In 1902 the family moved back to Ireland and went to live in a house named Gurteen Dhas, Dundrum. “Runnymeade” acquired by Evelyn Gleeson and renamed “Dun Emer”. It became the headquarters and workplace of Dun Emer Industries, Dun Emer Guild. Miss Gleeson invested the money. The Yeats girls invested their skill. Dr. A. Henry really provided the funds. The objective of Dun Emer was to provide employment for women, to improve art and design generally, to promote the production of Irish goods and develop Irish culture, to promote all things Irish, including the language.
Lily Yeats who had experience of embroidery work gained while she was employed by May Morris in London and other forms of needlework became one of the main money earning activities at Dun Emer.
Lolly Yeats was involved in setting up and developing a printing press with the objective of producing books of Irish interest including some of the work of their brother William and other Irish writers.
Miss Gleeson acted as overall manageress. They employed a number of girls (14-15) whom they trained in the work. Lolly also was involved in organising Irish classes and other useful courses to improve their general education and also to help them learn more about their history and cultural heritage.
The experiment was impractical and unsound as none of the partners – Dr. Henry, Miss Gleeson or the Yeats sisters had any knowledge of business. The house was not ion good repair and this cost money. The Yeats sisters (and their father) had not the £48 to fund the move to Dublin. Lolly knew very little about printing/ publishing. The arrangements were those of a loose partnership or co-operative structure, based mainly on good will. Besides, Miss Gleeson was at least 10 years older than the sisters. She proved arrogant and hard to get on with- so also was Lolly. Miss Gleeson, and her sister Constance McCormack were reputably far too fond of spirits (Jameson). There was trouble from the very beginning and relationships steadily deteriorated. Even Lily failed to get along with Miss Gleeson and came to dislike her deeply. Lolly also had problems dealing with W.B. who was acting as editor of the printing/publishing business and who would not accept any questioning of his authority as to what books would be published etc. But the enterprise struggled on and some lovely embroidery and other work was produced, and Lolly got along well in the printing/ publishing enterprise.
Eventually, the strain took on everybody and it became obvious that the partnership would have to end. And so it did.
During all this period, the Yeats sisters, their niece Ruth and their father lived in a house “Gurteen Dhas” in Churchtown. They continued to live there for many years after the marriage of Ruth (to Charles Lane-Poole) and the departure of their father to New York in 1907. After the departure of the Yeats sisters, Miss Gleeson carried on the work of Dun Emer and did so quite successfully though not very profitably. In 1912, the workshops were moved from Dun Emer to Hardwick St., Dublin. In 1925 they made the large carpet for the chamber of the Dail. The workshop was later moved to Harcourt St.. In 1944, Evelyn Gleeson died. In 1947, Dun Emer was sold. Catherine McCormack carried on the business, having dropped many aspects of the work. The shop in Harcourt St. closed about 1964. Catherine McCormack died in 1975.
After the parting with Miss Gleeson in 1908, the sisters set up Cuala Industries in a bungalow in Churchtown. Lily continued to be involved in the embroidery side and Lolly with the Cuala Press. W.B. continued as editor. They took some of the staff (e.g. Eileen Colum) from Dun Emer and took on a number of teenage girls whom they trained. Even though there were many disagreements between Lolly and W.B. and between Lolly and Lilly, the business made good progress but was always struggling financially. W.B. had to clear overdrafts etc. on many occasions.
During this period W.B. was very much involved in setting up the Abbey Theatre and he was production manager until 1910. The sisters were both very interested in this work and attended many of the performances. During this period “Playboy” disturbances occurred.
Another important event took place- “papa” John B. went to New York for a short break and never returned. He died and was buried there in 1922.
Another major event was the marriage of Maud Gonne to Major John McCoride, causing great distress to W.B.
Then at a later stage, there was Home Rule movement; the Home Rule Bill of 1912, the great Dublin strike in 1913; the outbreak of World War I and the rising of 1916. Each of these events in turn created problems for the sisters.
After this time too, W.B. Yeats married George Hyde Lees, after purchasing Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway. At this time too, there was the outbreak of the Anglo Irish war, followed by Civil War.
In 1922, W.B. and George left Oxford and bought No. 82 Merrian Sq. and went to live there. Soon afterwards, the lease on the bungalow in Churchtown expired and the Cuala moved into 1923. Old J.B.Yeats died in 1922 and was buried in New York.
At this time, also Lily got into bad health and was only able to play a lesser part in the work. All through the period, there were financial problems and many big disagreements between Lolly and W.B. and between Lolly and Lilly. (1922) W.B. became senator at this time but in the second half of the decade, his health began to deteriorate. He last visited Coole and Ballylee about 1929.
Lady Gregory died in 1932.
The Cuala Industries struggled on through the 30s with much assistance from George.
W.B. died in 1939 and Lolly, George and F.R. Higgins ran the business. World War II caused its own problems. Lolly died rather suddenly in 1940 and George (Lily) and F.R. continued until the death of F.R. in 1941. George continued to manage the Cuala. Lily became bedridden in 1945 and lived to 1949, shortly after the reburial of W.B. in Drumcliffe.
Lily and Lolly are buried in the churchyard of St. Nahis Church, Dundrum.