One hundred years ago this week, on 10 December 1923, Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1865–1939) was presented with the Nobel Prize in Literature at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. The previous year, he had published a lengthy political poem entitled ‘Thoughts Upon the Present State of the World’ (later renamed ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’), which included the lines:
Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare
Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery
Can leave the mother, murdered at her door,
To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free;
Yeats’ nameless mother was Eileen Quinn (née Gilligan, 1895–1920), a young pregnant mother of three, who was shot and mortally wounded by passing Auxiliaries in the presence of her children, as she sat outside her home at Corker, near Gort, on 1 November 1920. A Military Court of Inquiry, held three days after her death (and on the same day as her funeral), recorded a verdict of ‘death by misadventure’. Although the tragic incident took place over 100 years ago it still reverberates through the years, especially with her wider family.
On Thursday, 14 December, at 5pm, Galway City Museum presents an evening remembering Eileen Quinn and exploring the suggestion that Yeats – in his poem ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’ – may have left a subtle clue about those who played a role in her killing or in the subsequent cover-up.
The talks will commence at 5pm in the Museum Education Room. Orla Higgins, documentary maker and grandniece of Eileen, will speak about ‘The Killing of Eileen Quinn’. There will be poetry recitals from Michael Quinn, the grandson of Eileen and Brendan McGowan, Education Officer at Galway City Museum will talk about ‘The Activities of “D” Company Auxiliaries in Galway and Yeats’s ‘scot-free’ ’. Following the talks, the floor will be open for questions and answers before the event comes to a close at 7pm.
Admission is free but booking is strongly advised as seating is limited. Book your place by calling the Museum at 091 532460 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Image Eileen Quinn, courtesy of Eileen Quinn]