Ireland, Yeats, and My Writing Inspiration

Drumcliffe Church built in 1809. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013

When people learn about my visits to Ireland, most ask if I was researching a new book or if going there influenced my writing somehow. I usually don’t have a definitive answer. All my experiences  influence my stories in some way. But, yes, Ireland is inspirational, and so is Ireland’s literary history.
Since my last trip included a stay in Sligo, W.B. Yeats, who spent much of his childhood there and is buried in Drumcliffe, and how the landscape influenced him (and his brother Jack who painted some of Sligo’s scenery) provided inspiration (but what for exactly, I’ve yet to discover!)

Benbulben, County Sligo. Photo © Cindy Thomson, 2013

Graveyard at Drumcliffe. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013.

Over a century before Yeats spent his summers in Sligo, St. Columcille chose the site for one of his monasteries. In the 6th century, Columcille founded Drumcliffe and it has remained a sacred site since. (Although for all I know it was sacred to the pagans before Christianity, as many sites were.) 

Drumcliffe sits in the shadow of the magnificent mountain called Benbulben or Benbulbin (above.) The church that sits there now is of the Church of Ireland, and Yeats’s great grandfather was a rector there. Not too far from the church’s front doors (below, do you see swans? Some of my friends didn’t when they looked at this pic) lies Yeats’s grave. He died in France, but it was his wish (as written in one of his poems) to be buried at the base of Benbulben.

Drumcliffe church doors. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013


W.B. Yeats Grave, Drumcliffe. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013. Yeats’s wife is buried there too.

The churchyard is home to a 10th century high cross, and the ruin of a round tower, which dates at least to the 10th century, but perhaps even earlier.

Drumcliffe Round Tower. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013.

Apparently some of the ancient monastery’s tumbledown stones were used to build the new church. I’m fascinated by the fact that for centuries people have come here to worship, celebrate, bury and mourn their dead. Hearts were full or heavy here, over and over. You can almost feel it.

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