county clare surf scene

Insider’s Guide to the County Clare Surf Scene

shambles mcgoldrick

Seamus McGoldrick

The Insider’s Guide to the West Coast Surf Scene is a series exploring the vibrant West of Ireland surf scene along the Wild Atlantic Way. Your guide to the surf is writer, pro bodyboarder and surf coach Seamus McGoldrick from Strandhill, Sligo.

Seamus began surfing at Strandhill Beach, one of Sligo’s hidden gems, and followed his passion by setting up his own thriving surf school business, Sligo Surf Experience.

So, who better to give you the inside scoop on the Irish surf scene?

Over to you Seamus:

“For our last installment of The Insider’s Guide we land in my favourite county for surfing, the Banner county of Clare. I have spent eighteen years surfing in the County Clare and have made many friends and very few enemies in this southern surfing paradise. Clare is simply a stronghold of Irish surfing heritage and talent. The waves speak for themselves and the vibe is simply magical. When do the waves appear? Nobody knows. When will the next big swell come? It’s impossible to tell. Who will suffer the next big injury? It could be anybody.

While the county’s surf is mysterious its people are straight forward and honest.

Fergal and Kevin Smith on Lahinch Prom in their childhood

Meet Two Locals

A pair of men who have made County Clare their home are brothers Fergal and Kevin Smith. Originally from Mayo, we first introduced these dedicated wave lovers in our Insider’s Guide to the County Mayo Surf Scene.

Kevin runs a successful photography business and Fergal set up one of Ireland’s only Community Support Agriculture farms. Kevin chose to relocate to Clare for a mixture of personal and professional reason. The reason in both cases was the good surf.

Kevin Smith (@kevlsmith)

“Clare has a great range of waves, from beginner waves in Fanore and Lahinch through to world-class waves like the cliffs of Moher. I think it’s one of the most constant counties for waves in Ireland.

I have always surfed from the age of ten but I moved to Clare to shoot an Analog team surf movie for my brother Fergal back in 2012. After that film, we filmed the Growing series for 18 months.

How do you balance surfing with work?

It’s fairly easy to fit in surfs. I live ten minutes from Lahinch and I can see the beach from my house, so whenever I am at home and I see there are waves, I’ll take a break from the computer and get a quick dip in.

What’s cool about the Clare surf scene is that’s its made up of Clare born surfers and surfers from all over Ireland and then international surfers who have moved over for the high-quality waves.

The big difference is in the winter, apart from the water temperature and the weather, is that it never really goes flat but in the summer you might go a few weeks without waves.

Who are the up and coming young Clare surfers?

There are so many, Ross Coyne, Joshua Karbus, Dylan Noonan, Breandan Monaghan, I could keep going!

Clare is famous for its festivals. You were at the 2019 Doolin Surf Festival. How was it?

It was great. It was class to see Irish surfing on the big screen.

Fergal Smith on camera

Fergal Smith (@moyhillfarm)

Kevin’s brother Fergal is busy running one of Ireland’s few Community Support Agriculture projects in Moy Hill, County Clare

“Clare is a great county for surfing as the coastline is small so you can get along it in a short amount of time with a lot of different waves.

I first came to Clare for surf contests but when I was seventeen or so I started coming down to surf the better waves and then I ended up just staying. Its a long enough drive home to Mayo so I just started living here as I liked it so much and it was too far to drive home.

county clare surf

Fergal and Kevin Smith learning to surf back in the day

I run a community farm and the good thing is in the summer the waves are not as good and the farm is at its busiest then, then in the winter the farm is quieter so gives time for surfing.

The special thing about Clare is the closeness to all the good waves and there is also a great variety for everyone. Clare gets more waves than other parts of the Irish coast during the summertime but it can be very wild here in the winter.

One of the craziest things about Clare is its number one tourist attraction: the “Cliffs of Moher”. Underneath the cliffs is also where some of the best waves in the world are!

The Burren Limestone landscape is also a very beautiful place to go and explore.

A new event this year was the Doolin surf festival which went down really well and everyone seemed to really enjoy it so hopefully, that will take place every year from now on.

Peter conroy

Peter Conroy charging in Clare

Peter Conroy (@pedro2468)

One of the first and most straightforward men I met in Clare was Peter Conroy from Miltown Malbay.

“Clare is known as one of the best surfing counties in Ireland. Why? Clare has so many different types of waves, from beginner waves to the most advanced waves in the world. So you can choose what you want to do or work your way up as you go along. We have quite an accessible coastline which makes it easy to get from one wave to another. Clare differs from other countries because of its bays and vast openness to the Atlantic and can handle all the ocean can throw at it.

How did you get into surfing in Clare?

I started working as a lifeguard on Spanish Point beach and on my time off I picked up a board and caught a few waves. I was hooked straight away.

As a professional Fireman, how do you balance surfing with work?

The older I get the more I realise that there will always be another swell. There will always be another best day ever. So I just get what I can and when I can. If it looks like it’s my kinda swell I might try to get off work. But nowadays I just wait until I’m free for the swell.

The people in my home county make the surf scene special. That and the vast amount of waves and the scenery. The waves we get in the winter are heavy and solid. The summer swells lame and inconsistent.

Peter Conroy

Any up and coming young Clare surfers?

Loads. Too many to name.

Best surfing beach in Clare?


If you want to get into surfing in Clare just get a board and get a few lessons off one of the many surf schools in Lahinch or Spanish Point. Once you have the basics, practice makes perfect.

Clem Mc Inerney (@clemmcinerney)

Another professional cameraman who makes Clare his home is Clem Mc Inerney. In the last several years Clem has dedicated himself to capturing Irish and foreign surfers in the best waves the wild west of Ireland has to offer.

