Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Yeats's Haunted Tower

Thoor Ballylee
 (By Dr Charles Nelson - CC A-SA 2.0)

The 16th century Ballylee Castle stands near the town of Gort in County Galway. The castle originally belonged to the De Burgo (Burke) family before becoming part of the estates of the Earls of Clanrickarde.

William Butler Yeats purchased the castle and its adjoining cottage in 1917, He renamed the property Thoor Ballylee (“Thoor” is Irish for tower.) Yeats and his family lived there during the summer for 12 years.

Ballylee was abandoned and fell into ruin in the 1930s. However it was fully restored for the centenary of Yeats's birth in 1965 when it was reopened as a Yeats memorial and heritage centre.

Ballylee inspired Yeats to write “The Winding Stair” and “The Tower” poem collections. On the first floor of the four-storey tower a steep spiral staircase hewn from stone winds to the upper floors about which he wrote,
"I declare this tower is my symbol; I declare
This winding, gyring, spring treadmill of a stair is my ancestral stair.”

As part of his restoration Yeats had this short verse carved on a slate and embedded into the tower wall.
Yeats's Verse
 (By James Yardley - CC BY-SA 2.0)

 I, the poet William Yeats
With old mill boards and sea-green slates,
And smithy work from the Gort forge,
Restored this tower for my wife George,
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin once again.

Yeats believed in ghosts and thought that the tower was haunted by an Anglo-Norman soldier.

A curator was reluctant to climb the winding stair at the end of a day; she was convinced a spectral form wandered the worn stairway. Her dog frequently appeared terrified of something in the downstairs rooms.

In 1989 a photographer took some pictures in Yeats’s sitting room. When his film was developed there was a ghostly silhouette of what appeared to be a young man standing in front of the camera; no one else had been in the room at the time the photo was taken. It has been suggested that the ghostly boy may have been Yeats’s own son.
Thoor Ballylee
 (By James Yardley - CC BY-SA 2.0)


Karen S. said...

I would so enjoy to tour this lovely place...and I am sure I wouldn't be afraid at all! Of course that is being said from the safety of my office, many moonships away! Great looking place though...I could write many a good poems just being there!

Liz Stratton said...

I agree with Karen. What a wonderful place to visit, ghosts and all.

Rosalind Adam said...

I think I'll give the place a miss... not that I believe in ghosts of course but I just don't want to push my luck. You didn't say if you believe in ghosts, Bob.

DW96 said...

More spooky stuff, Bob, and another great tale.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

The first photo appears haunted, the last maybe not so. It does not look like a very comfortable abode. Interesting and I learned more about Yeats. Imagine building that height back then!

Little Nell said...

Love Yeats - hauntings and all. Do I detect a book in the making Bob? Or are you just a ghost writer? :)

Bob Scotney said...

@Rosalind; I don't believe in ghosts yet as I have seen no evidence myself, but you never know one day I may change my mind.

@Little Nell; there are so many books out there from authors with experience of visiting the places. Also I'm having to rely on other people's photographs of the places/castle involved. But the research is great fun - you should see my spread sheets; I've hardly scratched the surface yet.

Bob Scotney said...

I often put up a copy of my posts on the Writelink site. I thought that I would copy over from there a comment I received from one of my friends;

Marilyn wrote:
There are so many things I want to question here. Was Yeats' wife called George? Funnily enough I took a photograph of our grandson, Jay, on Christmas Day looking through a telescope at the sky - and there was a dark shadow in the foreground of the photograph that doesn\'t make sense. We\'ve had a few cold and close encounters in our lounge and entrance passageway over the years, which makes me think of the undiscovered Nunnery and Lepor colony that existed in our neck of the woods at one time. Even Phil, my husband, who is a sceptic, has to admit to the unexpIainable. I was recently scanning a good ghost book based on our locality just the other day in Stokesley's Strikes - the Nursery Garden Centre. Best wishes for the New Year, Bob.