Happy New Year from Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

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.

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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.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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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

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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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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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Harp Festival of Moons at Thoor Ballylee

Yeats Harp Moons

Caitríona Yeats at Thoor Ballylee for Harvest Moon Event

Yeats2015 Harp Festival of Moons

19.30 Tuesday 27th of October

Hosted by Thoor Ballylee Co. Galway

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to welcome Caitríona Yeats, Solo Harpist at the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and granddaughter of W.B. Yeats to perform at the Harp and Moon Festival taking place in Thoor Ballylee on the 27th of October. She will be joined by celebrated artists, Aine Ní Shioradáin, harpist and singer; Michelle O’Sullivan, poet, as well as Nicola and Karina Cahill on harp and flute. A small reception will open the evening’s entertainment at 7.30pm.

For a warm and unforgettable evening’s entertainment, please call or email Nichola to book your ticket costing 10 euro (payable on the door). email: yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com; phone +353 (0) 91 631436.

This Harvest Moon event is part of the Harp Festival of Moons, a year-long festival dedicated to W.B. Yeats, whose literary work was frequently inspired by the moon and the local landscape. Thoor Ballylee was the poetic model for his famous poem “Blood and the Moon” and where he set the “The Phases of the Moon”.

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Dermot Bolger on Thoor Ballylee

The following is an extract from writer Dermot Bolger’s piece on Thoor Ballylee for the Irish Independent. The full text is available here.

Writer  in Residence, Dermot Bolger    in the Library at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park.Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File

Writer in Residence, Dermot Bolger in the Library at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park.Pix Ronan Lang/Feature File

Two months ago, I found myself passing through Gort in Co Galway, on my way home from doing a reading in a school.

It’s an area I’m rarely in, and after stumbling across signpost after signpost that all led me down a maze of tiny roads, I fulfilled a life’s ambition by finally finding my way to Thoor Ballylee.

This is the tall, fortified, 16th Century tower house into which William Butler Yeats moved his young wife Georgie soon after their marriage, not long after the Easter Rising. He used this ancient tower as a retreat from the world during the next decade, which saw him simultaneously experience horror and joy.

The public horror he witnessed occurred with the advent of the Irish Civil War. He observed the caustic bitterness of this divisive conflict and chronicled its pulse of “great hatred, little room” from the perspective of this restored tower.

Despite the oak doors and high walls of Thoor Ballylee, Yeats knew that his young family was not safe here. As a poet who had engaged for decades in the task of trying to imaginatively shape the type of independent Ireland that might come into being, he was determined to play a role in this new Ireland by taking the dangerous decision to become an outspoken member of the first Free State Senate.

Read on…!

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Yeats auction today at Thoor!

Today, Sunday May 31st 2015, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society holds a unique fundraising auction. This development fundraising evening takes place at Thoor Ballylee Gort, Co. Galway in the former home of the world-famous poet William Butler Yeats. With shades of the Beatles on the roof at Savile Row or U2 from Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, the auction comes from the rooftop of the tower. Local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV) acts as William Butler Yeats.

Funds raised will be used to re-open the tower to the public thirteen days later on the poet’s birthday (13 June) and to set in stone long-term plans for a permanent Yeats exhibition, a cafe, bookshop, and space for exhibitions, lectures and classes at this most remarkable building, ‘the most important public building in Ireland’ according to the late Seamus Heaney.

The fantastic Yeats-themed items and gifts available, including rare books and hotel mini break offers, are featured here. We are hugely grateful to our donors and sponsors.

