In Memory of W.B. Yeats

It is eighty years, a lifetime and no time at all, since W.B. Yeats died and was laid to rest at Roquebrune in the south of France. Far from home, friends and energies surrounded him, and he left life still busy working and thinking: “I know for certain my time will not be long. I have put away everything that can be put away that I may speak what I have to speak, & I find my expression is a part of study […]. It seems to me that I have found what I wanted. When I try to put all into a phrase I say, ‘Man can embody truth but he cannot know it’. I must embody it in the completion of my life.”

France, Var, Roquebrune sur Argens, snow in winter on the cliffs of the Rocher de Roquebrune

When his death was announced, the wires hummed with tributes from around the world. Most interesting perhaps were responses from his younger contemporaries, Louis MacNeice and W.H. Auden. They had differed politically from Yeats in the ‘low dishonest decade’ of the 1930s, and yet both were moved to respond handsomely. Louis MacNeice would write a one of the earliest and finest books of criticism about the poet, published in 1941, and W.H. Auden wrote several essays and a poem among the finest in the language.

Thoor Ballylee, Galway, March 2018 (from Connacht Tribune)

Auden’s poem is sombre, strangely moral, and reflective, as he works out a strong sense of difference amidst his admiration (in its final version below, the poem was revised to leave out any need for forgiveness: ‘Time […] pardons him for writing well’). It records the effect of the poet’s death on the world, but the world’s impress on all he left behind, including those last to know about his passing, his poems. Yeats had been seeking warm weather for his health, but through Auden’s eyes it was marked indelibly by a symbolically cold winter: ‘What instruments we have agree / The day of his death was a dark cold day.’ With the current cold snap across these islands and in North America it is hard not to recall the words of this probing, bracing tribute, first published later in 1939 as the flames of World War Two were rising.

Chicago and Lake Minnesota, January 2019

In Memory of W.B. Yeats

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.

The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden.


Ben Bulben, Sligo, January 2018

Happy New Year 2019!

Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year for 2019!

With our Season’s Greetings, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society has great pleasure in sending you news of everything you have helped to support during the past year at Yeats’s tower in County Galway.

We hope you are as pleased as we are with all the varied cultural events associated with the tower, and welcome your continued support for an equally ambitious programme of performances, tours, talks, and exhibitions in 2019. These are exciting times at Thoor Ballylee: work is in progress converting the old garage over the road into a magnificent new artist’s studio and residence.

So we welcome your support! If you would like to donate, become a Friend of Thoor Ballylee (or renew your Friend of Thoor Ballylee subscription), we gladly invite you to visit our website donation page

Many thanks and all the best for the Festive Season.



Highlights of 2018

The curtain has come down on another successful season at Thoor Ballylee.
Around 4,400 appreciative visitors came to Thoor Ballylee during from April to October 2018.

Many also came to our programme of special events.

The Songbirds with their wonderful harmony and lyrics proved to be a popular public closing event, performing to a full house. This year the season was extended to facilitate the Architecture at the Edge festival 2018. Many first-time visitors from the locality and afar, took advantage of our open house day to visit the home of W.B. Yeats, and even began with an hour of Architectural Yoga conducted by Sarah from the Gallery Café. With his eastern and esoteric interests W.B.Y. might well have approved.

Other successful events held during the year include two Talks for Leaving Certificate students courtesy of Denis Creavan, and a riveting production of The Only Jealousy of Emer by Galway based DancePlayers, including members of NUI Galway’s Drama department.

As a special treat for W.B.Y’s birthday we enjoyed a Sunday afternoon of medieval music in the medieval tower, with the talented & delightful Coole Music troupe, dressed in medieval costume. We even had a birthday cake. A second celebration of the birthday featured wine and amazing food, provided by the very talented Anna and featured poetry reading by the mill. Thanks again to Anna O Donnell and to Brendan Murphy, for their demonstration of Lady Gregory’s brack cake and stories from the Abbey. This was our nod to Heritage Week.

For Culture Night, the composer and sound artist Francis Heery brought poetry to Thoor Ballylee and an immersive sound installation in his presentation of A Vision.  Supported by the Arts Council, this, one of the main events in County Galway, was unquestionably a memorable night, quite out of the ordinary for lots of reasons. Francis even proposed to his fiancée on the battlements just before the show & she said ‘yes’. It all happens at Thoor Ballylee! Indeed two local wedding parties chose Thoor Ballylee and its beautiful, tranquil, surrounds for their wedding photographs. We were joined also by the Professor Roy Foster, distinguished historian and biographer of W.B. Yeats, prior to his lecture on Thoor Ballylee for the Galway International Arts Festival first thought talks.