“The Lahinch area as a whole has a really great variety of waves. It’s an amazing place to learn how to surf on the beach and then if you stick with it you almost have this natural progression to move further to the cliffs near the beach where you have reef breaks. When you park in the top car park you have such a good overview of the bay and where you want to surf, you don’t have to do too much trekking around!

Clem McInerney in his happy place. Image Credit: WestSouthWest

I was always encouraged to be around the sea as a young fella by my parents. I swam competitively, sailed and fished. I’m from Limerick so I spent all my summer holidays in Kilkee jumping off rocks terrifying onlookers and swimming all day every day.

It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I really fell in love with surfing and spent more time in Lahinch. My poor parents would be left sitting in the car waiting for hours while I attempted to surf! Then when I was a little older there were a few of my buddies from home who were into it and then I never really looked back. After a couple of years of silly missions and doing laps of the coast with good friends and I settled in Lahinch.

I am in a very privileged position where I work in the surf industry. It’s the only industry where ‘Sorry. I am only coming back to you now. There were pumping waves’ is a reasonable excuse for not coming back to someone!

My background of study and work is in law but I eventually followed my passion and began working with some incredible people in the most amazing locations close to home. Now, in saying that I don’t get to surf as much as I would like because if the waves are very good I am filming but when I do surf it makes it even more satisfying and I appreciate those moments more! That is why I try filming mostly from the water because I still get to be in the sea and get closer to the action.”

What makes the surf scene in Clare so special?

I think in Clare we have a very close surf community because we all work, surf and hang out together. That’s a great thing about Lahinch. It is hard to go for a quick walk down the prom because you just bump into someone every few feet!

We also have amazing board shapers here, for a small area. We have three active board shapers each doing there own techniques and designs: Tom DH, Luke Underwood and Shaun at Coded Surfboards are all pushing themselves for the surfers and waves here.

As a surf fan that’s really cool to see in a small area. We have a massive range of surfers as well from all different backgrounds, we have all found a way to be able to find a great work/surf balance.

I think my favourite beach is Doughmore in Doonbeg. That beach is very special to anyone who surfs in County Clare. It is really stunning and has produced some really special moments over the years.

What is the difference in summer and winter surfing in Clare?

Winter is the reason I live here, we are right on the front line of the storms from the Atlantic and to feel the power of the sea is something special. There is nothing better than being in the sea during one of these storms or standing on one of the cliffs being hammered by gale-force winds and rain coming from every direction. Then summer is just cruising, hoping for a wave really. We tend to surf longboards to keep ourselves sane while we wait for the good waves to return.

We have really epic Pitch and Putt courses here in Clare, a really nice way to spend a few hours when the waves arent great!

Clem McInerney behind the lense. Image Credit: WestSouthWest

Any up and coming young Clare surfers?

We have such a great crew of groms coming up. It’s really exciting to see the local groms in the line up now hassling us for waves! I think the future of the sport is in really good hands, the boys and girls coming through really just love the sport for what it is and want to spend as much time in the water as they can. There are too many to even mention which is a very positive sign for the talent coming out of Clare!

We have some really excellent surf schools in Clare. If you are looking to start surfing contact Mono in Lahinch Surf Experience, his standard of lessons are excellent and its very personal which is key to learning to surf the right way. Then if you are looking to progress to an advanced level I would contact Ollie’s Surf Academy. Ollie has years of competition knowledge and works closely with the ISA. You’ll need to stop into Lahinch surf shop to get your gear as well, that shop is one of the originals in surfing in Ireland!

County Clare has amazing festivals. If you are looking for something non-surf related there is the ‘Match Making Festival’ in Lisdoonvarna and I would highly recommend checking out the Agricultural show in Ennistymon.

We have some surf competitions coming in Lahinch as well. Check out the West Coast Surf Club website for details on those, it’s a great club that pushes the sport forward in the area.

Hotel Doolin has some epic festivals as well, the folk fest is world-renowned and they had the first Surfest last year which was a massive hit. It will be on again next March and even if you are not a surfer I would go check it out- its a weekend of great music, movies, talks, and food. Hotel Doolin not only hosted the event but contributed donations to the West Coast Surf Club and the Irish Tow Surf rescue club which is very positive for surfing in County Clare.

Are there any up and coming young surfers in Clare we should be looking out for?

Yes loads, it is not easy to mention one without the other fifty! So what I would recommend is grabbing a coffee from Joes, go sit on the prom and look out at the groms who are ripping!

Who to know
  • Dusty the Dolphin: Respect the locals and you’ll be fine.
  • Hugh Galloway if you are looking for a good sandwich. And I mean really good.

Hugo’s Deli

  • Peter Conroy. Pro surfer, safety guru, fireman and secret superhero.
  • Ollie O Flaherty

Female Surfers in Clare

Who are the females in the Co Clare surf scene?

Check out this beautiful video by Kev L Smith showing the female chargers of the banner; counselor/therapist Lisa O’Reilly, occupational therapist Alison Derham, Surf school manager Liz Quinn, and doctor/GP Marese Mannion, all of whom have chosen to live and work in one of the furthermost reaches of Europe, on the edge of Ireland so as to pursue their love of surfing. It is entitled ‘This Wild and Precious Life’ and it is dedicated to all such souls.

Where to hang out

Kevin Smith: “Visit the Cliff of Moher, take a ferry to the Arran Islands, check out the Doolin music scene. Go rock climbing and don’t forget a plain old stroll along the prom in Lahinch. Go visit the Burren. It is magical. Take one of the loop-walks near Fanore beach. Good festivals I recommend are the Doolin Folk festival and the Willie Clancy week in Milltown.”

Fergal Smith: “Lahinch Beach has something for everyone and is very easy to get to but quieter beaches like Fanore or Doughmore would be more my kind of places to hang out on. I guess if you want to get to know the Clare surfers Lahinch is the centre of all things surfing in Clare. if you hang out around the beach in Lahinch you will get to meet all the surfers of the area.

