Yeats 150: Church of Ireland archives

This week (on 13th June to be precise) marks the 150th anniversary of W. B. Yeats’s birth. Entering into the spirit of this particular commemoration, the RCB Library, which is the main record repository of the Church of Ireland, presents significant evidence of the poet’s life and connection with places in Ireland (his baptism and burial).

Both Yeats’ baptism in Donnybrook parish church, Dublin, a month after his birth, on 12 July 1865, and the re–interment of his remains at the graveyard in Drumcliffe, County Sligo, on 17 September 1948 (which took place some nine years after his death at Menton, France, on 28 January 1939) are underpinned by his Church of Ireland identity.

It was in the little parish churchyard at Drumcliffe (where Yeats’ paternal great–grandfather, Revd John Yeats had been rector between 1811 and 1846) that the poet was finally laid to rest in September 1948. In the latter years of his life Yeats and his wife spent a good deal of time in the south of France, where he died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour, in Menton, on 28 January 1939.

After a protracted period of almost a decade, complicated by the intervention of the Second World War, and in accordance with his wishes, Yeats’ body was finally returned to Ireland and his spiritual home in Sligo. On 17 September 1948, a simple Church of Ireland burial service conducted by the then rector of the parish, the Revd James Wilson, and assisted by the bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, the Rt Revd Albert Hughes, was attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life, as well as his family. The record of burial was subsequently entered onto the parish burial register.

The RCB Library’s online exhibition will feature the baptismal and burial entries, together with other illustrative material documenting his Church of Ireland roots.

For more information on this and many other interesting items held in the RCB Library, visit their website: http://ireland.anglican.org/news/5726

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