The Galway Film Fleadh came on tour in a special event to Thoor Ballylee. Three films from the archives of the Irish Film Institute about Yeats and Lady Gregory, Coole Park and one of Gregory’s plays from the Abbey Theatre were screened in our spectacular audiovisual room in July.

Lovers of the art of spinning and weaving enjoyed an afternoon trying their hands at the spinning wheel, thanks to the Irish Spinners and Weavers Guild from Clare and Galway. Our appreciation goes also to Coole Music Junior Quartet who entertained spinners and visitors alike. Kate and Ruth our local intrepid Headford Bat Rangers put together an interpretive piece on Thoor Ballylee and the Lesser Horseshoe bats which nest in the tower. We had any number of visitor groups throughout the summer from locals like Gort ICA to the Yeats International Summer School, and many individual and family visitors from all around the world. The final day of the Yeats and Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering brought September to a close with a lecture and a film about the life and loves of Lady Gregory. That was also the day that W.B.Y.’s candlesticks, handsome brass altar pieces came home to Thoor Ballylee, proudly standing by the hearth after ninety years away. Our heartfelt thanks go to our wonderful benefactors.

None of this would be possible without a great number of helpers, volunteers, artists, gardeners, skilled craftspeople, and a host of supporters from here and abroad. Our esteem and appreciation goes to our dedicated staff, led by the wonderful Rena McAllen: Nichola, Frank, Gary, and Krzysztof. And to our knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and most generous volunteers: Phil, Pat O L., Rose, Tonii, Karen, Pat F., Rosemary, Anna C. Dominic. A special thank you also to intern Gerry who generously offered to cover every Saturday up until now. Thanks to JJ for manning the car park and lighting our way in the dark during events.

This is the fantastic team that has kept the home of W. B. Yeats open to the public for all six months of the summer, for seven days a week during the height of the season and for eight hours (and more) a day.

Our visitor book records the appreciation, delight, and gratitude of the thousands of people who came and experienced the atmosphere and spirit of Thoor Ballylee. They enjoyed discussing the Yeats family over a cup of tea with staff, viewed our exhibitions and AV presentation, climbed the winding stair, lingered in the many original rooms, admired the spectacular 360 degree view, read poetry, sang, played music, or took selfies on the battlements (and not one fell off).

Thanks in particular to Failte Ireland for continued help with maintenance and repairs. Work has already begun on the conversion of the garage into a studio for artists in residence so we look forward to exciting times at Thoor Ballylee.

Most of all our thanks and appreciation to our wonderful friends and benefactors, whose generosity and financial support enables us to keep the spirit of Yeats and his extraordinarily talented family alive.

Go fada buan sibh.


The final event of 2018 at Thoor Ballylee is a concert of music by The Songbirds.

The Songbirds

7.30pm Saturday 6th October

Thoor Ballylee EU12/10 entry

Tickets available on 091 631436 or email

It’s the last chance to hear music at Thoor this year: come along and visit the tower in an atmosphere of celebration!

The Songbirds feature musicians from around the globe: John Cooper from the Red Dirt Rangers California, Maria Burns from the Burns Sisters Band, Ithaca New York, and Kate Purcell from down the road in County Clare. With classic singers and expert musicians this concert promising to be a fine send-off to a wonderful 2018 season.



Moon Phases for Culture Night

Culture Night sees a wealth of culture showcased all over Ireland with performances, plays, exhibitions, talks, and events taking place all through the country.

Thoor Ballylee in County Galway is no exception.

This Friday 21st September from 5pm sees a site-specific musical performance and installation from award-winning composer and sound-artist Francis Heery.

Moon Phases by Francis Heery

Friday 21st September 5-10pm

Thoor Ballylee, County Galway

As featured in the Irish Times, ‘Moon Phases’ presents a unique interpretation of WB Yeats’s strange and wonderful  A Vision, a book of philosophy, psychology, and history inspired by his wife George and their experiments in dreams and automatic writing.

As William Blake wrote in his Jerusalem “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s”, and it was here that WB and George Yeats achieved this. In the rounds of the moon they found both a way of describing different personalities and the cyclical movements of history.

Poems like ‘The Phases of the Moon’, ‘The Second Coming’ and ‘All Soul’s Night’ are testament to the enduring importance of the book, and its deep attention to both recurrences in both vision and sound.

Join us for a unique and fascinating evening – a sonic experience like no other. Drop in, listen, wander, for as little or as long as you like – take tea and refreshments, browse our shop, and climb the winding stair as darkness falls.

Lady Gregory’s Brack

To kick off Heritage week at Thoor Ballylee, this Saturday Anna O’Donnell comes to Thoor Ballylee for a talk and demonstration event about Lady Augusta Gregory’s brack, the cake she made for the players  of the Abbey Theatre.

Lady Gregory’s Brack

3pm Saturday 18 August, Thoor Ballylee

Free event, all welcome!

