(Thomas Kilroy’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 12/26.)
There was a special meeting of the Abbey Board in January 1939 to mark the death of WB Yeats, which had occurred a few days earlier in the south of France. The board dispatched Lennox Robinson to France to help Georgie Hyde-Lees, the wife of WB Yeats, with the funeral, but when he got there she had already left, and it was more than nine years before the reburial in Sligo in circumstances that raised questions about the identity of the remains in the grave. There are other minutes of meetings of the Abbey board for that grim year of 1939, but the death of Yeats marks the real terminal point of the remarkable collection of minute books, which the National Theatre launched on December 14th and are now available to view online.
The authority of Yeats runs right through the collection, and when he is absent the fact is noticeable. Indeed one of the features of these minutes is how much this is a writers’ theatre around the figure of Yeats, with writers such as Lennox Robinson, Brinsley McNamara, Robert Farren and FR Higgins. The preoccupation with actors is almost as strong as that with new plays, particularly the fluctuation in their incomes and the difficulties of the theatre in trying to meet the bill.