The Yeats House

Did you know William Butler Yeats’ ancestors may have already carved a small piece into Irish History and modern language centuries before WB Yeats was born? The connection dates all the way back to 1492 and takes place in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

The Door of Reconciliation Story

Back in the 15th Century, two prominent Irish Families were involved in a bitter dispute over the position of Lord Deputy – The Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare. In 1492 the feud came to a clash between the two families just outside the City Walls.

The Phrase “Chancing your Arm”

The Butler Family sought refuge in the Chapter House of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the FitzGeralds sought to make peace and requested the Butler Family to come out and shake hands. The Butlers refused, fearing they would be attacked. As a gesture of Goodwill, Gerald FitzGerald ordered a hole to be cut in the door. Mr. FitzGerald then placed his arm through the hole in the door to prove his attempt at reconciliation was honourable. Thus the phrase “Chancing your Arm” was born – Mr. FitzGerald risked having his arm cut off, but Mr. Butler shook his hand through the door and the two Families declared peace.

What does this have to do with WB Yeats?

Here’s where it gets interesting!

If we follow Yeats’ Family Tree, his great-great-Grandfather Benjamin Yeats married Mary Butler, a direct descendant of the Butler Ormondes of Kildare, descendant of the first Earls of Ormonde. After their marriage, they decided to keep the name Butler in the Family. So this indicates that Yeats’ Great-Great-Grandmother was a direct descendant of the feuding Butler Family!

Of course, this story is only speculation, but historical facts do point towards Yeats’ ancestors already leaving their stamp long before William cemented his own imprint on Irish History.

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Biography of William Butler Yeats:

WB Yeats was born in Sandymount, Co Dublin on 13th June 1865 to a family of Anglo-Irish descent. His Mother Susan Pollexfen  was from a wealthy merchant family in Sligo. Shortly after his birth Yeats’ family relocated to his Mother’s hometown of Merville, which William would later describe as his childhood and spiritual home. In 1867 the family moved to England to support William’s father Johns career as an artist. They returned to Harold’s Cross, Co Dublin, in 1880 and William began attending Erasmus Smith High School. He began writing poetry aged 17, and later moved on to tales of Irish Mythology and Folklore. The family moved back to the UK in 1887.

William turned to Irish Mythology and Folklore for inspiration early in his career. In 1891 Yeats published his first works – the novella John Sherman and the short story Dhoya.  The Yeats family returned to London in 1887 and thus began William’s career as a poet. He co-founded the “Rhymer’s Club” which was a group of poets who met regularly in Fleet St., London. His first significant poem was the fantasy work “The Island of Statues”.

In 1896 Yeats met Lady Gregory who encouraged him to write more dramatic prose focusing on his Irish heritage. Yeats would then become acquainted with other Irish writes including JM Synge, Sean O’Casey and Douglas Hyde (he later became Ireland’s first President) who, among others, would forge the “Irish Literary Revival”. In 1899 the Irish Literary Theatre was founded to hold Irish and Celtic plays. Unfortunately it was not a long-term success and folded after 2 years. Yeats later helped found the Abbey Theatre which he remained heavily involved with until his death.

In 1889 Yeats met 23 year old Maude Gonne, whom he fell hopelessly in love with and drew inspiration from for many of his later works. William proposed to Maude 5 times in total, but she continuously refused him and married Major John Mc Bride in 1903 which greatly depressed WB Yeats. Maude divorced her husband in Paris in 1905 and re-kindled her friendship with William. They spent one night together, but they would never become lovers. In 1916 Yeats was 51 and felt the time was right to marry and produce an heir. After Maude Gonne refused his final proposal, Yeats married 25 year old Georgie Hyde-Lees and they had 2 children together.

William Butler Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. In 1922 he was appointed to the first Irish Senate, again in 1925, and retired in 1928 due to ill health. He died in France on the 28th January 1939 aged 73. He was buried in France, but in 1948 his body was moved to his beloved Drumcliff, Co Sligo. Ironically, the man who oversaw Yeats’ re-burial was none other than Sean Mac Bride, son of Maude Gonne Mac Bride, the then Minister of External Affairs.