Peter Conroy: “A good cafe in Ennistymon or restaurant in Liscannor. Lahinch promenade. Spanish Point. The bottom of the Cliff of Moher. Quilty. The Aran Islands.  Doolin Cave. The Burren.”

Clem Mc Inerney: “County Clare has so many amazing places to hang out. For coffee, Joes Cafe. For pints its Kenny’s Bar in Lahinch. Both are great places to warm up after a surf or sit and talk with friends when the waves don’t produce! Try to get a sunset walk in at Hags head as well, it’s a great angle of the Cliffs of Moher. Obviously, the Cliffs of Moher are a must but it is a little too touristy. I would highly recommend a stroll around the Burren or else check out Doolin Cave. Ennistymon is a little hotbed of restaurants, Oh LaLa is really tasty and have a walk down to the falls after. I think people miss the falls when they just drive over the bridge to get to Lahinch, its definitely worth a stroll.

Don’t miss

Peter Conroy: “The Cliffs of Moher. Doolin Cave. The 99 icecreams in O Dwyers shop in Quilty. The Willy Clancy week. The West Coast surf club longboard competition and 50 year anniversary. 2020 Doolin Surf Festival.”

Kevin Smith: “Summer surfing in Doonbeg.”

Clem Mc Inerney: “Go explore south of Lahinch, head down to Loop head and stop in Kilkee on the way! Areas south of Lahinch are a little off the beaten track. There is tons of history, traditional music, amazing food and the scenery around Kilkee are stunning. I’d highly recommend getting a Nolans breakfast roll and eating it up on the cliffs looking out over the bay!”

Fergal Smith: “There are surfing events through the year in Clare and check out the West coast surf club to see what is happening with surf contest or beach clean-ups. We also have our Moyhill farm event from September 20th to 22nd. It is called a Farm Gathering and it where people get to come and camp on the farm for the weekend of the equinox and share in the great food with music, workshops, and lots of tours and farm demos. I hope to see you at that one Shambles.”

Related Content Insider’s Guide to Living in County Clare Insider’s Guide to County Donegal Surf Scene Insider’s Guide to County Sligo Surf Scene Insider’s Guide to County Mayo Surf Scene

Useful Links:

Sligo Surf Experience (Seamus McGoldrick’s surf school in Sligo)

West Coast Surf Club

Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club

Cliffs of Moher

Hotel Doolin



Western Development Commission Vacancy for Clerical Officer Fixed term 2 year contract

  1. Purpose of position:

 Reporting to the Head of Corporate Services, the post holder is primarily responsible to provide effective and efficient administrative support, as needed across the work of the Western Development Commission. This work is outlined in the organisation’s five year strategy available on the WDC website (

  1. Key responsibilities:

Under guidance the Clerical Officer is responsible for supporting the work across the strategic pillars of Regional Promotion, Regional Leadership and Sustainable Enterprise.  These include:

  • Implementation of the WDC strategic statement and attendant work plans.
  • Support of various RRDF or similarly funded projects.
  • In implementing the WDC’s strategic aims, you will support the implementation and development of its campaign.
  • Project reporting and shared procurement as necessary.
  • Clerical duties in support of the WDC strategic pillars.
  • Assisting with the day to day management of website and campaign (updating website, newsletters, case studies, sourcing content and relevant news from the region).
  • Support the organisation of conferences, meetings, events and travel arrangements.
  • Research on funding programmes/opportunities available (national and EU).
  • Word-processing, database, spread sheet and filing duties.
  • Compiling of regular reports.
  • Circulating Press Releases.
  • Responding directly to phone enquiries to the Commission.


Minimum one year administration experience in a fast paced office

  • Minimum NFQ Level 6 in Office Management / Business / Arts
  • Ideally completed an accredited IT skills course e.g. ECDL or other computer / office management   Hands on experience in using Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel and Powerpoint) and can demonstrate excellent keyboard skills
  • Excellent customer service skills within an administration / office environment
  • Excellent communication skills in particular with proven experience of writing new content, letters and documents. Demonstrates strong professional manner in engaging with the public and colleagues.
  • Excellent organisational skills, strong attention to detail and proven ability to plan and organise multiple tasks, events and schedules.
  • Initiative and flexibility – demonstrates a flexible approach to work commitments while using own initiative to manage workload.
  • Teamwork and has proven ability to work as a member of a multidisciplinary team
  1. Conditions:

 This post is a full-time, fixed term 2 year contract, subject to project funding and a six month probationary period and all staff appointments are subject to the WDC Act.

All staff members are required to sign up to the WDC Code of Business Conduct under the code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

The WDC Head Office is in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon. WDC staff are also located in Galway and Sligo.  The successful candidate will be located in the Head Office in Ballaghaderreen.

The salary scale for this post will be equivalent to that of the Civil Service Clerical Officer Standard Scale:

 Personal Pension Contribution (PPC) Pay Rate: The salary for this position, with effect from 1st October 2018 is as follows: €23,572, €25,114, €25,507, €26,270, €27,398, €28,523,

 €29,649, €30,469, €31,553, €32,638, €33,401, €34,474, €35,540, €37,204, €38,5121, €39,1122

 Please note: The starting salary for the person appointed to this post will be the first point on the above scale unless the successful application has previous reckonable public sector experience.

To Apply

Please submit a cover letter and CV (of no more than four pages) detailing your experience, qualifications and any other relevant information, to Patricia Teatum, Head of Corporate Resources, WDC, Dillon House, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon or  

Applicants can also apply through

 Closing date for receipt of applications is Thursday,  8th  August at 5.00 pm

Interviews will be held during the week commencing 20th August 2019.

