Portrait of a Lady

Continuing our summer programme of cultural events, don’t miss your chance to attend our next concert.

Portrait of a Lady

at Thoor Ballylee

Friday 24 June at 8:00 PM

The concert features Helen Hancock (Soprano), Catriona McElhinney Grimes (Piano), and our guest Kitty Sabry (Violin).

Join us for an evening of eclectic music – from French song and German lieder to Irish song and arrangements of Irish music for solo piano.

The programme explores the voice of women and includes a song cycle by Clara Schumann, songs by Lili Boulanger and Catriona’s own arrangements of Irish music for piano solo. Irish song settings and songs by Fauré, Schubert and Mozart will also feature.

Come find us in the historic venue of Thoor Ballylee, Gort, Co. Galway where Yeats himself lived and where many powerful female voices were heard!

Click to book your tickets at eventbrite. Tickets available on the door, but going fast!

Plays and Poets Picnic

2022 is a literary summer season! In the run up to WB Yeats’s 157th birthday on 13 June, and Bloomsday on 16 June celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses, we have special cultural events taking place at Thoor Ballylee.

Poets Picnic

3pm Sunday 12 June 2022

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4pm Wandering Stars

performed by the Wild Swan Theatre Company

Poets Picnic

Our Poets Picnic is free to all young and old! It is an annual gathering of poetry lovers and all folk interested in poetry and culture, in honour of WB Yeats’s birthday. Do come along for our magnificent outdoor picnic spread, with readings of Yeats’s poems, thoughts about his life and legacy, and reflections and poems by other artistic figures.

Wandering Stars

This year the Poets Picnic is followed 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 4pm inside the tower is €10 with tickets available on the door.

Cast: Claire O Donnell as Nora, Justin McDermott as Joyce, Gerry Conneely as Yeats.

Easter Reopening

Easter Saturday 16th April 2022

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to announce our Easter reopening, and welcoming back our visitors – after a two year closure – from 11am this Easter Saturday 16th April 2022! Comhaltas Gaillimh Theas will provide entertainment between 12 noon and 1pm.

Each weekend in April we’ll be open 11-4pm. Further opening hours will be announced for the summer.

Especially thanks to our many helpers, contractors, and volunteers (to help or join us see below) we are primed and ready, and excited to welcome you back!

Volunteers readying the tower for opening!

This Easter Saturday and beyond into spring and summer, come along and learn about the life and work of WB Yeats, the poems he wrote at Thoor Ballylee, and he and his family’s deep connections to the area and the west of Ireland. The cultural revolution his family began would involve the whole island in arts and crafts, so it is fitting that the restoration of the the restoration of the tower with local materials is continued today in the Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society’s efforts with local craftworkers and landscape gardeners on the gardens, the Studio at Thoor Ballylee, and the Mill.

Clare Champion

The Clare Champion has an article about us!

Galway Films

For our spring reopening, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is presenting the online premieres of new films about Yeats and Galway. Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society youtube channel

With the help of the Spot-lit programme for literary tourism, with camera and editing by Morgan Creative and Seanchas Productions, and featuring local musicians and contributors, these short films are voiced by luminaries like Marie Mullen from Druid Theatre and some of our very own members. They highlight places in County Galway important to Yeats and which feature in some of his finest poems, from ‘The Tower’ to (as here) ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’, as a ghost returns to old haunts.

Come and help!

Thoor Ballylee historic fourteenth Century tower house, once home to Nobel Prize winning poet WB Yeats and his family, is managed and run by an amazing group of volunteers. We are currently adding to our volunteer pool so if you have a love of literature or history, enjoy interacting with people and have four hours a week to spare, please contact Thoor Ballylee at +353 85 862 0935, email thoorballylee@gmail.com, or contact us above.

We are a voluntary group with no permanent external funding. We’d love for you to help us keep this unique heritage site going for all of us today, and for future generations. To join us or donate any amount large or small see the donate page above.

