New Year at Thoor Ballylee

Remembering the time of WB Yeats’s death eighty-four years ago, when according to WH Auden he ‘disappeared in the dead of winter’, this year sees WB Yeats’s 158th birthday, and the 100th anniversary of his Nobel Prize for Literature from 1923. At Thoor Ballylee we look back and look forward: we reflect on the past year’s happenings, and anticipate the exciting new season.

The clear out of the exhibitions and fittings in the tower and cottage has long been complete and flood barriers are in place until the spring. Many coats of paint were applied to the downstairs area; rich velvet curtains replaced rotten door & jambs (with the help of Anderson contractors); the audio-visual presentation is newly updated ready for the new year. Through this frosty winter the tower waits in welcome, as for so many years, for pilgrims and visitors from around the world.

2022 Season

Following an enforced two-year closure, we were delighted to back in business to in-person, on-site visitors. The past twelve months for Thoor Ballylee brought lots of hard work and many challenges, but it was our pleasure to welcome back three thousand visitors during the 2022 season, all eager to explore the home of WB Yeats and attend the many organised events.

This year’s season opening began with a warm welcome back as we hosted afternoon tea at Thoor Ballylee. This was followed by an evening concert with Ciaran Cannon & guests, all in aid of the Gort Welcomes Ukraine Fund.

The season also featured:

Two performances of Yeats Joyce and Nora by our local Wild Swan Theatre Company;

an evening with Soprano Helen Hancock;

the annual Poet’s Picnic for WB Yeats, attended by our generous benefactor, Joe Hassett;

…and a special performance of Nora by The Curlew Theatre Company, to mark Bloomsday 100 years of James Joyce’s Ulysses, with musical interlude by Nicola and Karina Cahill.

All week long during Heritage Week as ever the local community took the chance to engage, and the Studio @ Thoor Ballylee was the venue for a book launch on the History of the GAA by Steve Dolan.

For Culture Night Jo Beth Young and guests treated us to an enchanting evening of stories and song with her Shadow Navigation Show.

The long-awaited in-person return of the Yeats Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering brought many Augusta Gregory and Yeats enthusiasts, including many Gregory family members, to Thoor, which hosted day two of the Gathering.

The return of The Songbirds brought our visitor events for 2022 to a close.

But that was not all. Thoor Ballylee was represented at the inaugural Gort Community Fair.

The Society was chosen as a delegate in the EU’s Cultural Heritage in Action Programme and was included on the list of Best Practice Sites in Europe.

Mary Hanley’s sons paid a visit and donated a precious and valuable collection of books to the tower.

And schools and education groups returned to the tower to learn about its history and heritage.

We hosted a civil wedding ceremony for a lovely Texan couple and a several wedding parties chose Thoor and its surroundings for wedding day photos.

And his was a year for documentaries! – starring Miriam Margolyes, Julia Bradbury, and our own Ronnie O’Gorman and Rena McAllen. Highlighting the natural world and cultural impact of Thoor Ballylee, RTE, Channel 4, Bat Conservation Ireland, and a German TV crew came to film in the tower beside the stream at Ballylee.

Acknowledgments

We are indebted to our generous benefactors for their continued support. This year with their help we were able to acquire an original Elizabeth Corbett Yeats picture from 1934.

Our thanks go to our army of volunteers and craftworkers and professional contractors helping us at Thoor Ballylee.

Most of all, our appreciation goes to the fantastic group of volunteers (ten of whom joined our team this year) who threw open the doors and shutters, lit the fire and the candles and welcomed in the many guests, pre-booked tours, schoolchildren, and other groups and individual visitors, seven days a week over a period of six months. We thank Pat O Looney, Paul O Donnell, Tonii Kelly, Pauline Kennelly, John Morgan, Aidan Eames, Anne Leahy, Gerry Conneely, Dido, Ruth Lynch Delassus, Gerry Wynne, and more! The call for a Meitheal for the spring clean was responded to with much enthusiasm.

To our reliable car park team Gus and JJ who guaranteed our safety during events, thank you, and for lighting our way to the tower – so spectacularly – thank you JJ Finn.

To our mainstays – the hardworking Nichola Baverstock and Anthony Coppinger – Míle Buíochas.

