Wild Swans in Coming Home

Culture Night leaving you hungry for more? Come and join us this weekend at Thoor Ballylee for an exciting al fresco play performance.

The Wild Swan Theatre Company presents:

Coming Homee

by Niall Finnegan

4pm Sunday 19 September

The Mill, Thoor Ballylee

Free Admission

In this short play written by the Wild Swan Theatre Company’s own Niall Finnegan, a chance meeting in the Burren revives both happy and sad memories for two old friends and leads to a lively conclusion…

Performed by Justin McDermott, Max Lee, Judith Gantley and Rose Finnegan.

The play is performed in the beautiful surrounds of the Yeats family’s C14th Norman Tower, Thoor Ballylee. Park in our free car park, walk up the stream, and find us by the mill.

This is an open air venue. If you wish (as well as a jumper!) do bring your own seat.

By the stream at Thoor Ballylee, Galway H91 D8F2

Wild Child at Thoor Ballylee

Come away, O human child! 

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand…

WB Yeats ‘The Stolen Child’ (1888)

Would you like to explore the natural beauty of WB Yeats’ home at Thoor Ballylee in County Galway? Hear his folk and fairy tales, make magic wands and fairy doors? Come and share his love for nature and the legends of the past?

Then join us for our Wild Child celebration this Heritage Week on Wednesday 18 August!.

The event is designed to connect children to the wild wonder of the place, and ignite the magic of the realm that Yeats so loved. There are fairy tales and fables from Yeats as well as poetry and song. We are also preparing a fairy walk with fairy volunteers imparting exciting titbits of woodland lore to children and adults.

This is a free event, but due to Covid 19 restrictions registration for workshops is necessary.

Workshops will be held at the following times:

Wild Child Workshops

Wednesday 18 August 2021

11am, 1pm, 3pm

Suitable for children under 12 years of age, and all those young at heart.

For more information and registration see Wild Child at Thoor Ballylee on Eventbrite.

Please note due to public health guidelines the interior of Thoor Ballylee remains closed for visitors. However our grounds and walks are open to all year round.

Any questions regarding the Wild Child event, please email Anna on aodonnell111@gmail.com.

Yeats Birthday Poets’ Picnic

Everyone is invited to join the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society for our annual birthday celebrations! This live picnic will be held at a socially-distanced event in the grounds of Thoor Ballylee at 3pm Sunday June 13. All attendees are invited to read their favourite Yeats poem and say why it matters to them.

Sunday marks the poet WB Yeats’ 156th birthday, but this year the committee would like especially to honour the artists Lily Yeats (her 155th birthday) and Elizabeth Yeats (her 153rd birthday) after whom the Studio at Thoor is named. 

Poetry, song, hampers, cakes, the sound of laughter and running water – all the joy of a birthday picnic – what’s not to like! Especially if you’d like to read, prospective participants should contact aodonnell111@gmail.com

Lily (Susan Mary) Yeats (1866-1949): Landscape at Night

Lily Yeats’s work as an embroiderer is increasingly highly regarded, and not before time. This fine example of her needlework earlier this year exceeded the estimate in auction, going for over nearly €7500.


Thoor Ballylee at New Year

Wishing all our friends and everyone around the world Nollaig shona dhaoibh and a happier, brighter new year.

This year many of us have lost friends, family, and colleagues, and we take a moment to remember them: in WB Yeats’s understanding, the best way of keeping them with us. Alongside luminaries such as Dr Margaret MacCurtain, at Thoor Ballylee we particularly remember two good friends, powerful advocates for women and for the arts: Mary McPartlan, singer and cultural activist whose concert closed last year’s season, and Lois Tobin, co-founder of the Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering, whose determination, generosity, and style ensured that our literary and cultural heritage was shared across generations and borders.

‘Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold’. If you have felt so this year more than ever you are not alone. ‘The Second Coming’, written during a worldwide Spanish flu pandemic when Yeats’s wife George was pregnant and dangerously ill the disease, has been on many lips. The poem, celebrating its one hundredth anniversary after first publication in the The Dial of November 1920, seems curiously made for modern times, as this advent rereading discovers.  

Elihu Vedder, The Questioner of the Sphinx (1863)

Yet Thoor Ballylee stands. With your ongoing help and support, the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society charged with its guardianship emerges from the old year if anything stronger. While Thoor Ballylee was closed to physical visitors for most of the year, we have been open for virtual events, and began a series of films highlighting the place and its hidden delights.