Tidying at Thoor Ballylee

Getting Yeats’s tower ready for Easter

In readiness for our grand reopening on Easter Saturday, our team of volunteers took advantage of the spring sunshine and tidied and pruned and carried and cleaned and gardened and wheeled and worked and generally made the C14th Norman tower and its surrounds ready for visitors.

Committee members Lelia Doolan and Rena McAllen and other volunteers young and old muck in with the gardening and landscaping at Ballylee.
Our dedicated team of volunteers (and dog) take a break.

After over two years of waiting Thoor Ballylee will reopen for visitors Saturday 16 April 2022. The countdown continues!

Coole Park

Speaking of gardening, when you visit Thoor Ballylee, why not stop at Lady Gregory’s great gardens and woods at Coole Park? The latest of our short films highlighting Galway places features Yeats’s poem ‘Coole and Ballylee 1931’ and celebrates the place, the people, and all the inspiration to which it gave birth. Voiced by Marie Mullen from Druid Theatre.

With the help of the Spot-lit programme for literary tourism, with camera and editing by Morgan Creative and Seanchas Productions, and featuring local musicians and contributors, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is presenting the online premieres of new films about Yeats and Galway. For more see Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society youtube channel

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.

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 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!

Songbirds

The final event of 2018 at Thoor Ballylee is a concert of music by The Songbirds.

The Songbirds

7.30pm Saturday 6th October

Thoor Ballylee EU12/10 entry

Tickets available on 091 631436 or email yeatsthoorballylee@gmail.com

It’s the last chance to hear music at Thoor this year: come along and visit the tower in an atmosphere of celebration!

The Songbirds feature musicians from around the globe: John Cooper from the Red Dirt Rangers California, Maria Burns from the Burns Sisters Band, Ithaca New York, and Kate Purcell from down the road in County Clare. With classic singers and expert musicians this concert promising to be a fine send-off to a wonderful 2018 season.

 

 

Autumn 2017 opening hours

An update on the autumn 2017 opening hours for Thoor Ballylee. Come along, enjoy our exhibitions, climb the famous winding stair, pop into the poet’s bedroom, admire the stranger’s room, and take in the view from the top of the tower.

Or come and see us late for Culture Night, or join our last event of the season, the spectacular Poetry Slam. All before our winter closing on Sunday 8th October. Details below, we hope to see you soon!

Thoor Ballylee Opening Hours

September-October 2017

Until  Friday 8th September

Open 10 to 6 daily

Saturday 9th September until Saturday 7th October

Weekdays: 10 am to 2 pm
Weekends: 11 am to 5 pm

NB our upcoming events

JENNIFER JOHNSTON & RITA ANN HIGGINS: 3pm Saturday 9th September

CULTURE NIGHT: Friday 22 September (from 7pm late opening)

and the 2017 season final event

POETRY SLAM: Saturday 7th October

From Sunday 8th October 2017 the tower closes for the winter months. Till then all visitors receive the warmest of welcomes!

 

Heritage Week Nature Walk

Come along to our exciting latest event:

Heritage Week Nature Walk at Thoor Ballylee

with Gordon D’Arcy

Saturday 19th August 2017 at 2pm

Free & all welcome!

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                                               A rat or water-hen
Splashed, or an otter slid into the stream.
We are on the bridge; that shadow is the tower,
And the light proves that he is reading still.
W.B. Yeats, from ‘The Phases of the Moon’ (1918)
Yeats paid great attention to the details of the natural world, and wrote about them. The number of birds in his poetry for instance is almost uncountable. For him and his family the surrounds of Thoor Ballylee, County Galway, were an astonishing natural treasure, as well as grounds for myth. His wife George dropped a line out of the window into the stream to fish for trout for dinner, while the children played in the woods and fields beyond.
To mark the beginning of Heritage Week at Thoor Ballylee, Gordon D’Arcy, environmentalist & author, will lead a nature walk around Thoor Ballylee and along the Ballylee River on Saturday 19th August from 2pm to 4pm.
Explore the flora & fauna of the area and examine the workings of a venerable old mill.
All welcome to this free family  event.