Tuesday 20 March 2018

Yeats Day is family affair for WB, Jack and sisters

Aleck Crichton, who as a child met WB Yeats, with his actor grandson Michael Fish who read from
Yeats’ Nobel Prize speech
Aleck Crichton, who as a child met WB Yeats, with his actor grandson Michael Fish who read from Yeats’ Nobel Prize speech

Greg Harkin

THE birthday of poet WB Yeats was celebrated around the world yesterday, but his spiritual home of Sligo was the place to be as the contribution of the entire Yeats clan to the arts was marked.

Yeats Day, a festival of poetry and exhibitions, also included paintings by the poet's brother Jack as well as a celebration of gaelic crafts revived by Yeats' sisters Susan and Elizabeth. WB Yeats' 148th birthday was also celebrated around the world, with events in Sacramento, Taipei and London.

Readings from his works will also take place in Tokyo next week.

Sligo's O'Connell Street was closed off for the day and Yeats' Nobel Prize was on display in the town's library.

Aleck Crichton (95) told the Irish Independent of meeting the great poet growing up.

Mr Crichton's parents – the Jameson whiskey distillery family – often had WB Yeats at their home in Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square for tea.

"I would play tig with his children on the square and we were always getting into trouble," he recalled.

"I don't remember him ever actually talking to us but he didn't ignore us either.


"He always dressed impeccably, always wore a bow tie and silver buckles on his shoes. My father and mother were huge friends and he was often in our home for tea."

He said he was delighted that a special Yeats Day had been established.

Aleck's grandson, the English actor Michael Fish, performed Yeats' 1923 Nobel Prize speech at the graveyard in Drumcliffe where the poet is buried.

"I heard all about Yeats and his friendship with my great-grandparents growing up, but I am also a massive fan," said the 21-year-old.

Restaurants and food stalls marked the event by serving menus featuring sausages and wine – the food Yeats celebrated with when he was told about the Nobel Prize.

"Apparently that was all that was available," said Susan O'Keeffe, one of the festival organisers.

Yeats Day also opened Sligo's Yeats Festival Season, with the launch of Tread Softly, a festival exploring the link between the Yeats brothers and Sligo (July 25 – August 9) along with the launch of the 10-day LilyLolly Craftfest (formerly known as Northwest Craftfest), which runs until June 23.

Irish Independent

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