The WDC is an equal opportunities employer

Canvassing will disqualify

Ba bhuntáiste é líofacht sa Ghaeilge

The Western Development Commission and the LECo Project were delighted to support the Launch of Smart Green Mohill on Friday 28th June 2019

The Minister for Rural & Community Development, Mr. Michael Ring TD launched the vision of a Smart Green Mohill with the following plans:

  • The Economic Development Plan for Mohill– Supported by Leitrim County Council and Town and Village Funding
  • Mohill Sustainable Energy Community – Energy Master Plan – Supported and funded by the SEAI with help from the Contract Research Unit (CRU) in Sligo IT
  • Mohill Renewable Energy Feasibility Study – Supported and funded by the Western Development Commission through the Local Energy Communities (LECo) project.

The LECo project is funded through the NPA Programme and is a 3 year, €1.95m project that aims to bring together the combined experience, knowledge and expertise of the project partners and provide conditions for the creation of energy self-sufficient Local Energy Communities. Communities in Lisdoonvarna and Tourmakeady were also supported and all of the feasibility reports can be found at the following link:

Dr Orla Nic Suibhne, LECO Project Officer with the Western Development Commission stated “The role of communities in the low carbon energy transition is changing.  They are no longer passive consumers but active prosumers with the possibility of local generation, demand response and energy efficiency measures. Whilst barriers do exist, there are policy measures in the near future that will help to overcome these. For example: The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which will allow community ownership in large scale renewable electricity generation from 2020 onwards; and the full adoption of the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package in May 2019 by the EU in which the new rules make it easier for individuals to produce, store or sell their own energy, and strengthen consumer rights with more transparency on bills, and greater choice flexibility”.

For more information please contact:

Orla Nic Suibhne|Western Development Commission (WDC)

087 7449405

Let your socks do the talking

Irish company sees novel way to help businesses brand themselves below the knee

The Irish Sock company, Irish Socksciety which has walked into the sock drawers of people all over Ireland, Europe and as far as Australia is launching their summer collection of socks. The sock business which was started in Galway by Joanna and Alex in 2017 has now become a wardrobe staple for so many across Ireland.

This Irish company has designed over 50 customised socks for companies and organisations all over Ireland. Socks have become the new pen or USB stick for businesses. “Feedback received from IS clients proves that they find it as invaluable marketing tool and a great piece for a goodie bag. It’s a perfect gift that carries the brand, is practical and fun. They can gift their brand and people then will wear and enjoy the socks. We love this element of our business, seeing a business walking around with one of our designs still gives us a real high.” explained Joanna

This summer socks have just dropped to kick start the Irish summer (Will it ever arrive!) which will require both short and long line socks of course. As with everything in Ireland its weather permitting which means that this is a year-round business and is certainly not seasonal. “ Christmas is our busiest time of the year and because we have such novel Irish inspired socks we really see occasions like Mothers and Fathers Days, anything GAA or Rugby related will see a massive spike in demand for our sport driven lines and of course our subscriptions are a new way to gift someone month on month, so long after their birthday has passed they are still getting a little treat each month, delivered to their door,” Alex said.

Irish Socksciety have customised and designed socks for – RTE 2, Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Cancer Society, Fat Fox Cafe, Pendo, The Galway Races, Science Gallery, BrightWind – and around 50 businesses throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland including the award winning Tigh Neachtain, Kai restaurant, Hazel Mountain Chocolate, The Blue Note Bar and HubSpot, Sullivan Golf and Travel, Titan HQ and internationally a group of Norway award winning Restaurants.

“This year we are focusing on designing new range for summer and winter season that will be available for subscriptions or buy, introducing new product and delivering the best of custom design. A big thing for this year is sustainability. Since the beginning, being environmentally friendly was crucial for us and we are putting and extra focus on it this and future years. We are also working on 2019 edition of Wearable Art Project where we will cooperate with one of the Irish designers on a new pattern.”

To order yours click here where you can also sign up and buy a monthly subscription for you or for someone who loves socks. Of course get social too across all platforms #thisisclass

leonard cohen yeats

Tower Of Song: From Leonard Cohen To Arcade Fire And Beyond – Yeats’ Influence On Modern Music

The finest verse, according to W.B. Yeats was one which filled the reader with the urge to read it out loud. Inspired by the oral tradition of the ancient Irish bards, he set out to keep his poetry clear of ‘every phrase written for eye’,  leaving only what was ‘for the ear alone’. It is not surprising then that he has inspired so many poets and lyricists over the years, many of whom have been compelled to read his verse aloud (we we are inviting you to do with Your Yeats) , or put it to music. We asked Irish Music Journalist Eamon Sweeney to explore the rich connections between Yeats and musicians the world over.

William Butler Yeats’ influence extends far beyond the world of literature. He remains a true blue pillar of Irish poetry and letters, having crafted some of the most enduring poems about love, life and death ever written. Yeats also profoundly inspires popular culture and modern music.  

In the final line of ‘Among School Children’, Yeats famously asks, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” Similarly, poetry and lyrics can sometimes be hard to differentiate. 

Lyrics tend to be accompanied by music, while poetry is not, but both constantly blur and cross-pollinate. Singer-songwriter Will Oldham (also widely known as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) opened an essay for The Poetry Foundation with the reflection, “The difference between lyrics and poetry is that I don’t understand poetry.” 

Leonard Cohen is a classic example of a highly accomplished poet and lyricist. In addition to a peerless canon of timeless songs, Cohen has authored two novels and several collections of poetry. Rufus Wainwright hails Cohen as “the greatest living poet on earth.” Unsurprisingly, Cohen is a massive WBY fan. 

The Canadian icon has been a regular visitor to Ireland since 2008. In summer 2010, Cohen performed two unforgettable concerts at Lissadell House, where he read from Yeats’ ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz’. 

Van Morrison has referenced Yeats numerous times throughout an extraordinarily prolific career. On his 1985 album, A Sense of Wonder, Morrison recorded a musical version of the poem ‘Crazy Jane on God.’ 

