Thoor Ballylee wishes Happy Birthday to William Butler Yeats!
Thoor Ballylee celebrates W.B. Yeats’s one hundred and fifty second birthday this weekend with the performance of Joe Hassett’s Two Stars, a play for voices featuring WB and James Joyce in conversation, directed by Ian Walsh and starring Fionnuala Flanagan as Molly Bloom and students from NUI Galway.
An Imaginary Conversation between WB Yeats and James Joyce
by Joe Hassett
2pm Saturday 12 June 2017
Music and refreshments
From the Playwright Joe Hassett:
We are delighted to announce that Yeats’s tower, Thoor Ballylee is now open for the summer months!
Mon-Fri 10am to 2pm
Sat-Sun 11am to 5pm
From June until the end of August the tower will be open every day, 10am to 6pm 7 days a week.
This year, 2017, is the one hundredth anniversary of work beginning on the tower by Yeats’s architect William Scott and local builder Michael Rafferty.
So all the more reason to come and climb the winding stair that inspired some of W.B.Yeats’s greatest poems.
Come and view our spectacular exhibitions…
…and our regular programme of cultural events.
The doors of Thoor Ballylee officially re-opened on the occasion of W.B. Yeats’s 150th birthday on June 13th, 2015, after being closed for many years. Donations from local business people, artisans, and artists generated much needed funding to cover operational costs. To find out how you can help, click here.
No winter flooding this year so we have been busy cleaning and refitting the tower ready for the summer. To find out more, how to visit, or how you can help look around our website at yeatsthoorballylee.org, and sign up for regular updates.
We would like to say a big thank you to all our friends, supporters, volunteers, and visitors over the last two years for their generosity and support. This coming year will feature a new programme of events, new challenges, and new excitements.
We still need your support to keep the tower open for future generations: to find out how you can help, click here. You can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and you can like us and stay abreast on our facebook page. Do please keep in touch!
Thoor Ballylee features in Irish Times Open Season
William Butler Yeats’s tower at Thoor Ballylee features prominently in an Irish Times list of tourist attractions open this summer. The Hiberno-Norman icon features alongside such destinations as Skellig Michael, the Swiss Cottage Tipperary, and Lissadell Sligo, home of the Gore-Booth sisters and visited by Yeats as a young poet. Visitors are advised that it was at Thoor Ballylee Yeats “penned some of his finest work” and that the tower and stream also featured in John Ford’s classic film The Quiet Man (1952).
It should be added that Thoor Ballylee is not yet quite open for the summer. However the sandbags guarding against possible flooding have long gone, and the tower and cottage are being tidied in readiness for 2017 opening, expected on May Day, Monday 1st May. We look forward to welcoming new visitors and old friends then. Also make sure to look out for our summer programme of cultural events.
Meanwhile you can follow here the other Irish Times suggestions for historic and scenic visits across Ireland. The Times assessment of Thoor Ballylee follows below.
Thoor Ballylee, Gort, Co Galway
The engraving onto the cut stone plaque on this 16th-century tower house states: “I, the poet William Yeats, with old mill boards and sea-green slates, and smithy work from the Gort forge, restored this tower for my wife George; and may these characters remain when all is ruin once again.” Yeats penned some of his finest work, from the Winding Stair and Other Poems to The Tower Poems, in the four-storey castle on the bend of a Co Galway road. it is now restored and open to visitors, who can discover the winding stair to the top floor or look out through the river-facing window in the chamber described by the Nobel Prize winner as the “pleasantest room I have yet seen”. Thoor Ballylee appeared in John Ford’s timeless The Quiet Man(1952).
Open: From 1 May every day until September 30th
Admission: €7 (concessions also apply)
A reminder that Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to present Hamlet, not in performance but a talk aimed at Leaving Certificate students.
Denis Creaven, English teacher at the Institute of Education, Dublin, will lecture on several topics on Hamlet and the main characters of the play.
The lecture is designed to be especially helpful for Leaving Certificate examination requirements. Complimentary handouts will be distributed. We are pleased to say all proceeds go to Thoor Ballylee for its continued maintenance.
Like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Yeats had a habit of prowling his castle. In ‘The Tower’ (1926) he writes ‘I pace the battlements and stare / On the foundation of a house’. Yeats also drew on Shakespeare’s Hamlet for his Noh drama At The Hawk’s Well (1916). As Cuchulain climbs to the holy well, the musician remembers Hamlet’s claim to see things beyond most of us (like his dead father) ‘in my mind’s eye’:
I call to the eye of the mind
A well long choked up and dry
And boughs long stripped by the wind,
And I call to the mind’s eye
Pallor of an ivory face,
Its lofty dissolute air,
A man climbing up to a place
The salt sea wind has swept bare.
