Monday 26 January 2009

Lissadell row robs public of chance to see rare Yeats note

A rare letter which may have been the last written by poet WB Yeats before his death 70 years ago will go into storage this week because of a continuing row over Lissadell House in Sligo.

The exhibition of material, meticulously collected by Lissadell owners, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, was due to go on display on Wednesday to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the death of the poet, forever synonymous with the north Sligo stately home.

But a row, which erupted weeks ago when Sligo County Council moved to preserve alleged rights of way through the 400-acre estate which are contested by its new lawyer owners, has led to the closure of the house to the public.

The launch of the exhibition was to have been one of a number of events to mark the special anniversary but barrister Edward Walsh confirmed yesterday that it had been agreed with Failte Ireland that it would be "pointless" launching the Yeats exhibition when it would then be closed to the public.

He has spent the past two years sourcing original Yeats material which would have been going on public show for the first time.

Among the material he has gathered are letters, including one which he believed could have been the last one ever written by the poet It was sent from Roquebrun in France, where Yeats lived out his final days, to a playwright called Mar Duncan who had sought the poet's approval of a play he had written for the Abbey Theatre.

"Yeats was quite scathing about the suitability of the particular play for the Abbey.

"I believe it could have been the last letter he ever wrote. If it wasn't the last, it certainly was written during his last week alive," said Mr Walsh.

The collection was to go on display in a special gallery in the magnificently refurbished coach house and, according to Mr Walsh, would have matched the Yeats collection in the National Gallery.


He admitted he felt frustrated that he had to abandon the project.

"The disillusionment intensifies to an amazing degree," he said.

On Wednesday, the death of the Nobel Laureate will be marked with a short memorial service in St John's Cathedral in Sligo.

This will be followed by the launch of the Yeats Trail when another Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney will introduce the newly updated leaflet covering locations in Sligo and Galway most associated by Yeats.

Meanwhile, Mr Walsh, whose family has initiated legal proceedings against Sligo County Council, revealed that an exploratory meeting between him and Sligo County Manager, Hubert Kearns will take place in Dublin tonight in a bid to break the impasse.

This is the first face-to-face meeting between both sides since the row erupted.

The Walsh-Cassidys insist that they were assured by the previous owner and the local authority that there were no public rights of way through the estate when they bought it in 2003.

Anita Guidera
Irish Independent

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