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.

Thoor Ballylee reopens for 2017

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.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

Come and view our spectacular exhibitions…

…and our regular programme of cultural events.

The Curlew Theatre perform Cathleen Ni Houlihan

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.

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

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 yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com and you can like us and stay abreast on our facebook page. Do please keep in touch!

 

Thoor Ballylee receives Creative Ireland boost

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.

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Contestants at the Thoor Ballylee Poetry Slam, 2016

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.

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Thoor Ballylee reopening in June

We are delighted to announce that Thoor Ballylee will be opening again in June 2016. After being affected by winter flooding, the tower remains sound, and work has begun cleaning and refitting the tower ready for the summer. Thank you for your support so far! We’ve a way to go, so here’s how you can help further.

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As you can see, the water is abated, and the exterior of the tower is unaffected. This is the view before recent jet cleaning. Flooding has been affecting the local area, but we’re happy to report things are improving.

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Yeats always imagined his tower as in tune with the seasons, and the engraving of his poem shows some of the high water marks over the winter.

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We’re very pleased to say that all is far from being in ‘ruin once again’! Work is ongoing to restore the tower to its pristine condition, and a full set of exhibitions and events planned.

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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.

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Accounts of many of last years events can be viewed in our blog.

Thoor Ballylee has been affected by winter flooding near Gort and South County Galway but we are glad to report that it is structurally sound, and being readied for reopening. The Society had a good flood action plan in place, all electrical fittings were refitted to ceiling height in recent years and the contents of the tower were removed at the end of October. As the weather improves jet cleaning has taken place and Thoor Ballylee is starting to look like her old self. There’s still job to be done, and continued support and volunteers for this vital, but the tower’s planned summer opening in June 2016 will not be affected.

Flooding before Christmas near Thoor Ballylee

Flooding before Christmas near Thoor Ballylee

There is more to do, and many more events and exhibitions planned for this year, itself representing an important anniversary of the Easter Rising, events remembered  in Yeats’s poem ‘Easter 1916’.

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 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 yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com and you can like us and stay abreast on our facebook page. Do please keep in touch!

We would like to say a big thank you to all our friends, supporters, volunteers, and visitors for their generosity and support. This coming year will feature a new programme of events, new challenges, and new excitements.

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

Some testimonials from our 2015 visitors book:
“A very enjoyable visit and thanks for a warm welcome and the spirit of Yeats”
“I now see where Yeats drew his inspiration from  for “haunting, beautiful”! Keep up the good work, great tour and guiding”
“Amazing gem, absolutely stunning and definitely well worth a visit”
“A life long dream for me to visit here”
“Great to visit and the video is really good”
“Very lovely view for the top, great peace here”
“A treasure. Beautiful place and space, art, hospitality and Irish spirit, go raibh maith agat W.B.Yeats!”

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Happy New Year from Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society!

Happy new year from all at the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society! We would like to say a big thank you to all our friends, supporters, volunteers, and visitors for their generosity and support throughout 2015. This coming year will feature a new programme of events, new challenges, and new excitements.

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Volunteers 2015

The doors of Thoor Ballylee officially opened on the occasion of W.B. Yeats’s 150th birthday on June 13th. In this anniversary year of Yeats2015 the tower played a huge role in the international commemorations celebrating the poet, playwright, and Nobel Prize winner. Since its reopening a warm welcome has been extended to over 4,000 visitors with the support of more than thirty local volunteers who welcomed, guided and entertained visitors seven days a week.

The Society was overwhelmed with the goodwill of supporters near and far throughout the year. Visits from ministers raised the profile of the building, while Joseph Hassett, our generous American Yeats scholar provided funds for upcoming new exhibitions. 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.

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We opened our international education program with visits from scholars and leading Yeats academics during the Cúirt International Literary Festival in April, and important visits from the Sligo Yeats Summer School in August followed by the International Yeats Society visit in October. The first in a series of lectures for senior school students took place during the October Mid-term Break with a lecture by Denis Creaven on the works of W.B. Yeats. Our collaboration with the Yeats and the West exhibition at NUI Galway helped visitor numbers and engagment at both venues.

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Throughout the summer, the tower hosted many artistic and cultural performances. Poetry Day kicked off the celebrations on the 7th of May. The Wild Swan Theatre Group performed a newly written play, “The Tower”. American duo, Joseph Sobol & Kathy Cowan performed “In the Deep Heart’s Core”. Culture Night was organised in collaboration with the Burren Lowlands and the Gort Library with a unique evening’s entertainment of music and drama. The tower was also the venue for the 2015 Autumn Gathering with a performance of “The Muse and Mr. Yeats”, a play performed by The Curlew Theatre Company. Then, the London Irish Theatre Company brought “Lady Gregory, A Galway Life” to Thoor Ballylee . As part of the Cooley Collins Festival, distinguished musician Claire Egan launched her Debut CD, “Turning Tides”. Local artists, inspired by the poetry of Yeats also provided a magnificent exhibition of paintings for the tower. Accounts of many of these events can be viewed in our blog.

Yeats Harp Moons

Our year culminated with the celebration of the Harp Festival of Moons event. Caitríona Yeats, Solo Harpist at the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and granddaughter of W.B. Yeats, was a special guest and performer at this memorable evening.

In aid of the tower we also had auctions, birthday events, and lots more. It is your kindness as friends, volunteers, visitors, and donors that have made this possible.

