In 1957 as part of a national tourism promotion drive (An Tostal), a small group of enthusiasts met in Sligo and decided to hold a Yeats Country Festival. The festival held on 11-15 May 1958 was a great success. The highlight was ‘Salute to Yeats’, directed by Jim McGarry, with Mrs. M. Watson, Jo Lappin and the Mullaney brothers reciting Yeats’s poetry.
Elated by that success, the group – Frank Wynne (Chairman), Nora Niland, Eileen Lambert (Hon Secretary), Sheelah Kirby, Tom McEvilly, Fr. Tom Moran and Jim McGarry(all deceased) met again on 20th May and established the Yeats Society, Sligo. Its purpose was to organize a Yeats Summer School, to which Tom Mullaney was appointed Hon. Secretary on 5th July 1959.
Dr. T.R.Henn of St. Catharine’s College Cambridge, a native of Sligo, was advisor of Sligo’s first Yeats International Summer School, held in late August 1960. He remained a guiding light for many years, and was Director from 1962 – 1968.
The School, of course, has since grown in strength and prestige and its story is told in most interesting detail in Jim McGarry’s ‘The Dream I Knew’,(1990). The warm reception given locally to visitors and the generous sponsorship by local business people also played an important part.
The diligent work of Yeats Society presidents, many council and other members over the years must also be acknowledged. Successive presidents were: F.Wynne, J.Keohane, T.Mullaney,Canon T.P.S.Wood, Mrs E.Lambert, J.Keohane (2nd time), A.Cantwell, M.McTighe, Edward J. Wylie-Warren, Michael Keohane, Aleck Crichton, and currently Joe Cox.
In 1973, it was with enormous pleasure the Yeats Society greeted the magnanimous gesture of the Directors of Allied Irish Banks who presented the Society with their Hyde Bridge premises as a memorial to the Yeats family. This building is now the Headquarters from which the Society keeps in contact with members all over the world, and from where the Yeats International Summer School and Winter School are administered, as well as the day-to-day running of the Society.
After 40 years, the Yeats Memorial building continues to be a hub for literary culture and the arts. Available in this literary centre are:
The Society seeks to contribute to the many cultural activities in Sligo, and gladly provides space for book launches, poetry readings, lectures and public meetings.