Work has begun on our mill wheel, as part of our plan to remake with craft in metal and wood the fine centrepiece of the old mill just downstream from Yeats’s tower.

While physical labour is paused due to winter flooding, our astonishing volunteers, engineer Eugene Murphy and his team, have produced these blueprints for the new wheel, looking like something out of Yeats’s A Vision:

Eugene Murphy, Mill wheel plan (detail), Ballylee (2020)

This is the first step in a larger project to restore the old mill to become a fitting endpoint of glorious millstream walk. Donations are now open: take this chance to have your name remembered as part of this enduring project. Email us for details of how to sponsor a paddle board! Or as ever donations named or anonymous for this and all our work are gratefully received here.

As every year, The Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering made a big impression in September. Held virtually this year, and featuring contributions by (among others) Druid director Gary Hynes, and curator of the New York Public Library Exhibition James Pethica, this means events are still available to view online.

This year the DruidGregory project brought the plays of Lady Gregory in outdoor productions nearby Coole Park and other locations in Galway. With them they brought W.B. Yeats’s poems in performance, with fine videos available supported by the Poetry Foundation.

FeliSpeaks reads WB Yeats, ‘When You Are Old’ at Coole Park

Coole Park and the wonders of the heavens were also celebrated in this live outdoor concert by The Coole Players, featuring Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and exciting new commissions.

The International Yeats Society held a virtual conference this December in Lodz, Poland, on the topic of Yeats and Popular Culture – with full details available on this website.

One hundred years ago, as the year was reaching an end, Yeats was finishing his poem ‘All Soul’s Night’. The strange spiritual revelations he and his wife George were investigating held out the promise of new beginnings – not always comfortable, but rich in thought:

I have a marvellous thing to say,

A certain marvellous thing

None but the living mock,

Though not for sober ear;

It may be all that hear

Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.

In this spirit we wish all our friends around the world a rich and revelatory new year, and we look forward to welcoming you all back to Galway and to Thoor Ballylee, spiritually and in person.

Swans on the road to Thoor Ballylee (photograph and film by Rena McAllen)

Then and Now: stories and folklore at Kiltartan and Thoor

THEN AND NOW

our intangible culture in South Galway

 

Celebrating folklore & storytelling for Heritage Week

with playwright Marina Carr

storyteller Rory O’ Shaughnessy 

folklorist and musician PJ Curtis

and the children of Kiltartan

 

Saturday 15 August 2-5pm Kiltartan Gregory Museum

Saturday 22 August 2-5pm Thoor Ballylee

On Saturday, 15 August 2-5pm  children are invited to come to the Kiltartan Museum  2pm-5pm to see the copybooks of the children who visited their grandparents, parents and elderly neighbours a hundred years ago, and wrote down their customs and beliefs in the copybooks which will be on view in the museum.  The children of today can see the museum and embark on a similar project: to visit their older relations and neighbours and to record in notebooks or on their phones, over the months until Christmas, the ways and practices of today in beliefs, customs, cures, stories  and so on. The storyteller, Rory O’ Shaughnessy, will be on hand to help, and there will be other talks outdoors,  and a picnic in the museum grounds.

On the following Saturday, 22 August 2 -5pm pm,  we will follow up, outdoors at Thoor Ballylee, with the children who have decided to take on the project,  as well as their families and any interested people. The playwright Marina Carr will talk about Lady Gregory’s folklore collections, and about myths and legends of old  – and the folklore and musical expert and historian, PJ Curtis will be present with others to picnic and to share stories and knowledge to get this enjoyable heritage project started with gusto!

Notebooks and support will be provided during this winter and we plan a booklet and recording of the findings and an award celebration in 2021.

For more contact Lelia Doolan, Yvonne Nolan, Nichola Baverstock, Rena McAllen – try  086 825 2164!

 

 

Thoor Ballylee blooms for Yeats’s birthday

Every year a Poet’s Picnic is held in celebration of the birthday of WB Yeats. This year is no different. On afternoon of Saturday 13 June 2020 from 2 pm, the poet’s tower in Galway hosts a video event of poetry, music, and memories. This is the first in a series of events held all summer long at Thoor Ballylee, as the tower opens virtually and for outdoor visitors in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

or go to

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

We are delighted to say the waters have long gone, our volunteers and staff have removed all sand bags, tidied away all flotsam, and the gardens are thriving: these are all recent photographs! Though due to current restrictions we have not been yet allowed inside, the grounds are spectacular for visitors. And this weekend Thoor Ballylee blooms again to celebrate the 155th birthday of WB Yeats.