Leaving Certificate 2017 Hamlet Preparation
12-2pm, Wednesday 22 February 2017
Sullivan’s Hotel, Gort, Co Galway
For booking contact email@example.com or ring Nichola on 086 855 2124
The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to confirm that Thoor Ballylee has received a new grant under the Creative Ireland programme, “the most significant investment in regional arts and cultural centres in a decade”.
€22,000 has been allocated for the refurbishment of two rooms at Thoor Ballylee and the creation of a new Artist Space.
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys made the announcement as part of the Creative Ireland programme, with funding provided under her Department’s Arts and Culture Capital Scheme 2016-2018.
The aim of the artist space is to make a contemporary contribution to the spirit and tradition of Yeats, his mentor Lady Augusta Gregory, and their nurturing of the poets, artists, actors, musicians and designers of their era.
The space will offer opportunities for visiting artists and scholars to work, and to run workshops, master classes and summer camps for apprentice writers, designers, musicians, and schoolchildren.
It is also hoped that the artist space will attract artists and scholars to the Tower from around the world to perform and share their work as well as promote international collaboration in the run up to Galway 2020 and beyond.
Fidelma Healy Eames, Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, remarked: “I wish to note the thanks and delight of the Board of Directors of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Development Ltd to Minister Humphreys and the Government for their support for our development plan and vision for Yeats’s ancestral home at Thoor Ballylee. Well done to all of the hard working volunteer members of the society. The €22k is most welcome and will contribute greatly to an enhanced visitor experience at Thoor.”
Last year, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society unveiled a beautiful new exhibition which attracted more than 3,000 visitors to the tower over the summer months. Refurbishing two rooms at the Tower will bring the visitor closer to the poet’s life and work. With the new funding injection it is planned to further develop the visitor experience and celebrate Yeats’s Galway home.
Speaking at the announcement Minister Humphreys said: “Creative Ireland aims to promote individual, community and national wellbeing through cultural activity. This €9 million announcement is the most significant investment in regional arts and cultural centres in a decade. The largest funding awards – of €1 million each – are going to Wexford Arts Centre and the Riverbank Arts Centre in Kildare.”
Thoor Ballylee, both Yeats’s tower and the Exhibition is open to visitors from May 1st 2017.
Following the successful poetry slam held at Thoor Ballylee late last year, Thoor Ballylee and its living poets are celebrated on RTÉ’s The Poetry Programme.
The programme samples the lively atmosphere of the inaugural Thoor Ballylee Poetry Slam and hears from organisers Lelia Doolan and Sarah Clancy. Paul McNamara, winner of the competition, is second from left.
‘Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession’ is an impressive anthology of poetry in Irish from the past century with English translations. Editor, poet, and translator Louis de Paor chooses some poems from the anthology and talks about his desire to make this work visible to a wider audience.
Martina Evans is sure we all have a poem in us. She talks with Rick O’Shea and reads from her collection ‘The Windows of Graceland,’ published by Carcanet.
To listen to the programme, broadcast on RTÉ Radio One 7.30pm Saturday 7th January, follow this link.
The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society would like to say extend warm greetings for the new year, and to say thank you for our the generosity and support of our volunteers and friends throughout 2016.
The doors of Thoor Ballylee were officially re-opened by actress Sabina Higgins in June with the unveiling of the new Yeats Thoor Ballylee Exhibition. The exhibition, curated by Dr Adrian Paterson, Lecturer in English at NUI Galway, explores Yeats’s 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, especially with Coole Park and with Thoor Ballylee. It also features exclusive material from Joseph Hassett’s inspiring Yeats and the Muses exhibition. Come down and have a look: the new exhibition will be available to view from the tower’s spring opening.
This season Thoor Ballylee welcomed well over 3,000 visitors with the support of twenty local volunteers who guided and entertained visitors seven days a week. The Society was overwhelmed with the goodwill of supporters near and far throughout the year. US Senator Chris Dodd donated $10,000 towards the new exhibition in January. Donations have flooded in from friends near far helping fund the continual restoration and staffing of the tower. Our long standing benefactor Joe Hassett funded the publication of a magnificient book which tells the story of Thoor’s restoration in a collection of photographs taken by Deirdre Holmes. People like Anita Swanson who donated €1,500 to simply keep the Tower open has meant a great deal to us as we strive to keep the tower warm and welcoming. We also received a plethora of favourable testimonials and feedback.
Throughout the summer, Thoor Ballylee was home to many artistic and cultural performances, playing a full part in the 1916 celebrations. The season kicked off onJuly 16th with a performance of “Yeats’s Women” by Dublin trio: Glynis Casson, fellow actor Daniel Costello and renowned Irish Harpist Claire Roche. Featuring original letters, poems, stories, and song, the performance uncovered 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. This was followed by the Wild Swan Theatre Company’s production of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya”, to a packed house on August.
