Hamlet in my mind’s eye

A reminder that Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to present Hamlet, not in performance but a talk aimed at Leaving Certificate students.

Denis Creaven, English teacher at the Institute of Education, Dublin, will lecture on several topics on Hamlet and the main characters of the play.

The lecture is designed to be especially helpful for Leaving Certificate examination requirements. Complimentary handouts will be distributed. We are pleased to say all proceeds go to Thoor Ballylee for its continued maintenance.

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Like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Yeats had a habit of prowling his castle. In ‘The Tower’ (1926) he writes ‘I pace the battlements and stare / On the foundation of a house’. Yeats also drew on Shakespeare’s Hamlet for his Noh drama At The Hawk’s Well (1916). As Cuchulain climbs to the holy well, the musician remembers Hamlet’s claim to see things beyond most of us (like his dead father) ‘in my mind’s eye’:

I call to the eye of the mind

A well long choked up and dry

And boughs long stripped by the wind,

And I call to the mind’s eye

Pallor of an ivory face,

Its lofty dissolute air,

A man climbing up to a place

The salt sea wind has swept bare.

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Leaving Certificate 2017 Hamlet Preparation

12-2pm, Wednesday 22 February 2017

Sullivan’s Hotel, Gort, Co Galway

For booking contact yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com or ring Nichola on 086 855 2124

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Thoor Ballylee on The Poetry Programe

Following the successful poetry slam held at Thoor Ballylee late last year, Thoor Ballylee and its living poets are celebrated on RTÉ’s The Poetry Programme.

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The programme samples the lively atmosphere of the inaugural Thoor Ballylee Poetry Slam and hears from organisers Lelia Doolan and Sarah Clancy. Paul McNamara, winner of the competition, is second from left.

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‘Leabhar na hAthghabhála / Poems of Repossession’ is an impressive anthology of poetry in Irish from the past century with English translations. Editor, poet, and translator Louis de Paor chooses some poems from the anthology and talks about his desire to make this work visible to a wider audience.

Martina Evans is sure we all have a poem in us. She talks with Rick O’Shea and reads from her collection ‘The Windows of Graceland,’ published by Carcanet.

To listen to the programme, broadcast on RTÉ Radio One 7.30pm Saturday 7th January, follow this link.

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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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Thoor Ballylee heads calls for flood relief

As Thoor Ballylee closes for the winter, representatives repeat calls for state intervention on flood relief for South Galway.

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society, a community group in south Galway which runs W.B. Yeats’s former retreat at Thoor Ballylee, has appealed for State support for the area as it anticipates fresh flooding this winter, the Irish Times has reported.

Speaking before a fundraising poetry slam event at the tower this weekend, curator Rena McAllen said flooding at the tower last winter did not recede until March.

Ms McAllen is part of a community group that acquired a lease for Thoor Ballylee – a 15th century Hiberno-Norman tower house with what Yeats described as a “winding, gyring spiring treadmill of a stair”– after it was closed by Fáilte Ireland due to flooding in 2009.

During Yeats’ tenure, the Streamstown river would food the building’s ground floor, but the flooding is now more frequent and much higher.

See more in the Irish Times report here.

The Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is pleased to report that there is no immediate risk of of flooding to the tower and cottages. However the water table in the area is very high, and if rain comes then further flooding is in prospect again this winter.

Thankfully work has been completed on preparing the tower and cottages for the winter. This means that at ground level it has been entirely clear of its exhibitions and all movable goods. Permanent electricity and heating systems were moved above flood height earlier this year.

It is good news that all is dry at present.

Still, with flooding increasing year on year, better solutions might be found to relieve the annual uncertainty and the very real cost to livelihoods in the area.

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Thoor Ballylee October 2016

Poetry Slam at Thoor Ballylee

Poetry Slam Competition

Thoor Ballylee

Saturday 15 October 2016

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A slam poetry competition will take place in Thoor Ballylee, the former home of WB Yeats on Saturday October 15. Performance poets are  invited to apply for one of 10 places at the event. This is the first competition of its kind to be held at the tower house.

This event will be MC-ed by Galway poets and former Cuirt Grand Slam winners Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy who, jealous of the attention being given to the other poets, may decide to perform some of their own poems in the interval.

Prizes are available, for those who like fumbling in the greasy till, including a first prize €250, second prize of €100, and third prize of €50, sponsored by Poetry Ireland.

All poets who perform and all judges will also receive a copy of Poetry Ireland Review Issue 116: A WB Yeats Special Issue, also sponsored by Poetry Ireland.

There will be 10 slots for poets to perform at this event, with the contestants selected in advance by Elaine Feeney and Sarah Clancy based on submissions. Entries for this event are open now and poets wishing to enter must send a poem of their own in any format — text, video, or recording — to sarahclancygalway@gmail.com on or before October 4.  All submissions must include ‘Tower Poetry Slam Entry’ in the title of the e-mail.