All requests re maintenance were speedily addressed by local partners: shutters were replaced and painted, presses, windows & doors repaired, a new boiler installed, leaking toilet fixed and a grand new bridge erected in the picnic park.

Thanks go to Eugene Murphy, work on renovating and reinstating the mill wheel continues. The project has caught the interest of former Minister and TD Frank Fahey and other locals, and as a result, a fundraising drive has been set in motion to fund the restoration of the mill wheel.

Let us not forget the tremendous support of Failte Ireland and our many donors and friends.

We have completed another successful and inspiring year at Thoor Ballylee. Whether flood waters arrive or not, we look forward to a wonderful new year in 2023.

Míle Buíochas do cách. Meanwhile if you’d like to contribute however modestly to all the cultural and community work that we do and to the upkeep of this unique building and surrounds please visit our donate page.

Our first visitors of 2023 came all the way from Tennessee! We hope to see you too during this coming season.

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering

Join us for the 28th annual Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2022!

Saturday 24 September 2022

0930-1600 (Coole Time)

and

Sunday 25 September 2022

1000-1400 (Thoor Ballylee Time)

In Coole Park, Lady Gregory provided the space and support needed by the literary giants of the time to shape the nation’s artistic and literary response to events. At Thoor Ballylee WB Yeats wrote some of his finest poems responding to monumental national events like the Irish Civil War. The magic of the Autumn Gathering is to bring people together from all corners of the world – to listen and learn, laugh and share, with academics and artists, local historians and literary figures; to meet descendants of Lady Gregory and Yeats, renew friendships and make new friends – all enjoying and celebrating the prominent role of Lady Gregory in shaping the theatrical, poetic and cultural life which thrives today.

After registration from 9.30, to mark the 90th anniversary of Lady Gregory, Jane Murray Brown, Great-Granddaughter of Lady Gregory, will formally open the Gathering at Coole Park Visitor Centre on Saturday at 10.00 and cut the famous Barm Brack.  Barry Houlihan, Archivist NUIG, will Chair the Gathering. Christopher Griffin, Smithsonian Journeys Lecturer, will speak of Gregory, Yeats, and the Political Violence in the Gort Area 1919-1923.  Dr. Cecily O’Neill, Author and international authority on Drama Education and Theatre, will present Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man: Letters of John B. Yeats from New York. Ella Swift Redding, a self-confessed Lady Gregory ‘SuperNerd’ since her Master’s thesis at Trinity College, and Creatrix of Burly Mermaid Media, will present Revolutions Ahead — Augusta Gregory’s Bold Spin with Victorian Bicycling.  Enjoy the Open Forum with our speakers and Robin Murray Brown, Great-great Grandson of Lady Gregory, and a guided walk in Coole Park Nature Reserve courtesy of the National Parks & Wildlife Service.

On Sunday at 10.00 in Thoor Ballylee, Ronnie O’Gorman, Director Autumn Gathering and Thoor Ballylee, will share The Unexpected Gift of BooksAnna O’Donnell, Chair Thoor Ballylee, will speak about the Mill Wheel Restoration and the Biodiversity Project at Thoor Ballylee, including George’s Garden and WB’s Poetry! Also, a second staging of Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man: Letters of John B. Yeats from New York will be held in the tower.

Saturday Cost: €60 per person, tea/coffee/barm brack break included.  Lunch can be purchased in Coole Park Tearooms.  Candlelight Dinner and Entertainment in Coole on Saturday evening at 1900 – €75 per person. Please advise your guest numbers asap.

Sunday Cost: €20 per person, tea/coffee break and lunch included; pay at door of Thoor Ballylee.

For full details please go to https://autumngathering.com/programme/

For booking, please go to: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/lady-gregory-yeats-autumn-gathering-2022-tickets-414867859937

To advance book the Thoor Ballylee Sunday leg go to: Thoor Ballylee Gregory gathering eventbrite

You can also contact the event organiser on:

Marion Cox email: monaleen@msn.com  Tel: 086-8053917. https://autumngathering.com

We look forward to welcoming you!