First, a reminder of our story.

WB Yeats bought the old Norman tower at Ballylee for a song in 1916, and had it renovated by local builder Michael Rafferty under the direction of architect William A. Scott, with whom Yeats had a lively relationship, describing him on one occasion as a ‘drunken genius’. With its attached thatched cottage it became a comfortable summer home for his wife George and their two children, Michael and Anne, and the Yeats family returned year after year.

Living there inspired Yeats to write some of his best poetry. Fruits of this work were published in two volumes considered by critics among his best: The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair (1933). They contain such poems as ‘The Tower’, ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, ‘Coole Park 1929’, ‘Blood and the Moon’, and many others, some featured in this weekend’s birthday celebrations.

The Winding Stair (1933) cover by Thomas Sturge Moore

The tower, which Yeats named Thoor Ballylee, fell into disrepair after the poet’s death in 1939. It was given by the children of the poet to Board Failte, who opened it as a tourist information office, while offering tours showing its extraordinary literary heritage.

Built by the de Burgo family in the 14th century as a Hiberno-Norman stronghold, the tower stands beside the Streamstown River and is subject to sporadic winter flooding. It truly is a livestream: the floods have been severe in recent years, so in 2009 the tower was shut by Failte Ireland who decided that it was no longer economically viable. It remained closed until a group of volunteers, with the grand-sounding name of Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, appealed to Failte Ireland to let them re-open the Tower as a visitor centre once again. This was granted, and after restoration and repair work the tower was opened with music and song in June 2015, the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birth. Exhibitions, tours, and all kinds of cultural events have attracted thousands of visitors. His birthday has been celebrated there ever since.

This summer, these events are set to continue. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society continues to adhere to all the COVID-19 guidelines from the Government of Ireland. While this does not currently allow for visitors inside the tower, the Society continues to host special events with social distancing in place in the grounds, by the mill wheel, by the river, and online.

In addition to the Poet’s Picnic taking place this Saturday 13 June 2020, there are ambitious plans in the coming year to hold the type of events the tower has become famous for: poetry readings, plays, musical get-togethers, talks of historical, natural, and literary interest, including virtual multimedia tours, talks, and readings from WB Yeats’s inspirational home, and from our new studio space dedicated to art and cultural workshops which opened just last year.

This summer the magic of the tower can thus be experienced in a number of ways. The grounds remain open to visitors practising social distancing, while the tower hosts small gatherings for invited attendees, and an exciting series of events broadcast to the world by video or audio link.

WB Yeats Poet’s Picnic 2pm 13 June 2020

Visit Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society Facebook Page

Livestream on

https://www.facebook.com/yeatsthoorballylee/live/

https://www.facebook.com/events/317595142567428/

To donate to this voluntary group, our webpage yeatsthoorballylee.org has updates, and see also the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society facebook page. Visitors this summer still be able to enjoy the charm of Ballylee, and perhaps agree that it is the perfect place for a poet to rest and write.

 

Thoor Ballylee rises again

In these trying times it is a pleasure to report some good news.

The recent spell of dry weather has enabled Thoor Ballylee once more to stand proud of the waters. Here is Yeats’s tower yesterday morning in spring sunshine.

IMG_2200

We have come a long way.

At their height, floodwaters reached nearly to the top of the windows.

Earlier in the month, what Yeats called ‘the road by my door’ was a river.

cof_vivid

And the bridge was invisible from view.

oznor_vivid

Even on St Patrick’s Day there was still waters surrounding the tower:

Thoor low flood

Now the flood waters have finally begun to pass, the job can begin of recovery and cleaning. As soon as social distancing guidelines allow.

In the meantime, stay well and stay safe. Remember poetry and art in these times: Thoor Ballylee will still be here for visits when we get back to normal. If you wish to help with our clean up and recovery effort, join us or donate: go to our Donate page.

In case you missed it, a reminder of why Thoor Ballylee is so important to Ireland and to all admirers of WB Yeats and his family: Roy Foster in the Irish Times on Thoor Ballylee.

