Thursday 23 October 2014

Gerard's vision for a Yeats museum in Sligo

Harry Keaney

Published 11/06/2013 | 05:40

'The historic job of keeping the paperwork on track remains unchanged but the second function is new and it is to keep the board informed so as to ensure that they have everything in order'

"Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

So wrote W. B. Yeats in his poem 'He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven'.

Sligo solicitor Gerard McCanny also has a dream. And at the heart of it is the extended Yeats family.

Gerard owns Pollexfen House, the landmark building on the corner of Wine Street and Adelaide Street.

He would like to see it become a Yeats museum, attracting visitors from around the world.

Erected in 1858, it was the home of the Sligo Steam Navigation Company, later W & G T Pollexfen Company.

It was formed by Sligo millers, William Pollexfen, Yeats's maternal grandfather, and William Middleton, Yeats's great uncle.

A century ago, the Pollexfens and Middletons were the largest ship owners in Sligo.

During the 1880s, the building was the Pollexfen family home. Here, the Yeats family stayed for periods before they moved to Merville, now Nazareth House.

The distinctive tower was added by Yeats's grandfather to enable shipping company directors keep watch over Sligo quays.

As owner of the building, Gerard said he felt he had a responsibility "to preserve and redefine the building for Sligo."

He added: "This is particularly important in view of the building's rich heritage and history and its central role in the story of Yeats and his extended family.

"What I would like the building to do is reconnect with the people of Sligo. It was a fundamental part of Sligo commercial life in years gone by."

There are already ideas of how the building could be used.

Some years ago, IT Sligo students produced a design for its use as a maritime museum.

Now, IT interior design students have produced a number of models for the building, "reimagining" it as a Yeats cultural centre or museum.

IT Lecturer Bernadette Donohoe said: "For too long, the tendency in Ireland has been to knock down existing buildings to make way for new ones, without any consideration for the conservation of our heritage and the carbon footprint that building a new structure leaves.

Gerard said: "My intention is that the concepts put forward by the IT students would drive this project forward to a reality.

"Developing this building as a Yeats museum or centre would be of international significance."

Gerard acknowledged this was something that "won't happen overnight."

However, he added: "Time is on our side when you consider the long legacy this building has already. Culture is not about boom or bust. Culture is forever."

A unique collection of artifacts associated with Yeats will be on display for the first time outside of Dublin in Pollexfen House during the Yeats Festival.

Sligo Champion

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