As tribute to William Butler Yeats, one of Ireland’s best known poets, playwrights, authors as well as a Nobel Prize winner for literature, the Central Bank of Ireland launched on the 3rd June, their latest collector coin very fittingly at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which was co-founded by Yeats in 1904. As the portrait of Yeats was seen in the backdrop during the presentation, guests were reminded of the great impact Yeats had on the country’s awareness on national identity and consciousness during the years leading up to an independent Irish state. William Yeats is credited with making a significant contribution to this achievement through his writings and as the country moves ever close to celebrations marking Ireland’s 100th anniversary of nationhood, the contributions of many of its noteworthy personalities are gaining in importance.
Born in 1865 in Dublin, the coin is issued in honor of Yeats’ 150th anniversary of birth and is partly released in tribute to the man whose birth anniversary will not only be celebrated in Ireland but in many countries around the world. Yeats’ plays, poems and stories were translated into many languages not just during his lifetime but almost continuously since their publication, his many works still widely admired internationally. William B. Yeats was nationally honored in 1980 when his image was included on the £20 banknote. This note remained in circulation until 1992 with the issue of the country’s third and final series. The Punt was replaced with the Euro single currency in 2002.
The launch was opened by Dave Fleming of the Abbey Theatre who welcomed invited guests to the landmark theatre in Dublin. Previously known as the National Theatre, the original structure was badly damaged in a fire in 1951. As a result, the theatre was re-located to another location until 1966 when the Abbey Theatre was rebuilt on its original site and has enjoyed success as one of the city’s premier performance venues since. Mr. Fleming also introduced Des Geraghty, Central Bank Commission Member who hosted the event. Mr. Geraghty spoke admiringly of Yeats by highlighting his many accomplishments in both the literary world as well as service to the Irish state as a new nation. Mr. Geraghty was happy to remind his audience that Yeats’ special connection with the Bank of Ireland span back to the very early years of Ireland’s independence since Yeats played a significant and influential part on Ireland’s first coinage advisory board and whose recommendation to depict barnyard animals was a suggestion by Yeats himself.
Invited guests were addressed by Simon Harris, Minister of State whose department oversees the issuance of Ireland’s coinage – both circulation and commemorative. Mr. Harris also spoke of Yeats’ contribution to both literature and in service to the nation during the critical early years of statehood. As Yeats was appointed a Senator for two terms in 1923, his connection and contributions to the government were substantial and still remembered.
It was pointed out during the evening’s launch that the coin would have not been issued had it not been for the efforts of and a suggestion by current Senator Susan O’Keefe whose constituency includes County Sligo, a part of the country which Yeats had a very close bond with and where his resting place is. Senator O’Keefe, a great admirer of Yeats and his work highlighted the connection of the Yeats family to County Sligo and also spoke of the influence the region had to both his life and works. Senator O’Keefe was pleased to introduce a short video of poetry verses and short stories entitled “The song of Wandering Aengus” which was narrated by actor Michael Gambon and produced as part of the national celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth.
Included in the evening’s program, was a recital of some of Yeats more well-known and recognizable stories and poems were read by Irish poet Declan Collinge who read both in English and in a very moving moment also in Gaelic much to the sheer delight of invited guests.
A tribute to Yeats was also performed by award-winning singer Noel O’Grady who performed the song “The stolen Child” composed by Yeats himself while the audience were spell-bound by his emotional and sentimental rendition.
Commissioner Geraghty then proceeded with presentations of the coin during the event with the first strike being presented to Caitriona Yeats, Granddaughter of William Yeats who accepted the coin on behalf of her family. Ms. Yeats, a concert harpist traveled from Copenhagen, her home to receive the first strike and to represent the Yeats family. The second strike of the evening was presented to the talented designer of the central Bank’s latest silver coin, the artist Mary Gregoriy, a COTY winner for her James Joyce collector coin who spoke of her inspiration in the design, mentioning his “run-away” poet’s hair which is a feature of the design but also of the birds present on the design and their symbolic meaning to Yeats during his lifetime.
The third coin was presented to the Yeats society whose activities include a scholastic program now in its 55th year as well as a comprehensive library where the works of Yeats are read and recited daily. The society is located in county Sligo, where the Yeats has a very close connection with the area.
Commissioner Geragherty also took a moment to specially thank the makers of the coin, the Pobjoy Mint and to Taya Pobjoy who was present for the occasion representing the Mint. Ms. Pobjoy took the opportunity to speak with Ms. Yeats as well as meet with Central Bank officials who were present for the presentation. This is the third coin produced by the Pobjoy Mint, the first two are part of the Irish Science and Inventions series introduced last year.
The presentation was concluded with many guests commenting on the jovial approach to Yeats’ portrayal and many in attendance purchasing the coin for their own collection or as a gift. The Central Bank confirmed the very positive reaction from collectors to the coin with an above average level of pre-orders placed. The coin is currently available direct from the Collector coin department of the Central Bank of Ireland. For more information on ordering, please visit their website at: http://www.centralbank.ie/paycurr/collector/Pages/Coinsets.aspx
My thanks go to the Collector coin & press department of the Central of Ireland for their kind assistance and hospitality, it is greatly appreciated.