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At the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society auction on Sunday 31st May 2015 one of the items available is a fine set of the Complete Works of J.M.Synge (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1910, first edition), edited by W.B.Yeats. Yeats edited the volumes after Synge’s death, deeply affected by the example of his life and his work. Meeting Synge as a young man in Paris Yeats had urged him to go to the Aran Islands to give expression to the life there. They became friends and collaborators at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; Yeats was astonished at Synge’s genius without ever quite feeling he fully knew the man himself. After his death he wrote in ‘J.M.Synge and the Ireland of his time’ that ‘the strength that made him delight in setting the hard virtues by the soft, the bitter by the sweet, salt by mercury, the stone by the elixir, gave him a hunger for harsh facts, for ugly surprising things, for all that defies our hope.’ The volumes include this frontispiece portrait by Yeats’s father John Butler Yeats of J.M.Synge during rehearsals in 1907 for Synge’s vibrant and controversial drama The Playboy of the Western WorldYeats’s curtain speech after the orchestrated ‘riots’ that interrupted the production was a major statement in favour of artistic freedom in Ireland.

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Yeats invites you to Thoor auction

On Sunday May 31st 2015 the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society will hold a development fundraising evening at Thoor Ballylee Gort, Co. Galway in the former home of the world-famous poet William Butler Yeats. With shades of the Beatles on the roof at Savile Row or U2 from Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, the auction will take place from the rooftop of the tower. Local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV) acts as William Butler Yeats.

Funds raised will be used to re-open the tower to the public thirteen days later on the poet’s birthday (13 June) and to set in stone long-term plans for a permanent Yeats exhibition, a cafe, bookshop, and space for exhibitions, lectures and classes at this most remarkable building, ‘the most important public building in Ireland’ according to the late Seamus Heaney.

The fantastic Yeats-themed items and gifts available, including rare books and hotel mini break offers, will be featured on this website in the lead up to this event. So too will all our wonderful donors and sponsors.

 

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At the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society auction on Sunday 31st May 2015 one of the items available is a fine set of the Complete Works of J.M.Synge (Dublin: Maunsel & Co. 1910, first edition), edited by W.B.Yeats. Yeats edited the volumes after Synge’s death, deeply affected by the example of his life and his work. Meeting Synge as a young man in Paris Yeats had urged him to go to the Aran Islands to give expression to the life there. They became friends and collaborators at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin; Yeats was astonished at Synge’s genius without ever quite feeling he fully knew the man himself. After his death he wrote in ‘J.M.Synge and the Ireland of his time’ that ‘the strength that made him delight in setting the hard virtues by the soft, the bitter by the sweet, salt by mercury, the stone by the elixir, gave him a hunger for harsh facts, for ugly surprising things, for all that defies our hope.’ The volumes include this frontispiece portrait by Yeats’s father John Butler Yeats of J.M.Synge during rehearsals in 1907 for Synge’s vibrant and controversial drama The Playboy of the Western WorldYeats’s curtain speech after the orchestrated ‘riots’ that interrupted the production was a major statement in favour of artistic freedom in Ireland.

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Senate support for Thoor Ballylee

Promise of a licence for Thoor Ballylee granted in Seanad

Fáilte Ireland is to grant a licence to the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society to enable it to fundraise to re-open the tourist attraction.

Thoor Ballylee, once the home of W.B.Yeats and his family and an inspiration to his poetry, closed in 2010 after extensive flooding. Fáilte Ireland spent EU 200,000 euro in 2012 to secure the building.

The tourism authority says it’s not viable to provide funds for the re-opening of the 15th-century Norman tower.

William Butler Yeats and his wife George, 1920s

William Butler Yeats and his wife George, 1920s

Chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames raised the matter in the Seanad, in a joint venture with Senator Susan O’Keeffe, chair of the Yeats2015 committee for celebrating Yeats’s 150th birthday.

Senator Healy-Eames called on the Tourism Minister to ensure Fáilte Ireland provides a licence to the local society to fundraise to re-open the building themselves.

Senator Healy-Eames with Senator O’Keefe argued that Thoor Ballylee needs to re-open for the national celebration of the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth next year.

Responding, Junior Minister at the Department of Tourism, Michael Ring says he’s glad to announce that a licence will be granted to raise funds for Thoor Ballylee.

Once an Irish senator himself, W.B.Yeats made notable speeches in the chamber arguing passionately for the right to divorce and against strict censorship laws. The poet was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923.

Story at Galway Bay FM here.