Mike Scott and The Waterboys are perhaps the best known modern musical interpreters of Yeats. Their classic 1988 album, Fisherman’s Blues, closes with a well known version of ‘The Stolen Child’ featuring sean nós singer and poet Tomás Mac Eoin

In 2011, The Waterboys released an entire album inspired by Ireland’s most iconic poet entitled An Appointment with Mr Yeats. Mike Scott described the process of making the album “as if Yeats was in the room collaborating with me.”

Several seminal musical heroines have also paid homage to Mr Yeats. American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist Patti Smith opened a 2012 Abbey performance  alongside Sam Shepard by reading Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’. Sinéad O’Connor launched her astonishing career back in 1987 with a debut single entitled ‘Troy’, which was inspired by Yeats’ ‘No Second Troy’. You can actually hear O’Connor recite this poem, along with ‘Easter 1916’, in the Yeats exhibition  currently running at the National Library of Ireland. 

Recently, Will Butler of Arcade Fire also cited Yeats as a massive influence. “When you think about it, Yeats’s career is the ultimate benchmark,” he told me in an interview for the Irish Times. “He won the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he continued to get better and kept writing great stuff. It’s a tall order, but that’s my goal.”

The aptly named Will Butler is just the latest musician to tap into Yeats’ rich well for inspiration. You can be sure he won’t be the last. 

This article was originally published for Yeats2015; a year-long celebration for WB Yeats 150th birthday in 2015.

About the Author: Eamon Sweeney (@Swench) is a freelance journalist and writer from Dublin who contributes to The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Business Post and Hot Press. He is also a volunteer for the Friends of Joyce Tower Society in Sandycove. You can follow Eamon on twitter @Swench and you can read more of his work online here.

Image Credits:
Leonard Cohen image Nathan Wind under Creative Commons
Waterboys image via Kewl Kela under Creative Commons

yeats sligo family

10 Things You Didn’t Know About WB Yeats

Every Irish person will have come across the work of William Butler Yeats in school but here are 10 things your teachers may not have told you.

1.Yeats was fascinated by the occult and mysticism. He joined the Golden Dawn, a secret society which practiced ritual magic, in 1890, progressing to its Inner Order in 1893, and remained an active member for most of his life. He also joined paranormal research organisation The Ghost Club in 1911

2. While Yeats’ unrequited love for Maud Gonne is as famous as his poetry, what is less well-known is that they consummated the affair in 1908 – almost 20 years after first meeting. However, the relationship did not develop further.

3. He was nothing if not persistent. After proposing to, and being rejected by, Maud Gonne for the fifth time, he asked her daughter Iseult to marry him – also without success. Shortly after Iseult’s refusal, Yeats, then 52, married 25-year-old Georgie Hyde-Lees in October 1917.

4. He may have been in such a rush to get hitched because he believed it was written in the stars. An astrological chart drawn up through the Golden Dawn found October 1917 was the ideal time for Yeats to marry.

5. Yeats’ introduction to automatic writing began as a sly attempt by Georgie to alleviate his fears about their marriage. The process is said to allow a person to write without conscious thought, acting as medium for the spirit world. During a grim honeymoon, Georgie convinced her new husband that the following was written through her: “With the bird all is well at heart. Your action was right for both.” Yeats took this as Iseult being well and his having made the right choice. He and Georgie went to on produce thousands of pages of automatic script.

6. Yeats served in the first Seanad for six years from 1922. He argued against the ban on divorce, a move he viewed as “grossly oppressive” to the Protestant minority, warning it would “put a wedge in the midst of this nation”. He also spoke out against new censorship laws, and while he promoted Irish-language research, he questioned compulsory Irish.

7. He played a major role in the Irish cultural revival. He was involved in founding the Abbey Theatre and the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, now the Hugh Lane, and supported the Cuala Press set up by his sisters to produce books of Irish interest.

8. WB Yeats was the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. A year later his brother Jack added to the family medal haul, winning silver in the arts and culture section of the Olympics for his painting The Liffey Swim.

9. Yeats described his last years as a second puberty following a Steinach operation at age 69. Perhaps not coincidentally had several affairs with younger women but also experienced a late burst of creativity.

10. The grave of WB Yeats may contain someone else’s body. The poet died in France in 1939 but was exhumed and brought to Drumcliffe, Sligo,in 1948. However, historian Louise Foxcroft, whose granduncle Alfred Hollis was buried in France on the same day as Yeats, has raised concerns that a mix-up meant Hollis’ body was sent to Ireland instead.

About the Writer: Anne Hayden is a writer and editor who grew up in Cork, studied in Galway and lives in Dublin. She has an MA Journalism from NUIG and is Assistant Chief Subeditor at the Irish Sun. You can follow Anne on twitter @ainenihaodain

Knowing Yeats, Knowing Sligo

It’s well known that Yeats drew inspiration all his life from his time spent staying with relatives in his beloved Sligo during childhood and early adulthood.  We asked another Sligo writer, Nicola Ryan, who moved to the area herself in her teenage years, to recount her relationship with the poet through their adopted home county.

Yeats Country

Image Credit: Raymond Fogarty

It is not for nothing Sligo is known as the Yeats country. If you have even a nodding acquaintance with the poet’s work, you won’t to be there for long without being reminded of lines from the poems. This is far from happenchance, of course as Yeats again and again found his inspiration in Sligo, the beloved landscape of his childhood. His words come to mind easily because he was determined that the syntax would ring true to Irish life and not come from ‘a second-hand culture’ picked up from styles of English literature which had gone before.

I first came to Sligo when I was fifteen and my family moved there from Athlone. Even for a careless teen, more worried about leaving her friends than about the place she was going to, it was impossible to avoid the poet.

