Yeats’s Birthday and Bloomsday Play

Today, 13 June, sees the 157th birthday of WB Yeats.

This Thursday 16 June is Bloomsday, a special event this year as 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

James Joyce, Ulysses (Paris: Shakespeare & Co., 1922)

For Bloomsday this Thursday Thoor Ballylee celebrates with a special performance of Noramollyannalivialucia: The Muse and Mister Joyce” written by Irish poet Eamon Grennan.

Curlew Theatre Company presents

Noramollyannalivialucia:

The Muse and Mister Joyce

at Yeats’s Tower, Thoor Ballylee

8pm Thursday June 2022

Admission €15. Tickets available on the door: or for bookings phone 091 631436 / 0858620935

This is a solo play for voices based on Nora Barnacle’s life, in which Joyce’s Galway wife Nora is visited by a group of people (the audience) keen for stories about Joyce, and receive some home truths. Extracts from Joyce’s works interweave with Nora’s memories as she composes a portrait of the artist’s wife as an older woman. The play is performed by Curlew Theatre Company with musical interludes by Nicola and Karina Cahill on harp and flute.

Yeats had the idea that Thoor Ballylee might work as an artistic a hub for Irish artists like James Joyce.

So what did Yeats and Joyce have in common?

Only too much, suggests Joe Hassett in his play Wandering Stars, premiered yesterday at Thoor Ballylee. What they had in common artistically is explored further in an essay by Adrian Paterson published this week by Modernist Studies Ireland.

To find out more, come along to Thoor Ballylee this Bloomsday, or any day this summer!

Opening times for Thoor Ballylee

June 2022

Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Players for Wandering Stars joined by the author Joe Hassett

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

+

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.

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’

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.

Countdown to Easter Reopening

Easter reopening

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is delighted to announce our Easter reopening, and welcoming back our visitors – after a two year closure – on Easter Saturday 16th April 2022!

It’s been a hard road, but after two years socially distanced or online, and with plenty of ongoing work to the thatch, the mill, and latterly our spring clean-up – and 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!

The new thatch at Thoor Ballylee

Kiltartan Gregory Museum

Meanwhile we highlight other gems of the area for our visitors, and invite you to visit the award-winning Kiltartan Gregory Museum. The following film showcases this hidden gem, based in the old schoolhouse at Kiltartan Cross (mentioned in Yeats’s poem ‘The Irish Airman Foresees His Death’), devoted to Lady Gregory and Yeats and featuring all kinds of fascinating art, books, letters, publications, and memorabilia concerning the area and its literary heritage.

In the run up to 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.

Returning to Thoor Ballylee

New films about Yeats and Galway

In the run up to our spring reopening, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society is presenting the online premiere of new films about Yeats and Galway. These short films highlight places in County Galway important to Yeats and which feature in some of his finest poems, from ‘The Tower’ to ‘Coole and Ballylee 1931’.

With the help of the Spot-lit programme for literary tourism, drawing on both their expertise and funding, and the work of some crack producers and content creators, Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society produced this film series highlighting the importance of the tower and the Society’s work in “Spreading the News” about the literary connections of WB Yeats and beyond. These films are designed to attract audiences near and far to the delights of Galway, and help bring visitors to Thoor Ballylee and the many other important sites in our region.

Returning to Thoor Ballylee

Returning to Thoor Ballylee features a thin figure in cloak and hat – the ghost of an old poet perhaps? – returning to a place where he was once so fulfilled.

This reintroduction to the landscape and sounds of Thoor Ballylee features Yeats’s poems ‘To Be Carved on a Stone at Thoor Ballylee’ and ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’. It is voiced by Marion Cox and Ronnie O’Gorman with camera by Morgan Creative.

The film inaugurates Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society’s own YouTube channel, on which more content is expected over the next weeks and months. The film is part of an ongoing series promoting Thoor Ballylee, Kiltartan, Coole Park, Doorus House and The Flaggy Shore.

The film invites you, too, to return to Thoor Ballylee this spring, in the summer, sometime in the future, or just in imagination. Long live the returning spirit of WB Yeats and his family!

Yeats Thoor Ballylee Society youtube channel

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

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)

Yeats dance play comes to Galway

The year is 1916. A young man arrives to the hills of County Clare by night. He is on the run, looking for refuge after his part in the Eastern Rising in Dublin. After some time trying to find his way on the mountain side, two strange figures emerge from the dark, and offer him guidance. It soon turns out that they are not ordinary people, but the ghosts of that infamous twelfth century couple, Dermot and Dervorgilla, who have been held responsible for the first invasion of Ireland by foreign armies. They need the young man’s help.

With Thoor Ballylee is now closed for the winter season (though visitors to exterior and grounds are welcome), Yeats enthusiasts must find their fun elsewhere.