Heritage Week at Thoor Ballylee

Hurling heritage

On Saturday August 20th at 3pm, a free lecture at Yeats’ Tower, Thoor Ballylee, explores the hurling heritage of Galway. It highlights the dominance of South Galway in the early history of the GAA, and the season of 1910 which saw Ardrahan win the biggest ever county championship. Limited edition charity booklets on Ardrahan’s triumph in the Big Season of 1910 [€10 each] will be available with all proceeds going to Kiltartan Museum and Thoor Ballylee.

Wild Swans Theatre

On Sunday 21 August at 6pm Heritage week is concluded by a play performed by The Wild Swan Theatre company. Written by Joe Hassett and directed by Marion Cahill-Collins, this explores the intertwined lives of Yeats and Joyce and Nora Barnacle. Admission to the play which starts at 6pm inside the tower is €10 with tickets available on the door.

Ukraine Refugees Tea and Poetry Day Ireland

Tea for Ukraine Refugees

On Saturday 30th April Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is hosting a fundraiser in aid of the Ukrainian refugee crisis. It is a fitting venue as much of Yeats’s work, including “Meditations in Time of Civil War”, conceived and written at Thoor Ballylee, considered the nature of war and violence, and led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The event on April 30th 2022 will consist of a afternoon tea served at the cottage in the 14th century tower between 3pm and 4.30pm.

You will be spoiled with a selection of delicious treats kindly provided by local restaurateurs and businesses.

A photograph from the event: all proceeds go to Ukrainian refugee organizations. For more details visit here. And below Nicolay Homenko shows off his artistic skills – this piece was created during the concert!

Poetry Day Ireland

Poetry Day Ireland takes place today, Thursday 28 April 2022. The theme is ‘Written in the Stars’.

Poetry Ireland ask us all to share a poem, read a poem, speak a poem, participate in a Poetry Day Ireland event or programme your own event on the day. Everyone is invited to join in and celebrate, just remember to tag them on #PoetryDayIrl. 

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society joins in with this weird millennial poem from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899). It refers to a mythical battle of ancient Ireland whose terrifying violence seems to come again, whereupon the speaker humbly submits in peace before the fates written in the stars, dictated by the demiurge, or prime mover of the heavens.

‘The Valley of the Black Pig’

The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears

Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,

And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries

Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.

We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,

The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,

Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you

Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.

WB Yeats, from The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

‘AE’ (George Russell), ‘Lordly Ones Appearing to a Turf Cutter’

27th Lady Gregory-Yeats Gathering – online!

The Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering are delighted to invite you to the 27th edition of the Autumn Gathering.

7pm (Irish Time) Saturday 25 September 2021 (online)

This year’s gathering features a wealth of exciting speakers packed into a short programme. Plus it is available to all-comers anywhere in the world, as it is being celebrated online (see link below).

Lady Gregory 1893, pastel by Lisa Stillman

7pm (Irish Time) Saturday 25 September 2021 (online via Zoom)

Melissa Sihra, Head of Drama and Associate Professor School of Creative Arts, Trinity College Dublin, will Chair the Gathering.

Actor Úna Clancy will discuss her role as Lady Gregory and the creation of the recent Irish Repertory Theater production in New York, Lady G: Plays and Whisperings of Lady Gregorywith clips from the performance.

James Pethica (Professor of Theatre and English, Williams College), will preview his edition of Lady Gregory’s Shorter Writings 1882-1900, to be published later this year.

Barry Houlihan, Archivist at NUI Galway, will preview the 90th Anniversary of Lady Gregory in 2022 as well as remembering Gregory through the decades, from exhibitions to performance.

Christopher Frayling, Cultural Historian, will discuss John Ford and Lady Gregory. 

Time for Q&A, sip tea with a slice of brack in the comfort of your own living-room, and celebrate the magic of Coole Park! Ronnie and Marion and all the crew at the Autumn Gathering do hope you can join them.

The whole evening is now available online to view! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU90DuzD1uA

For more see the website of the Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering, or please contact Marion Cox on monaleen@msn.com

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.

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering video available now

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020 

Join Garry Hynes, James Pethica, Joseph Hassett, and Ronnie O’Gorman for discussion of Lady Gregory and Yeats: with song from Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill. 