I was familiar with him, of course, given that I was studying for my Leaving Cert, and Yeats was our most prominent Irish poet. I even liked him, but he seemed far distant, belonging to a time very much before my own. Yet, within a few years, Yeats and myself would have a house in common – Avena House in Ballisodare. For me, it became our family home a few years after we arrived in Sligo. For him, it was the home of his grand-uncle William Middleton, where he often stayed with his cousins while in Sligo on his holidays, especially George. George was about his own age and had ‘a piebald pony that had once been in a circus’ so that it sometimes walked around in a circle as if it were still in the ring.

The Middletons were happy to associate with the villagers, both in Ballisodare and at Rosses Point where they had their summer home. Yeats credited these excursions into local homes with awakening the lifelong interest in ‘country stories’ and Irish mythology that became so fundamentally important to him. It was in Ballisodare, (in the very kitchen of Avena House according to solicitor and local Yeats scholar, J.P. McGarry) he listened in adulthood to the tales of the gardener, Paddy Flynn, ‘a little bright-eyed old man’, and used many of them in his Celtic Twilight. It was in Ballisodare too he heard an old woman singing the folk song that he turned into his poem Down by the Sally Gardens. (Yeats would have been familiar with the cottage gardens of time, growing willow trees so that the young branches or ‘sallies’ could be used to bind the roof thatch.) Avena House remains a private home to this day, surrounded by walled grounds of almost an acre, at the centre of the village. The Middleton & Pollexfen mills with which it was associated were still there in my time, but are now no more.


My Ballisodare connection was in the unknowable future, of course, on the day we first arrived in Sligo, following the removal truck to our temporary home in town. I remember we crested the hill at the top of Pearse road and there I recognised ahead the unmistakable shape of ‘bare Benbulben’s head’. It was just as the poet had described it when he asked to be buried in its shadow, beside Drumcliff church, his grave marked by a simple limestone slab.

In his lifetime, Yeats was fascinated by Benbulben’s significance in the country tales. He called Drumcliff a ‘gentle’ place, meaning the people still knew and respected the old ‘faery’ ways. He wrote in Celtic Twilight of a particular limestone flag on the mountainside that marks the entrance to faeryland: ‘No mortal has ever touched it with his hand; no sheep or goat has ever browsed grass beside it.’ From here the fabulous Shidhe emerged for their night hunts, and if there was a new bride or new baby in the mortal community, a watch must be kept to make sure they had not been stolen away! More readily visible to mortal eyes on Benbulben is the cave said to have been the last resting place of the ill-fated aristocratic lovers, Diarmuid and Grainne.

Knocknarea is the other guardian of the entrance to Sligo. Visible from some miles out, it rises cleanly from a flat landscape of green fields, and is crowned on top with the unmistakable profile of Maeve’s cairn. I have walked up the mountain from the Glen Road side many times, unaware until recently that I was literally following in the footsteps of the poet – hillwalking not being an activity one would generally associate with Yeats! In selecting Knocknarea as the setting for his quasi-Celtic hero, Red Hanrahan, Yeats didn’t realise what an extremely ancient site it was. ‘Maeve’s cairn’ is a vastly earlier construction than was dreamed of in the poet’s lifetime; it’s not just that it predates the Celts, it probably pre-dates the pyramids, and is most likely about five thousand years old. Staying in Ballisodare as a youth, Yeats thought he had seen bright lights dancing up the mountainside; how fascinating that archaeologists are now speculating Knocknarea was in ancient times a sacred place of pilgrimage. They have discovered the remains of what was possibly a ceremonial route. It runs along what was until now thought to be a natural ridge circling the summit, so there may well have been torchlit processions along its slopes.

In Athlone, ‘lake’ meant the mighty Lough Ree, shoreline 192 km, to be sampled in measured bites. We soon found that Lough Gill was the perfect size for a Sunday afternoon spin- a round-trip of about 35 km/22 miles.

The viewing point for Yeats’ Lake Isle of Inisfree is approximately 8 km out of town. A short detour off the main road (signposted), down a lane, and there it is – a small, tree covered island seeming not that far away across the water. At the end of the lane there’s a little jetty. Standing there, the light-gravelled shore is surprisingly close to the road. It was a delight to find the lakewater actually does lap along it with that ‘low’ clear sound that Yeats heard in his ‘deep heart’s core’.

When he first thought of living on the island, ‘alone in the bee-loud glade’ Yeats was a teenager. He had been very taken by the ideas of Henry David Thoreau, and dreamed of living in a cabin on Inisfree, like Thoreau did on Walden pond. The closest he managed to get to this was to spend a night in the open in Slish wood overlooking the lake. In his Autobiographies he writes that he walked out from his uncle George Pollexfen’s house in Thornhill one beautiful evening and stayed in the wood from which he could see ‘my island’, until dawn. He had intended to sleep, but found he was so worried that he might be caught by the forest ranger, he passed the night thinking of excuses he could offer for trespassing! However, he did have the pleasure of seeing Inisfree as the dawn broke, and hearing the birdsong. He then walked back ‘unimaginably tired and sleepy’ having covered, he says, around thirty miles in total!

By the time he wrote the poem, he was starting to give up on his youthful dream of seeking wisdom by living with Nature. One day in Fleet Street, he was feeling miserable and very homesick for Sligo. Fortunately for us, the tinkling of a miniature fountain in a London shop window brought Inisfree viscerally to mind, and inspired his evocative poem of loss, and longing for place. Fortunately for me, I get to return to Sligo whenever I want to – which is often.

This article was originally published for Yeats2015; a year-long celebration for WB Yeats 150th birthday in 2015.

About The Writer: Nicola Ryan lived in Sligo and was a journalist with The Sligo Champion from 1971 till until 1987.   She also compiled and edited ‘Femforum’, a weekly women’s page for the paper.  She now lives in Dublin with her husband Philip and in recent years completed a degree in History of Art and Architecture.  In keeping with her Sligo interests, her thesis concerned the architecture of Lissadell House. She recently completed a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin.

