The poet's father was brought up at Tullylish in Co. Down, where his father was the "red headed" Rector. His early days were happy except for the horrors of a private school in the Isle of Man, where George Pollexfen was a school fellow. He entered Trinity College in 1857, reading Classics, and, afterwards, Law. When he married Susan Pollexfen at Sligo in 1863 the Pollexfens were pleased. Their hopes were dashed. Having been called to the Bar in 1866, J.B. decided not to practise, but to train to be an artist in London. He painted many portraits of leaders in the Irish Literary and Political life. In December 1907 he went to New York with his daughter Lily, and thereafter refused to return to Ireland. He died in New York in 1922.
Six years younger than the poet, he also spent his childhood in Sligo. Sligo, with its ships, fairs, races and circuses and the variety of men and women associated with them, was an inspiration for Jack's drawing from 1887 until he started his career as an art student in London. "In half of the pictures he paints today I recognise faces that I have met at Rosses or the Sligo quays', wrote the poet. The wild faces of horsemen, the quiet dignity of tinkers and wanderers, set against tumultuous skies which flash and dance with colour, are transformed in Jack's imagination; and that, after all, is what W.B. achieved in poetry often having that very subject matter.
On the 20th October 1917, three days after her twenty-fifth birthday, George Hyde Lees married the fifty-two year old poet, William Butler Yeats. The partnership of Yeats and George Hyde Lees is one of the most extraordinary and creative in the literary world. An exploration of the world of the supernatural was as important to Yeats as his poetry; indeed the two must be considered together. The most important partner in this continuing study was his wife. Nothing that had happened to him before was more dramatically exciting than the automatic writing of his wife, which he felt put wisdom within his reach. George Yeats encouraged her husband's single-minded devotion to poetry and was without doubt his severest and most helpful critic.