Thursday 30 March 2017

How darling Micheál brought me to Yeats

W B Yeats
W B Yeats
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

I thought there was nothing glamorous about growing up in prosaic little Sandymount, Dublin - sorry Sandymount! - until I learned, in my teenage years, that it had also been the neighbourhood of the Yeats family. For WB Yeats was born at 5, Sandymount Avenue (then called 1, George's Ville); and Sandymount Castle, that castellated residence by the village green, also had a connection with the Yeats' family and his grandfather died there.

Those details only emerged in recent years, in Roy Foster's magisterial biography: all I knew, aged 17, was that there was a Sandymount link. My real introduction to Yeats was through the magical and fabulous performances of the great Irish actor Micheál MacLiammóir, who recited Yeats' poetry like no one else has ever done, and who had, himself, a profound romance with the Yeats narrative and the way in which it paralleled Ireland's story in the 20th century.

By the way, on the morrow of the referendum just enacted, let it be said that MacLiammóir was not only gay, but quite flamboyant in his style: he walked down Grafton Street in the 1960s with a full application of stage make-up, and everyone in Dublin was aware that - in the delicate phraseology of the time - "he did not share the common nature of men". Yet MacLiammóir was adored by Dubliners, and, as far as I know, encountered no prejudices because of his sexuality. He was accepted for himself, and that is the best that any of us can hope for in life.

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