Due to COVID-19 and government health restrictions this year’s programme of events was streamlined, and is viewable here for remote audiences.

Now available below!

Or see Lady Gregory Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020: youtube

Hosted by Ronnie O’Gorman (Galway Advertiser)

Garry Hynes (Druid Theatre) on staging Lady Gregory’s plays for Galway 2020

James Pethica (Williams College) on All This Mine Alone – the New York Public Library Exhibition curated by Professor Pethica with Colm Toibin.

Joseph Hassett (Buffalo) on his new book Yeats Now: Echoing into Life (2020)

with poetry readings, and music from renowned singer Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill

For more see interviews with Druid cast and Irish Times review for DruidGregory’s 2020 events.

For more on the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering and its annual programme of events see the website autumngathering.ie

Augusta, Lady Gregory, by John Butler Yeats

Coole Park live concert

 

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020 

and

Coole Culture

present

What is the Stars

An outdoor concert at Coole Park honouring the 200th birthday of the Royal Astronomical Society and the celestial spirits of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Augusta, Lady Gregory with world premieres of newly commissioned pieces. Featuring David Brophy and the Coole Park Band.

 

Play on website or stream on vimeo

What Is The Stars

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” Psalm 19.1.

Timothy Ethan Doyle: Lente

Anselm McDonnell: Liniakea

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: ‘Jupiter’ Symphony 41 in C – K551

with conductor David Brophy (Choir of Ages, High Hopes) and the Coole Park Band

All these pieces explore the heavens: Liniakea is Hawaiian for immense heaven (our Milky Way), Lente ‘imagines a fragment of Sibelius’s 7th Symphony in a black hole’, and Mozart’s 41st Symphony (1788) is named after Jupiter and his thunderbolts.

Presented by the Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering and Coole Culture.

Due to COVID-19 and government health restrictions this year’s programme of events were streamlined, and indeed streamed and recorded for remote audiences, as well as available live to select invited guests. For more on the gathering’s annual events visit:

autumngathering.ie

Autumn Gathering goes online!

 

Lady Gregory-Yeats Autumn Gathering 2020 

Saturday 26 September 2020 (and after)

live and online!

autumngathering.ie

Join Garry Hynes, James Pethica, Joseph Hassett, Ronnie O’Gorman for discussion of Lady Gregory and Yeats: with music from Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill and a special concert Coole Celebrations featuring world premieres with James Brophy and the Coole Park Band!

Due to COVID-19 and government health restrictions this year’s programme of events is streamlined, and indeed streamed for remote audiences, as well as available live to select invited guests.

Augusta, Lady Gregory, drawn by John Butler Yeats

7pm Saturday 26 September  (via ZOOM livestream)

autumngathering.ie

James Pethica (Williams College) on ‘All This Mine Alone’ – the New York Public Library Exhibition curated by Professor Pethica with Colm Toibin.

Garry Hynes (Druid Theatre) on staging Lady Gregory’s plays for Galway 2020

Joseph Hassett (Buffalo) on his new book Yeats Now: Echoing into Life (2020)

with music from renowned singer Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill

and hosted by Ronnie O’Gorman (Galway Advertiser)

To Join Zoom Meeting:

see interviews with Druid cast and Irish Times review for DruidGregory’s 2020 events

and earlier

5pm Saturday 26 September  (for a live invited audience)

(available online from Tuesday 29 September @ Thoor Ballylee facebook)

Coole Celebrations

An outdoor concert at Coole Park honouring the celestial spirits of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Augusta, Lady Gregory with world premieres of newly commissioned pieces

Anselm McDonnell: Liniakea

Timothy Ethan Doyle: Lente

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: ‘Jupiter’ Symphony 41 in C – K551

with conductor James Brophy (Choir of Ages, High Hopes) and the Coole Park Band

All these pieces explore the heavens: Liniakea is Hawaiian for immense heaven (our Milky Way), Lente ‘imagines a fragment of Sibelius’s 7th Symphony in a black hole’, and Mozart’s 41st Symphony (1788) is named after Jupiter and his thunderbolts.

Presented by the Autumn Gathering and Coole Culture.

autumngathering.ie

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.