats Tower Exhibition

The Clare Champion had this on the opening:

Clare Champion 17 June 2016

Clare Champion 17 June 2016

A selection of photos from the opening follows.

Thoor Ballylee May 2016

Thoor Ballylee May 2016