Thoor Ballylee has been affected by recent flooding but we are relieved to report that it is structurally sound. The Society had a good flood action plan in place, all electrical fittings were refitted to ceiling height in recent years and the contents of the tower were removed at the end of October. While there is a considerable clearing-out job to be done, and continued support and volunteers for this vital, there is every expectation that the tower’s planned spring opening will not be affected.

Flooding before Christmas near Thoor Ballylee

Flooding before Christmas near Thoor Ballylee

There is more to do, and many more events and exhibitions planned for this year, itself representing an important anniversary of the Easter Rising, events remembered in Yeats’s poem ‘Easter 1916’.

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 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 yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com and you can like us and stay abreast on our facebook page. Do please keep in touch!

Some testimonials from our 2015 visitors book:
“A very enjoyable visit and thanks for a warm welcome and the spirit of Yeats”
“I now see where Yeats drew his inspiration from  for “haunting, beautiful”! Keep up the good work, great tour and guiding”
“Amazing gem, absolutely stunning and definitely well worth a visit”
“A life long dream for me to visit here”
“Great to visit and the video is really good”
“Very lovely view for the top, great peace here”
“A treasure. Beautiful place and space, art, hospitality and Irish spirit, go raibh maith agat W.B.Yeats!”

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The New York Times discovers Thoor Ballylee

As the weather starts to close in for winter, there are still some exciting events to attend at Thoor Ballylee, representing rare chances for visitors to view the interior of the tower during the winter months.  Here follows the opening of what The New York Times writer Dan Barry had to say about Thoor Ballylee. You can read more here.
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BALLYLEE, Ireland — In the County Galway parish of Kiltartan, in this bit of a place called Ballylee, a lichen-flecked tower rises from the wet ground to lord over cow and stream and the occasional otter. Its limestone walls shelter a protected species of bats, some field mice and a perpetual dampness evoking the must of the past.

The tower also harbors a significant piece of the legacy of William Butler Yeats, whose birth 150 years ago has been cause for a year of celebration throughout Ireland and the world. The poet spent many summers in the tower he christenedThoor Ballylee, and it inspired some of his most enduring work.

Over the years, though, the Norman tower has encountered natural challenges so daunting that the Irish government had to shut it down as a tourist site. The damaging floods of winter seemed to fulfill an oracular poem displayed on the tower’s face:

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.

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Yeats auction portrait

A portrait of Yeats by Brian Gallagher features at the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society auction.

Limited edition prints of this unique artwork will be available to buy at the event which takes place on the roof of Thoor Ballyee, Co. Galway on Sunday 31 May 2015.

 

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The original is currently open for viewing at the

Dublin Painting and Sketching Club
 137th Annual Exhibition

open until 26th April 2015 at

The Concourse Gallery

County Hall, Dun Laoghaire

In addition to a wide selection of paintings by Clubs’ 90 members this year’s Exhibition will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of W B Yeats and include paintings inspired by his poetry.

The Exhibition is sponsored by Whyte’s and supported by an Arts Grant from Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown Co. Council Arts Office.

Yeats Auction

On Sunday May 31st 2015, 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 by local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV), acting 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 for the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society‘s 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.

The Galway Advertiser feature on this unique event is linked here. 

To give to this fundraising effort go to our donate page or contact us at yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com

Yeats rooftop auction

On 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 by local Auctioneer, Colm Farrell (MIPAV), acting 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.

The Galway Advertiser feature on this unique event is linked here. 

To give to this fundraising effort go to our donate page or contact us at yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com.

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Development project on UTV

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society development project is the subject of a feature news item on UTV.

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The video (see link) describes the local and international significance of the tower and features Colm Farrell and Sister De Lourdes Fahy, who recount family memories of the poet:

‘For many people, W.B. Yeats is commonly associated with Co Sligo but it was in fact in Co Galway that the famous poet spent thirty summers and penned some of his most memorable work.

Speaking to UTV Ireland, Sister De Lourdes Fahy of the Thoor Ballylee Society said: “My people owned quite a bit of land around the castle and they used to supply the Yeats family with milk.

“Very often my father brought Yeats down in the pony-and-trap from Thoor Ballylee down to Coole Park. He did not talk, he didn’t have much in common with young farmers. He loved writing about peasants and fishermen but in actual fact he found it difficult to relate to them.

“I suppose he was composing poetry all the time,” she added.

The locals are now facing a much more ambitious plan – to raise one million euro by June, the 150th anniversary of his birth.

“It’s our goal to restore the tower, re-open it and develop it into a world-class cultural centre to honour his memory, his heritage, his poetry, his links with this area – and his links with lots of other literary figures, around the Literary Revival, around 1916,” said chair of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames.’

Thoor Ballylee

Welcome to Thoor Ballylee, the Hiberno-Norman tower described by Seamus Heaney as the most important building in Ireland. It is a fine and well-preserved fourteenth-century tower but its significance is due to its close association with his fellow Nobel laureate for literature, the poet W.B.Yeats. It was here the poet spent summers with his family and was inspired to write some of his finest poetry, making the tower his permanent symbol. The tower and associated cottages can still be viewed but are currently closed following flood damage and extensive repair work. A local group the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society has come together and are actively seeking funds to ensure its permanent restoration and opening. Below is Robert Gregory’s vision of the tower and environs, sketched before his death fighting in Italy in 1918. Once the tower is fully restored it is hoped that once again it will become a cultural centre for reverie and reflection for visitors from around the world.

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Robert Gregory, Ballylee Castle, c.1916