Each poem must be three minutes’ duration or less. There will be two rounds, with the five highest scoring poets from round one going through to the second round, after which the winners will be decided. Qualifying poets must perform a different poem in the second round. In each round the judges will be selected from the audience and their decisions will be both subjective and final.

Poets are expected to perform their poems without using a script and scoring will reflect this. Poems must be the performer’s own work and not have been previously published in book form nor have been the winning poem in any other slam competition.

Transport from Galway will be available by bus which will depart from the Spanish Arch (in front of Jury’s Hotel ) at 6.30pm and will return to there after the event. Tickets for bus and admission are €20, €10 for admission only, and there will be no admission charge for performing poets.

Refreshments, including wine, will be available for purchase on the night.

To book tickets call Thoor Ballylee between 10am and 2pm daily on 091 631436. Or email yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com. There will also be limited admission on the door.

Any funds raised will go towards supporting the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society in its work preserving Thoor Ballylee.

Hear W.B. Yeats read his own verse here! As he says, he reads with great emphasis upon the rhythm.

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Seamus Heaney landscape under threat

Road scheme ploughs through Anahorish & Mossbawn

Landscapes like those in Galway surrounding Thoor Ballylee and Coole Park or Patrick Kavanagh’s Inniskeen Co. Monaghan are not only important natural environments in themselves but a part of the world’s poetic heritage as surely as the Cumberland Lake District of Wordsworth and Coleridge.

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Like Yeats, Nobel-Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney is attached to  several landscapes, including the Broagh, Hillhead, Lagan’s Road and the Strand at Lough Beg. However his founding place is Anahorish, the south Derry townland to the west of Lough Neagh which features in some of the poet’s most famous works, including “Digging”, “Blackberry-Picking,” “Death of a Naturalist” and “Mid-term Break”. The poem “Anahorish” begins with a translation of Anach fhíor uisce, the Irish root of the townland’s name. It was, for Heaney, his “place of clear water,” which he called “the first hill in the world”. Bernard O’Donoghue, poet and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, has said of Heaney that the “importance of his life experience to his poetry is a crucial part of Heaney’s work; he is often referred to as “a poet of place,” and Anahorish is central to that place”.

In October 2016 the Northern Irish government will begin to build a dual-carriageway road through Anahorish, setting for much of Heaney’s best-loved poetry, within about a hundred yards of Mossbawn, his family home. Before his death Heaney himself protested against the proposed road scheme, describing an alternative route through an old aerodrome where there is an industrial estate, as less of a “wound on the ecology.”

Heaney was a great friend to Yeats, Thoor Ballylee and the landscape of South Galway, and reportedly described the scheme as unthinkable as putting a motorway through Coole Park. Coole Park faces its own issues as the encroaching dual-carriageway sweeps just past its gates. It would seem that the poetic landscapes of the whole island of Ireland are under threat, just when the importance of culture and place is being widely re-affirmed in schemes like cities of culture (Derry 2013 and Galway 2020).

The revival of the road scheme is particularly poignant at a time when the Seamus Heaney HomePlace visitors centre in Bellaghy is due to open at the end of the month. Heaney died in Dublin in 2013 and is buried in Bellaghy. Work on the nearby dual-carriageway is due to begin in October.

Time is running out if the scheme is to be opposed. A petition against the road has been set up here at Change.org. Further news stories about the scheme can be viewed in the following from the New Statesman, Belfast Telegraph, and Irish News.

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Thoor Ballylee temporary closure Sunday 28th August

Due to the Galway Summer Rally taking place in the roads in South Galway around Ballylee, Thoor Ballylee will be closed on Sunday 28th August 2016.  The tower is open to visitors every day for all of the rest of the summer, complete with its new exhibitions and Yeats’s old winding stair.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

Visuals from our newly opened Thoor Ballylee Yeats Exhibition, available to view at Yeats’s Tower

Please accept our apologies for this brief closure. We hope you can arrange to visit another time, and hope to see you back at this historic building very soon.

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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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Thoor Ballylee temporary closure Friday 15th July

Due to ESB doing electricity work in the area Thoor Ballylee will be closed on Friday 15th July 2016. Local power lines and trees need some further work we are told. However the tower is open to visitors every day for all of the rest of the summer, complete with its new exhibitions and Yeats’s old winding stair.

Yeats Tower Exhibition

Visuals from our newly opened Thoor Ballylee Yeats Exhibition, available to view at Yeats’s Tower

Please accept our apologies for this brief closure. We hope you can arrange to visit another time, and hope to see you back at this historic building very soon.

Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore

Bookplate for George Yeats by Thomas Sturge Moore

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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