Thankfully, with this dramatic staging, DancePlayers returns to Galway with another astonishing production of a rarely seen Yeats play. Their highly acclaimed performance of The Only Jealousy of Emer was a highpoint in Thoor Ballylee’s 2018 season and the Galway Theatre Festival. With original music, movement, and staging, this new imagining of Yeats’s play about violence and history promises to be even better. Set in the Burren, as the ghosts circle Corcomroe Abbey, Co. Clare, near Thoor Ballylee, The Dreaming of the Bones is in this production coming home to the west.

DancePlayers presents

The Dreaming of the Bones

By W. B. Yeats

Thurs-Sat 7-9 November at 8pm 

Sunday 10 November at 1pm with performer Q&A

O’Donoghue Theatre, NUI Galway

Running Time: 40 mins without interval

Tickets: €5 Concession / €10 Standard

Booking and more information:

https://the-dreaming-of-the-bones.eventbrite.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/DancePlayersCompany/

The Dreaming of the Bones is a one-act dance piece by W. B. Yeats. Written in 1918, it is one of the earliest plays by an Irish writer for physical theatre, with dance, masks and music. With its topical subject and completion only two years after the Rising, it was deemed too problematic for the public stage for more than a decade, hence no attempt was made to produce it until its belated premiere in the Abbey Theatre in 1931. Since then, it has become one of Yeats’s most frequently played dance dramas both in Ireland and abroad. Inspired by the Japanese Noh theatre tradition, Yeats wrote this piece for an empty stage, where movement, gesture, masks, spatial relations and dance all contribute to act of storytelling.

After their acclaimed debut at the Galway Theatre Festival with The Only Jealousy of Emer in 2018, DancePlayers Company returns with a new staging of The Dreaming of the Bones in an attempt to exhibit the qualities of dance plays to the full, thus showing the availability of Yeats’s play texts for contemporary audiences. The play will be staged with movement and live music, composed exclusively for the performance.

View the on site Burren video promo here

Listings Information

The Dreaming of the Bones

Venue: O’Donoghue Theatre, NUI Galway
Dates: 7 – 10 November 2019

Time: 8pm on Thursday 7th, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th  November 2019, 1pm on Sunday 10th with open Question and Answer session from the director and performers.

Running Time: 40 mins without interval

Tickets: €5 Concession / €10 Standard

Booking and more information:

https://the-dreaming-of-the-bones.eventbrite.ie/
https://www.facebook.com/DancePlayersCompany/

Credits

Directed by              Melinda Szuts
Music                           Akos Lustyik
Choreography        Jeremie Cyr-Cooke

Lighting design         Sarah Timmins
Stage manager           Aisling Fitzsimons
Masks and design       Yvette Picque

Gergely Kuklis            violin
Nicola Geddes            cello
Gilles Dupouy             harp

Cast: Aimee Banks, Kashi Cepeda, Jeremie Cyr-Cooke, Conor Gormley, John Rice, Una Valaine

Melinda Szuts is a Galway-based director and researcher at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUIG. Melinda has been involved in many theatre productions both in Ireland and her home country, Hungary in previous years. Her theatre credits include many Yeats productions, both as actor and as director.

DancePlayers is an ensemble newly founded in Galway in 2018. It is a group of professional theatre makers and musicians who produce collaborative pieces for physical theatre. Their production of Yeats’s The Only Jealousy of Emer had a successful series of performances at Galway Theatre Festival and in Yeats’s tower, Thoor Ballylee in Gort, Co. Galway

Maud Gonne & Yeats talk

This weekend at Thoor Ballylee, columnist and author Anthony J. Jordan gives us his views on an interesting and controversial topic.

Maud Gonne’s Men

Anthony J. Jordan

Thoor Ballylee

3pm Saturday 13th July 2019

Biographer of Arthur Griffith, W.T. Cosgrave and Sean MacBride, Anthony J. Jordan is a native of Ballyhuinis, Co. Mayo, educated at NUI Maynooth, UCD, and St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. He has wide interests in Irish culture and politics, and in particular the complicated repatriation of the bodies of Irish writers like W. B. Yeats and James Joyce.

His talk this weekend delves into the thorny thickets of Maud Gonne’s life, loves, and nationalist activities following his own book on the topic (see above). Gonne’s long affair with the right-wing French nationalist Lucien Millevoye produced two children, one who would die tragically young, and an agreement to take on the British Empire in any form. This entanglement overlapped with her spiritual marriage with W.B. Yeats, and prefigured a disastrous marriage with the revolutionary John MacBride which ended with abuse allegations and a fraught separation case. Even then after his execution in 1916 she wore black in honour of a man who Yeats’s ‘Easter 1916’ says he ‘dreamed / A drunken vainglorious lout’. Amid renewed interest in the subject stimulated by new work such as Adrian Frazier’s The Adulterous Muse: Maud Gonne, Lucien Millevoye and W.B. Yeats (Lilliput, 2016), Anthony J. Jordan gives us his considered opinion and answers questions.

Join us for an engrossing talk, a cup of tea, and a unique view of Yeats’s tower.