Image Credits: Colin Gillen at Framelight Studio.

Go Atlantic Blue to celebrate our Atlantic Ocean on World Oceans Day (8 June)

Famous buildings and landmarks across Ireland will ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ over the weekend 7-10 June to celebrate our connection to the Atlantic Ocean, as part of World Oceans Day. The global day (Saturday 8 June) connects people worldwide in celebrating the ocean, its importance in our lives and how each of us can protect it, no matter where we live.

In Ireland, more than 20 different landmarks are expected to participate in the day by lighting up their buildings. Businesses, shops, schools and homes across the country will also ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ on the day. Everyone’s participation will highlight the strong connection that people in Ireland have with the Atlantic Ocean and the multiple ways that it affects and enriches our daily lives.

‘Go Atlantic Blue’ is being spearheaded in Ireland by the Marine Institute-led AORA-CSA (Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination & Support Action) against the backdrop of SeaFest 2019 (7-9 June) and Our Ocean Wealth Summit (9-10 June), both taking place in Cork. SeaFest is Ireland’s national maritime festival and Our Ocean Wealth Summit is Ireland’s flagship event for the marine sector, bringing together Irish and international organisations to create innovative and sustainable solutions to drive our Blue Economy.

It’s the first year to ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ with the aim of raising awareness of the vital role that the Atlantic Ocean plays in the lives of Irish people, no matter how near or far they live from the Atlantic coastline. Amongst the activities that AORA ( promotes through its work are the development of an ‘Atlantic community’, made up of citizens of countries that neighbour the Atlantic Ocean, and also exploring, observing and mapping the remainder of the Atlantic Ocean floor (which AORA calls “the Last Great Exploration Campaign on Earth”).

Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, said,

Our ocean is our greatest natural resource and we see that most directly in Ireland with the vital importance that the Atlantic Ocean plays in our daily lives – from influencing the weather to facilitating our trade industry and from seafood to surfing off the coast. The Marine Institute is proud to support the ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ initiative from 7-10 June, particularly at SeaFest and Our Ocean Wealth Summit, and we encourage & welcome everyone to come onboard.”

Director of Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination & Support Action, Dr Margaret Rae, said that the initiative gives people all around the country a chance to show their appreciation for the Atlantic Ocean.

“In Ireland, the Atlantic Ocean means so much to us. It’s our largest natural resource and we draw so much from it – our livelihoods, food, bounty, beauty, imagination, inspiration, song, poetry, health and wellbeing and much much more,” she said. “Going Atlantic Blue is a way to draw attention to how each and every one of us experiences the Atlantic, what we love about our Ocean and how we can be that generation that makes a difference.”

Some of the Landmarks around Ireland Going Atlantic Blue

• Dublin Airport
• Shannon Airport
• Cork Airport
• Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
• King John’s Castle, Limerick
• University of Limerick
• CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork
• St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
• National University of Ireland Galway
• University College Cork
• University College Dublin
• Dublin City University
• Trinity College Dublin
• GMIT, Dublin Road, Galway
• GMIT, Letterfrack
• Iveagh House, Dublin (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
• Government Buildings (Merrion Square, Dublin)
• Galway Bay Boat Tours
• Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, Galway
• Galway Atlantaquaria, National Aquarium of Ireland
• Tyndall National Institute, Cork
• Port of Galway
• Cork City Hall
• Berwick fountain (Grand Parade), Cork
• Bishop Lucey Park, Cork
• St Peter’s, North Main Street, Cork
• St. Luke’s, Cork
• Roche’s Point Lighthouse, Cork
• Baily Lighthouse, Dublin
• The Great Light (Titanic Quarter, Belfast)
• Port of Cork
• National Maritime College of Ireland (NCMI)
• Marine Institute
• One Albert Quay, Cork
• The Capitol, Cork
• Western Development Commission
• XOCEAN, Co Louth
• VOYA and VOYA Seaweed Baths, Co Sligo
• Carbery Group, Cork
• Murphys Ice Cream, Nationwide
• Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, Co Kerry
• Blennerville Windmill, Tralee, Co Kerry
• Seavite
• Science Foundation Ireland
• Údarás na Gaeltachta
• Seal Rescue Ireland in Wexford
• Milish Bakery, Bundoran, Co. Donegal
• Met Éireann
• Donegal Airport
• CBE, Claremorris, Co. Mayo
• Martina Hamilton Jewellery, Sligo
• Cat & the Moon, Sligo
• Fishy Fishy Restaurant, Kinsale

 How you can ‘Go Atlantic Blue’

  • Decorate your business/home/school with an Atlantic blue colour – add dark blue filters, fairy lights or blue light bulbs in outdoor lights
  • Dress in Atlantic blue clothing e.g. T-shirts, wear a blue wig or paint your face dark blue
  • Organise your own ‘Atlantic Blue’ themed event

 Share how you ‘Go Atlantic Blue’

  • Take a photo or video of how you’ve gone Atlantic Blue and share it on social media platforms. Feel free to share what makes the Atlantic Ocean special to you
  • Tag your social media posts with #WorldOceansDay and #GoAtlanticBlue to link with a community of fellow ocean appreciators!
  • Tag AORA in your tweets (@AtlanticAll) and also tag @Seafest_ie and @OurOceanWealth if you’ve room!

 Find out more HERE

Check out and video

Image Courtesy of 

wdc strategy

Western Development Commission’s new five-year strategy ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ launched in Galway

Growing and developing the West of Ireland by investing in tech, connecting digital working hubs, and promoting the region’s unmatched quality of life, is at the heart of the Western Development Commission’s new five-year strategy ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’, which is launched today.

Under the strategy, almost €50 million in structured supports will be offered in investment and lending to companies and businesses, with a focus on innovative or tech businesses that are developing or have the potential to develop a global niche.