Come and join us to learn more about this famous cake!

Anna O’Donnell, culinary historian, chef, and writer, will speak on the importance of ‘Lady Gregory’s Brack’. We will learn about its history and its significance for the Abbey Theatre, how for each new production the making of the cake became an embedded tradition. She will also demonstrate the process, so you can recreate this delicious dish at home.

In 2018 Galway becomes a European Region of Gastronomy, the first region of Ireland to be awarded the honour. Lady Gregory’s Brack is an important part of this story.


Galway Film Fleadh comes to Thoor Ballylee

This year, the celebrated Galway Film Fleadh takes to the road with a programme of films from the IFI Irish Film Archive, celebrating the life and legacy of WB Yeats’s great friend and co-founder of Ireland’s national theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory.

Entitled ‘Local Films for Local People’, a special screening of these films is presented at Thoor Ballylee, at 3pm Thursday 12th July.

The range of Lady Gregory’s talents was considerable: co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, translator, folklorist, theatre producer and Yeats’s collaborator.  She was also an important, resolutely experimental dramatist in her own right.

And, although at times she tried to dissuade him from living there, it was she who found the tower at Thoor Ballylee for Yeats and his new wife, George, where he and his family spent many summers. Close by is Coole Park where, under Lady Gregory’s steadfast and welcoming spirit, poets, playwrights, painters and artists from every background – Yeats, Shaw, Synge, Hyde, O’Casey – created a renaissance of Irish literary, artistic, and political thinking and action.

This exclusive programme of short films includes Coole Park and Ballyee and Cradle of Genius, films about Gregory and Yeats’s connection to the local landscape and the cultural revival they inspired. It also includes a rare screening of a movie adaptation of Gregory’s one-act play The Workhouse Ward with the Abbey Theatre players. Featuring a pair of down-at-heel men arguing in a hospital ward, the comedy anticipates Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in exploring the strange co-dependencies of Irish masculine culture.

The screening is a wonderful chance to see these rare films in a site-specific setting. The programme is introduced by Sunniva O’Flynn, Head of Irish Film Programming, IFI, and by Lelia Doolan, Yeats Thoor Ballylee board member and former Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre. There will be time afterwards for discussion and tea.

Galway Film Fleadh Screening

Local Films for Local People

Thoor Ballylee, 3pm Thursday 12th July

This short documentary celebrates the cultural heritage of Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee and the serene landscape which inspired its visitors.

Producer: Queen’s University Belfast

1976 / 20 mins / Colour

This film recently acquired by the IFI Irish Film Archive is an adaptation of Lady Gregory’s one-act comedy which centers on two bickering paupers confined to adjacent hospital beds until the arrival of the Widow Donohue (Eileen Crowe).

Director: Ria Mooney

1950/ 25 mins/ Black and White

This Academy Award-nominated film, written by Frank O’Connor and produced by Tom Hayes, presents a history of the Abbey Theatre and a record of Irish theatre culture in the late 1950s as fondly remembered by leading lights Siobhán McKenna, Maureen Delaney, Harry Brogan, Eithne Dunne, Barry Fitzgerald and Seán O’Casey.

Director: Paul Rotha

1959/ 42 mins/Black and White

Followed by questions, discussion, and tea.


Work available at Thoor

Thoor Ballylee announces a part-time position for an administrative assistant. 

Thoor Ballylee is seeking an organised and proactive administrative assistant to help with running the visitor centre for 20 hours per week.  You will liaise with tour groups, handling bookings, updating database and managing correspondence.  Maintaining the tower for opening and ending of season, plus ongoing light maintenance and managing contracted trade, are essential tasks.  Promoting the tower on social media, handling our annual education programme, liaising with Fáilte Ireland and providing support to the committee with events are also included.  Salary and conditions will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

If you have proven experience in heritage and you’d like to join our team, please apply by email with a CV and cover letter to Chairperson,  by 5 July 2018.

Bloomsday & Birthday updates

Happy Bloomsday, and happy birthday to WB Yeats, who earlier this week was 153 years young!

The message might be slightly late, but not nearly as late as the new ship from Irish Ferries, the WB Yeats, still immersed in deep revisions at a shipyard in Germany.

This is a rich time of cultural activity in the west of Ireland and Thoor Ballylee. Contemporary Irish writing here is evidently in rude health. Mayo novelist Mike McCormack, currently director of NUI Galway’s BA with Creative Writing in the Department of English, has won the prestigious 2018 International Dublin Literary Award for Solar Bones. This is just the latest recognition for his fifth novel  which has won a series of awards and plaudits since its publication by Tramp Press.

