The only known surviving programme from the very first Yeats Summer School in 1960 has been discovered by scholars in the Ulysses Rare Books store on Dublin’s Duke street.
In near-perfect condition the discovery of the eight-page booklet, with an image of Thomas Sturge Moore’s Unicorn on the cover, is seen as significant as it describes the aims and aspirations of the summer School from its inception in 1960 - some 21-years after the death of W.B. Yeats.Amongst those first visiting scholars was Professor David R Clarke, Associate Professor of English of University of Massachusetts. A short note written by him was found with the re-discovered original programme.
“It brings us back in a very tangible way to the first YISS,” said Martin Enright, President of the Yeats Society in Sligo who made the find. The programme will now be put on display at the Yeats Memorial Building in Sligo. “It’s particularly gratifying to know that it belonged to Professor David Clarke, some of whose books were bequeathed to the Yeats Society and we have them on display in Sligo," added Mr Enright.
Fittingly the programme was printed by the Dolmen Press which occupied such a central position in the career, life and times of Yeats.
The programme for the first school sheds fascinating light on the event and a long forgotten Ireland. It included the ticket price (£9) details of accommodation at Sligo Grammar School as well as at ‘approved private houses’ and a note about Sligo’s many attractions including ‘the surrounding countryside,’ quiet sandy beaches, sea angling and golf at Rosses Point.As well as Professor Clarke, notable visiting academics included Mr. T.R Henn, who was then president of one of Cambridge University’s most eminent colleges, St. Catharine’s, and a Sligo native.
Another highly distinguished visitor was Professor A.N Jeffares, head of English Literature at the University of Leeds — at the time he was considered the world’s foremost Yeatsian expert.
The 1960 programme outlines the objective of the Summer School as ‘a course of lectures and seminars given in the Yeats Country itself and conducted by men who made a particular study of the Poet and of his works, and the people associated with him in the Anglo-Irish Literary and Dramatic Movement.’News of the discovery comes as Yeats Day — the author’s birthday on June 13, 1865 — was celebrated on June 13 with events in Sligo and abroad.
This year’s International Summer School will run from July 20th to 27th and feature a reading by acclaimed novelist Colm Tóibín, lectures on Themes such as ‘Nationalism versus Cosmopolitanism’ by Yeats Scholar Professor Ronan McDonald from the University of New South Wales and a poetry workshop by renowned poet and writer Colette Bryce.
Nicholas Allen, Professor of English and Director of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia and distinguished Yeats scholar and author Terence Brown will also be contributing to this year’s packed programme of events.Chair of the 2017 International School, Mr. Damien Brennan, said: “We already have students coming from Russia, Estonia, Tunisia, Romania and all across the United States. The Summer School is suitable for all ages and backgrounds, for people who are interested in Yeats and Irish literature.
“We are delighted that this year’s school will be directed by Nicholas Grene, Emeritus Professor of English at Trinity College Dublin. We have some places left; applicants can check www.yeatssociety.com for information.”