The 3 Bedroom Beckett House

Samuel Beckett Three Bed Beckett House
Our delightful Three Bed Beckett House draws its inspiration from the leading Irish writer Samuel Beckett. He was born in Foxrock, Dublin on Good Friday 13th April 1906 and died in Paris on 22nd December 1989. He is widely acknowledged as one of the last “Modernist” Writers. Samuel Beckett was the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.

Novelist, Theatre Director, Poet and Playwright, Beckett’s work has been described as “Black Comedy” or “Gallows humour”. He was educated in Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh and later Trinity College where he studied French, Italian and English. His childhood was spent in Dublin, but he lived most of his adult life in Paris and he wrote many later pieces in fluid French.

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Interesting Facts About Samuel Beckett:

  • He was stabbed in the chest in 1938 in Paris and almost died, but his long-time friend and fellow writer James Joyce intervened and secured him a private hospital room to expedite his recovery. He then dropped the charges against his attacker because he found him “mannerly and likeable”.
  • It’s rumoured that he had a falling out in later life with James Joyce after spurning the romantic advances of Joyce’s daughter, Lucia.   Read about James Joyce Here 
  • As a resident in France, Beckett joined the French Revolution in 1940. After escaping the Gestapo, he fled South to Roussillon in 1942 and continued his campaign of sabotage by storing armaments in his back yard. He was eventually awarded Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance by the French Government for his efforts in thwarting the German Occupation.
  • He learned he had won the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature while on holiday in Tunisia. Notoriously publicity-shy, he refused to accept his Nobel Prize in person so he wouldn’t have to give a speech. Beckett’s publisher accepted his award on his behalf.
  • His famous quote from his 1983 novella Worstward Ho “Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail better” has been such a source of inspiration world wide that entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Tim Ferriss have been known to reference the Beckett “Fail Better” quote for motivation.

Novelist, Theatre Director, Poet and Playwright, Beckett’s work has been described as “Black Comedy” or “Gallows humour”. He was educated in Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh and later Trinity College where he studied French, Italian and English. His childhood was spent in Dublin, but he lived most of his adult life in Paris and he wrote many later pieces in fluid French.

Some of his notable works include:

Molloy (1951)
Malone Dies (1951)
The Unnamable (1953)
Waiting for Godot (1953)
Watt (1953)
Endgame (1957)
Krapp’s Last Tape (1958)
How It Is (1961)

Maydenhayes takes its name from the 60ft Maiden Tower on Mornington Beach. The Tower dates all the way back to the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I – in fact, some speculate the Maiden Tower was named for Queen Elizabeth, the Maiden Queen. And how did the Lady’s Finger get its name? Read below to find out!

What is the Maiden Tower?

The Tower was built as a beacon to aid Sailors navigating their way into Drogheda, and as a Landmark for the mouth of the River Boyne. The tower served as a viewing post during the Elizabethan Wars with Spain (1585 – 1603) to alert the authorities of approaching enemy ships.


The Legend of the Maiden Tower and the Lady’s Finger

Lady's Finger Obelisk, MorningtonThe legend that has filtered down through generations is a classic story of romance and tragedy, as all good folk tales are. A beautiful local woman was in love with a local man who was called away to war. Before leaving, the woman made her lover promise he would return to her, one way or another. They struck a bargain so that if the man survived the war, he would return on a ship with white sails, and if he did not survive, the ship would arrive to port decked in black sails.

The young woman kept her vigil at the top of the Maiden Tower for many months, until she finally saw her love’s ship on the horizon. As it came closer, she could see the sails adorning the ship were black. Overwhelmed with grief, the legend goes that the young woman threw herself off the top of the tower so as to join her lover in death.

The Lady’s Finger, a 13ft high obelisk, was said to have been erected in her memory. Reportedly the term “Lady’s Finger” was coined to represent the young lady’s ring finger, which never received a wedding ring.

The Maiden Tower is now closed to the public unfortunately, but the legend still remains and you can still visit the site on Mornington Beach. Mornington Beach and Village is steeped in Irish History, and you can read more here.


Shipwrecked Remains on Mornington Beach