Speaking at the launch today in Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Sean Canney TD, also announced that €1m in Dormant Accounts Funding will be made available to create a network of Enterprise Hubs and Digital Spaces from Co Donegal to Co Kerry.

The centres, powered by fibre broadband, support the growing trend towards remote working, community hubs, and offer a lifeline for early stage rural-based companies and entrepreneurs

The Western Development Commission’s ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy will build on the growth of remote working and facilitate innovation within a globally competitive region that offers a quality of life that’s among the best in the world.

The strategy has three pillars; Regional Promotion, Regional Leadership and Sustainable Enterprise, with short-term, medium and long-term goals.

  • Regional Promotion will focus on the further development of the WDC’s jobs and lifestyle portal called and engaging with communities in Clare, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal
  • Regional Leadership will see the continuation of WDC policy analysis, supporting the Creative Economy and the WDC’s role as co-ordinating agency for the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) project, set out in Project Ireland 2040. The AEC covers the spine of Ireland’s western coast that includes the counties from Co Donegal to Co Kerry
  • Sustainable Enterprise will take a longer-term view, continuing to invest in new ideas and build on the success of the Western Investment Fund, the on-going promotion of Social Enterprise and over a ten year period working with higher education institutions, other agencies and departments to identify one or two sectors that will deliver a competitive advantage for the region at a global level.

Minister Canney revealed today that the WDC has grown, through investment and lending, the original state investment of £25m (€32m) in the Western Investment Fund to a current portfolio value of €72m. The organisation now has €48m of that fund available for investment and lending across a number of areas.

A key goal of the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better strategy’ will be to take a ’10-year view’ by investing the €48 million in the Western Region in early stage businesses, micro-loans for communities and significant investment in one or two key sectors – which can build a competitive advantage for the region.

The new €1m fund for Enterprise Hubs and Digital Spaces will help raise the profile of the hubs, the work they do and a build a single online point of access for public, private and community hubs along the Atlantic coast. The fund will also help Centre Managers to grow the business, learn from each other, offer clear routes to further supports and, in the longer term, build a pipeline of innovation in communities.

Commenting today, Minister Canney said: “I welcome the opportunity to launch the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy on behalf of the Western Development Commission. In particular, the establishment of the Atlantic Economic Corridor offers a significant opportunity for both the region and the WDC to grow and meet the needs of communities all along the Atlantic seaboard. I want to acknowledge the commitment and engagement of the Board and staff of the WDC in taking on this new role. This new strategy offers a clear opportunity to raise the profile of the work the WDC does for the west, in the west, and is to be welcomed.”

Chair of the WDC, Dr Deirdre Garvey, acknowledged the role played by those who engaged with the WDC in creating the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy. “This process has been very helpful in ensuring that the WDC continues to deliver for the Western Region, meeting the needs of key stakeholders, but ultimately the needs of those who live in the West, and seek to ensure that they can offer a future of equal, and greater opportunity for the next generation.”

Speaking at the launch, Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin, said: “Regional development is a priority issue. In the context of significant technological change and the need to move to a low carbon economy, it’s vital that we ensure balanced development as we grow to 2040. This strategy acknowledges the work of the WDC team to date and sets out a clear ambition to position the region as global leaders in one or two key areas over the next 10 years.

“These projects are of vital national importance and the WDC welcomes the opportunity to play a key role in making these goals a reality. These goals can be achieved through continued collaboration with communities, as well as with State and industry in the Western Region. Work Smarter, Live Better aligns with the Government’s broader ambition as set out in Ireland 2040 and in particular the Atlantic Economic Corridor.”

wdc strategy

More on the ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ Strategy 2019-2024  at


Five EU Regions Come together to Create an International Business Mentoring Solution for Local West of Ireland SME’s

Minna Järvinen, Corporate Communications Officer at Finnish Business mentors, was in Galway to share the expertise of supporting over 1,400 clients in 2018, to access mentoring services in her native Finland with attendees from the West of Ireland and beyond.  Minna was speaking as part of the launch events for the Bizmentors EU funded initiative launched by the Western Development Commission (WDC) and SCCUL enterprises in the historic Aula Maxima in NUIG.

In 2018 the WDC and SCCUL were successfully awarded EU funding to develop and pilot an SME mentoring support project with partners from Finland, Iceland, and Northern Ireland. The project is a three-year (2018-2021), transnational project co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA) with a total budget in the region of €1.3m. It is aimed at supporting SME growth in the NPA region through accessible, open access, tailored mentoring for businesses. “For the WDC it is intended that the EU Bizmentors project will result in a novel capability to provide Trans-national, bespoke, mentoring to allow our SMEs to both survive and indeed thrive”  said Ian Brannigan , Head of Regional Development at the WDC.

For more details on the NPA, see

Annette Hassett, Bizmentors Programme Manager for SCCUL Enterprises CLG, stated:
This is an exciting step for Bizmentors from humble beginnings based on the East Side of Galway City with a focus on the Galway area to this collaboration across 5 EU regions providing trans-national business mentoring solutions”.

The development of such a transnational offering to local SME’s is the main deliverable. Such a model compliment’s existing national mentoring models and is intended to facilitate mentoring for even the most peripheral SME’s in the region

The BizMentors model, developed by SCCUL, has been proven to support individuals and businesses in a community setting in Galway since 2012. It relies on the local support of established business people to provide free guidance to those seeking it in a structured and low cost way. To test the new model, the partnership will focus on the Agri-Food sector. Having identified 587 existing businesses in the partner regions initially, the project will support end users to take advantage of the unique natural capital, innovation capacity and markets that remains untapped in the region. The mentoring model developed will be piloted in each region participating in the project

The project in the West of Ireland is implemented by the Western Development Commission and SCCUL enterprise CLG.