Experience: Yeats' Wicker Chair

I hadn’t heard about the ‘Norman soldier’ Yeats supposedly believed haunted his tower at Ballylee.

My wife and I met, in a roundabout kind of way, through our interest in Yeats, way back in 1976. I had wanted to publish on handmade paper some of his poems, along with watercolour paintings that I had asked D (we had only spoken on the phone at that stage and not actually met yet) to do as a commission. We finally met when she had some proofs ready and went on to have a relationship, marrying five years later, still with a great love for Yeats’ work.

One day we decided to visit Thoor Ballylee for the first time. I don’t remember what time of the year it was but the building was very quiet, with maybe one or two other visitors there. On (as far as I remember) the second floor there was a room with display cases showing some of his hand-written papers and a caged area in the centre of the room in which his old wicker chair stood. The door to this caged area was unlocked and D opened it and sat in the wicker chair while I looked at some of the display cases.

She sat there for a couple of minutes and then suggested that I do, too. I did so and closed my eyes, my hands resting on the arms of the chair. I felt what I can only describe as a soft vibration through my hands coming from the chair itself. I discounted it as something I had imagined until D said, “Can you feel anything?” I described what I felt and she said she had had the very same experience, too.

There was no construction work going on, the place was in total silence and there was nothing around that could be put down to electrical or other interference. It was very strange. I know that Yeats had often sat in the same wicker chair while composing his work and while I’m a confirmed spiritual sceptic, I know that he himself was not.

We’ve never been back since but intend to visit again this month if it’s open. While it would be lovely to imagine that Mr Yeats was saying, “Hello” to both us I’d like to know if anybody else has ever experienced anything similar in Thoor Ballylee.


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