Thoor Ballylee year in review

The last year represents one of our most successful years ever here at Yeats’s Tower. The opening of the Studio at Thoor Ballylee represented 2019’s biggest achievement, and one that will keep giving for many years to come. With generous support, we completed in double-quick time the conversion of the Yeats family’s old garage into a new vibrant space for workshops, events, education, art, and community, further enriching this place full of poetry and creativity.

By October 2019, when the curtain came down on our fifth season open at Thoor Ballylee, an estimated 4, 580 visitors had come and experienced the magic of Yeats’s tower. With your help we hope 2020 can be even better! Your continuing support is much appreciated.

The season at Thoor Ballylee opened on Easter Saturday in late April, with spring springing and with tea and Easter Bunny cake kindly provided by our generous and longest serving volunteer, Tonii. This was just the warm up for our regular readings and celebrations for Yeats’s birthday party, held every year (with cake!) on or around 13 June.

‘Sailing to Byzantium’

Launching the Studio at Thoor Ballylee was our first major event of the season.  Guest of honour and speaker of a fine welcoming address was the inimitable Sabina Higgins. Spoken poetry came from poet Mary O Malloy, and was followed by a  fluid rendition of ‘The Salley Gardens’ by soprano, Helen Hancock. Doing the honours of the official opening in cutting the ribbon was our very own esteemed author and educator Sr Mary de Lourdes Fahy.

The exhibition, assembled from materials from our own and NUI Galway’s archives, featured women artists like Elizabeth Rivers and especially the work of Elizabeth and Lily Yeats, in arts and crafts, printing and embroidery, after whom the studio is dedicated. Pride of place went to exquisite embroidered banners designed and made by the Yeats family and female workforce at Dun Emer workshop, rarely seen outside their home St Brendan’s Cathedral Loughrea, woven under the direction of Lily Yeats and featuring saints designed by Jack B. Yeats and his wife Mary Cottenham Yeats. Presiding over the studio space and presenting an expert weaving demonstration was Kathy Mooney. Later in the year the Studio at Thoor Ballylee was the venue for a day of spinning and weaving, now becoming a very popular annual event.

Elizabeth Rivers, from Stranger in Aran, Cuala Press (1946)

So already the Studio at Thoor Ballylee has been put to good use. Local artist, Cindy Lund, came to reside in there  for a week, creating some amazing original work, attracting other artists, giving local children an opportunity to draw in Yeats’s garage, while generating great interest in Thoor.

The studio was also the venue for weekly evening classes with Jackie Quelly, a lecture on Maud Gonne’s Men, by Anthony J. Jordan, an embroidery workshop with Sandra from Sacra King Irish Fibre Crafters and an exhibition and various artistic activities by the wonderful Kinvara Sanctuary group. Later as part of the Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn gathering Marina Carr came to give an expert playwrighting workshop here.

Marion Cox in conversation with Marina Carr

We are indeed indebted to Denis Creaven, from the Institute of Education, who has faithfully, year after year, given his two day mid-term lectures to Leaving Cert students, free gratis, with all proceeds going to Thoor Ballylee.

The mill by the river, on a sunny summer’s day in June, was the setting for a joint recital by Coole Music and an incredible youth orchestra from Norway, conducted by Katherina Baker. Two weeks later we were treated to an afternoon of medieval music by the junior members of Coole Music, fittingly attired in medieval costumes, performing in our medieval tower house.

To mark Heritage week, field archaeologist Dr Christy Cunniffe gave a talk and presentation on vernacular houses. Anna O Donnell gave an fascinating demonstration on the story of butter and butter making while soprano Helen Hancock delighted us with an evening of opera and the story of song. On Culture Night two rare performances occurred at Thoor of Yeats’s and Augusta Gregory’s The Pot of Broth  by a pioneering local theatre group. This was followed by Anna O Donnell‘s own broth tasting, and with Lelia Doolan’s insights into the family life of the Yeatses, audiences went away fully satisfied.

In September we were, once again, honoured to host The Lady Gregory and Yeats Autumn Gathering, and the studio and tower was the host for important sessions on women’s writing and creativity. As noted, internationally renowned playwright Marina Carr with Head of Drama at Trinity College, Dublin, Melissa Sihra, conducted a workshop for playwrights in the studio. Film producer Lelia Doolan gave an enlightening lecture on the actress and artistic director Ria Mooney and the Abbey Theatre, while the local Wild Swan Theatre group brought the weekend to a close with their premiere production of a new play, Lady Gregory’s Ingredients.