A weekend long series events as part of the Yeats and Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering included a production by the Curlew Theatre Company:” History! Reading the Easter Rising” (above). Our annual Culture Night event took place in September with performances from Gaillimh Theas Comhaltas, Claire Egan and Eoin O’Neill, followed by a special screening of a film “Words Upon the Window Pane” based on the 1931 play by W.B. Yeats, in which Jonathan Swift visits a seance. To bring the busy season to a close, Galway poets and former Cuirt Grand Slam winners Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy MC-ed an extremely popular grand slam poetry competition in October.
It is your kindness as visitors, supporters, friends, volunteers and donors that have made this all possible – to find out how you can help further, follow this link.
As many of you know Thoor Ballylee is prone to flooding – indeed when in January Bob Geldof visited to film a documentary about Yeats he had to be taken by boat! However, work is complete on preparing the tower and cottages for the winter season. This means that the ground level of the tower has been entirely cleared of its exhibitions and all movable goods. Permanent electricity and heating systems were moved above flood height earlier this year. All is dry at present, and the forecast is promising! Our aim is to re-open the tower in spring. Please keep in touch and check out further updates on this our website www.yeatsthoorballylee.org.
Best wishes for the season,
Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society
As Thoor Ballylee closes for the winter, representatives repeat calls for state intervention on flood relief for South Galway.
The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, a community group in south Galway which runs W.B. Yeats’s former retreat at Thoor Ballylee, has appealed for State support for the area as it anticipates fresh flooding this winter, the Irish Times has reported.
Speaking before a fundraising poetry slam event at the tower this weekend, curator Rena McAllen said flooding at the tower last winter did not recede until March.
Ms McAllen is part of a community group that acquired a lease for Thoor Ballylee – a 15th century Hiberno-Norman tower house with what Yeats described as a “winding, gyring spiring treadmill of a stair”– after it was closed by Fáilte Ireland due to flooding in 2009.
During Yeats’ tenure, the Streamstown river would food the building’s ground floor, but the flooding is now more frequent and much higher.
See more in the Irish Times report here.
The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is pleased to report that there is no immediate risk of of flooding to the tower and cottages. However the water table in the area is very high, and if rain comes then further flooding is in prospect again this winter.
Thankfully work has been completed on preparing the tower and cottages for the winter. This means that at ground level it has been entirely clear of its exhibitions and all movable goods. Permanent electricity and heating systems were moved above flood height earlier this year.
It is good news that all is dry at present.
Still, with flooding increasing year on year, better solutions might be found to relieve the annual uncertainty and the very real cost to livelihoods in the area.
Poetry Slam Competition
Saturday 15 October 2016
A slam poetry competition will take place in Thoor Ballylee, the former home of WB Yeats on Saturday October 15. Performance poets are invited to apply for one of 10 places at the event. This is the first competition of its kind to be held at the tower house.
This event will be MC-ed by Galway poets and former Cuirt Grand Slam winners Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy who, jealous of the attention being given to the other poets, may decide to perform some of their own poems in the interval.
Prizes are available, for those who like fumbling in the greasy till, including a first prize €250, second prize of €100, and third prize of €50, sponsored by Poetry Ireland.
All poets who perform and all judges will also receive a copy of Poetry Ireland Review Issue 116: A WB Yeats Special Issue, also sponsored by Poetry Ireland.
There will be 10 slots for poets to perform at this event, with the contestants selected in advance by Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy based on submissions. Entries for this event are open now and poets wishing to enter must send a poem of their own in any format — text, video, or recording — to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before October 4. All submissions must include ‘Tower Poetry Slam Entry’ in the title of the e-mail.
Each poem must be three minutes’ duration or less. There will be two rounds, with the five highest scoring poets from round one going through to the second round, after which the winners will be decided. Qualifying poets must perform a different poem in the second round. In each round the judges will be selected from the audience and their decisions will be both subjective and final.
Poets are expected to perform their poems without using a script and scoring will reflect this. Poems must be the performer’s own work and not have been previously published in book form nor have been the winning poem in any other slam competition.
Transport from Galway will be available by bus which will depart from the Spanish Arch (in front of Jury’s Hotel ) at 6.30pm and will return to there after the event. Tickets for bus and admission are €20, €10 for admission only, and there will be no admission charge for performing poets.
Refreshments, including wine, will be available for purchase on the night.
To book tickets call Thoor Ballylee between 10am and 2pm daily on 091 631436. Or email email@example.com. There will also be limited admission on the door.
Any funds raised will go towards supporting the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society in its work preserving Thoor Ballylee.
Hear W.B. Yeats read his own verse here! As he says, he reads with great emphasis upon the rhythm.