Mike McCormack with the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award

Probably Mayo’s finest ever writer the novelist and memoirist George Moore was also celebrated this week. The Ninth International George Moore Conference, George Moore: Transnational And Cosmopolitan Networks On The Page And Canvas, hosted by Dr Mark Corcoran and Dr Muireann O’Cinneide took place in the Moore Institute at NUI Galway over the last two days with the generous aid of the School of Humanities’s Research Support Scheme.

George Moore by John Butler Yeats

This coincides with the release of the biopic of George Moore’s friend Hugh Lane, nephew of Lady Augusta Gregory and Ireland’s greatest art dealer, whose exhibitions of Irish art and collections of old master and impressionist enrich the country to this day. Citizen Lane, directed by Thaddeus OSullivan and starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Gemma-Leah Devereux is on general release, with a screening at Galway’s brand-new Palas Cinema on Sunday 17 June at 6pm. WB Yeats, Augusta Gregory, and George Moore all make an appearance on screen in this docudrama, which is also graced by expert talking heads Caitriona Crowe and Roy Foster.

In the coming weeks film comes directly to Thoor Ballylee. On Thursday 12 July at 3pm the Galway Film Fleadh holds a special screening of short films at Thoor Ballylee. It promises to be a special atmosphere and a unique experience to watch period short films associated with Augusta Gregory and the cultural revival she initiated in a old stone cottage attached to a fourteenth-century stone tower.

Thoor Ballylee itself is celebrated in this summer’s Galway International Arts Festival. The acclaimed biographer of WB Yeats for Oxford University Press, Professor Roy Foster, speaks on Sunday 22 July at 1pm about Yeats’s tower at the Aula Maxima in NUI Galway. Ezra Pound was notably sceptical about what he called ‘Ballyphallus, Yeats’s phallic symbol on the bogs’. Nevertheless Foster explores the central importance of the tower to Yeats’s life and work, and in a talk entitled ‘When All Is Ruin Once Again’ affirms Thoor Ballylee as his favourite dwelling.

Thanks to our volunteers, friends, and supporters, Yeats’s tower is far from in ruins. Thoor Ballylee recently hosted a special performance by Coole Music in honour of Yeats’s birthday, and a spectacular production of Yeats’s play The Only Jealousy of Emer by Galway theatre group DancePlayers.

Eithne Inguba (Orla Turbridy) comforts the hero Cuchulain (Oisin Porter) as his wife Emer (Catherine Denning) and musicians look on

The tower is also open throughout the summer for visits from all comers. Our exhibitions are open and a warm welcome is promised. Do come and join us!

The Only Jealousy of Emer: tickets selling fast!

This new production of WB Yeats’s play of The Only Jealousy of Emer is a world premiere: the first ever fully staged theatre production of Yeats’s play taking place in his own tower. Fresh from a highly acclaimed run at the Galway Theatre Festival this production has been entirely re-imagined for this historic space. As a site-specific movement piece in a resonant venue numbers are limited so get in fast!

DancePlayers presents

The Only Jealousy of Emer

By WB Yeats

8pm Sat 26 and Sun 27 May 2018

Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’s Tower, Gort, Galway

Tickets: €14/12 Concession

Booking:  Places are limited. Booking required by phone 091 631 436 (weekdays 10am to 2pm, weekends 11am to 5pm) or by email to

The performance begins outdoors so we highly recommend outdoor shoes and appropriate comfortable clothing. Seating is available but only for some scenes.

The great hero Cuchulain is on his deathbed. His body was washed up by the shore after a long and senseless fight with the sea. There are three women around him: his wife, Emer, his lover, Eithne Inguba, and Fand, an evil creature of the Sidhe. His fate is in their hands. Yeats’s poetic dance-drama focuses exclusively on the feelings and motivations of the female characters, and portrays the emotional turmoil that Emer has to suffer when she has to face her own jealousy to save her husband’s life.

DancePlayers is a new ensemble founded in Galway in 2018. It is a group of professional theatre makers and musicians who produce collaborative pieces for physical theatre.

This production aims at exploiting the qualities of the dance play to the full to show the availability of Yeats’s play texts for contemporary audiences within and outside Ireland. It thus features original masks, costumes, live music, dance, design, as well as newly imagined acting, speaking, and movement. Because of the unique arrangements of the venue, the audience move with the performers during the show and seating is only available for certain important scenes. The performance begins outdoors so we highly recommend outdoor shoes and appropriate comfortable clothing.

Funded by The Galway City Council, NUI Galway, The Embassy of Hungary in Dublin and the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society.

Running time: 50 mins without interval.

As featured in the London Times, Galway Bay FM, and many other media outlets – this production promises to be theatre event of the season!

Jeremie Cyr-Cooke (Ghost of Cuchulain) and Orlaith Ni Chearra (Fand/Woman of the Sidhe) work on choreography