World renowned storyteller, Martin Shaw (Cista Mystica) chose Thoor Ballylee as the Irish venue for his sold-out story telling workshop and evening performance. This event attracted participants from as far afield as Germany and New Zealand, and proved a most successful event in terms of enjoyment and publicity. A film made by Grant Thompson around the event with Martin Shaw at Thoor Ballylee discussing Yeats  was featured on social media and widely viewed.

Thoor Ballylee ended the year as it began as a hub for the arts and for community: the many musical events in the series included expert local group The Burren Bandits while Máirtín O Connor, Garry O Brien and singer Mary McPartlan brought another busy season to a close.

Thoor Ballylee would like to give thanks for the generosity of our amazing 2019 volunteers: Rosemary, Rose, Tonii, Karen, Liam, Gus, Pat O Looney, Pat Farrell.For their never-ending help, our Tús members: Khrystof , Dominic, Joe, and Frank (CE scheme).  To JJ and family members for manning the car park, controlling the traffic, lighting our way in the dark and helping where needed. And to our never-failing staff  Eoghan MacDonagh and the dedicated Nichola.

All this hard work, dedication, and passion for W.B. Yeats, for Thoor Ballylee, and for the arts and Galway culture, was fittingly rewarded in when we were awarded the prestigious Cathaoirleach’s (Mayor’s) Award for Arts and Culture 2019.

Marion Cox, Rena McAllen, Colm Farrell, Anna O Donnell, Lelia Doolan of the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society

All this, and we couldn’t have done it all without you!  Despite our recent success in winning a competitive Government of Ireland grant to help open the studio, we rely entirely on volunteers and private donations to keep going, and making sure Yeats’s legacy is preserved and open for worldwide visitors and new generations. Please come and visit us in the new season, and if you can become a friend or donate to our fund!

Grand Season Closing Concert

Come and celebrate our 2019 season with a grand Yeatsian evening of poetry, music, song, and stories.

And enjoy of course the warm hospitality of our Thoor hosts, and the chance to ascend the tower one last time in 2019.

Grand Season Closing Concert at Thoor Ballylee

Máirtín O’Connor and Garry O’Briain
with
Mary McPartlan

A grand Yeatsian evening of music, song, & stories featuring box, guitar, and singing

Saturday 19th October 8pm
Tickets 15 euro
Call 0858620935 or email
yeatsthoorballyleesociety@gmail.com

 

Lady Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering

THE LADY GREGORY–YEATS AUTUMN GATHERING

Friday 27- Sunday 29 September 2019

Join the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering and discover more about our rich literary heritage in Galway, especially at Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee.

This year the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering features a playwriting workshop with Marina Carr and Melissa Sihra and includes exclusive talks from guest speakers, drama, film from the archives, and plenty of chat and socialising.

Playwright Marina Carr in rehearsal

To mark the 25th anniversary of the annual Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering at Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee, playwright Marina Carr and academic Melissa Sihra, conduct a playwriting workshop at Thoor Ballylee. Join one of Ireland’s greatest living dramatists for this unique opportunity. This workshop will take place in The Studio at Thoor Ballylee on Friday 27 September from 2pm to 5pm. To join this exclusive event email monaleen@msn.com – playwrights are invited to submit a one-page monologue in advance and places are limited.

Further highlights include:

Book launch: Marina Carr: Pastures of the Unknown, by Melissa Sihra
Cutting of the Gort Barm Brack by Lady Gregory’s great, great grandson, Robin Murray Brown
Women, Anxiety and Resistance in Fairy Legends Collected by Lady Gregory with Lucy McDiarmid
Patronage and Friendship: Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats with Nicholas Grene
The Making of a Drama: Lady Gregory 1908-1910 with Anthony Roche
Other Women Pioneers at the Abbey with Lelia Doolan
Augusta in America: Lady Gregory finds a new audience, new voice and fresh sphere of influence in the New World with Cecily O’Neill
Lady G: screening of Carolyn Swift’s one-woman Abbey Theatre performance, with Barry Houlihan

and

‘Lady Gregory’s Ingredients’ short drama play which takes place at Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’s castle home.

Plus entertainment and candlelit dinner amidst the woodland of Coole Park!

Please see www.autumngathering.com for more details.