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