In the west of Ireland, outside Gort, Summer, 1897…

…poet William Butler Yeats, just turned 32, traveling with a friend, visits a mutual acquaintance, amateur playwright Edward Martyn, 38, at the Martyn family home, Tullira.

Tullira today, in private hands

Tullira today, in private hands

Lady Augusta Gregory, 45, a friend of Edward who lives a few miles away, stops by.

Willie and Augusta [OMG! That’s our cats!] have met before in her London apartment where, as wife of an MP, she held salons for the Irish Protestants living there. But this is the first time the two have had a chance to get to know each other.

To continue the conversation, Augusta invites Willie and Edward over to hers, the nearby Coole Park, family home of her late husband, MP Sir William Gregory.

Coole House, which is no longer standing, located in Coole Park which is open to the public.

Coole House, which is no longer standing, located in Coole Park which is open to the public.

As Lady Gregory writes later:

Though I had never been at all interested in theatres, our talk turned on plays…I said it was a pity we had no Irish theatre where such plays [as Martyn’s] could be given. Mr. Yeats said that it had always been a dream of his, but he had of late thought it an impossible one, for it could not at first pay its way, and there was no money to be found for such a thing in Ireland …We went on talking about it, and things seemed to grow possible as we talked, and before the end of the afternoon we had made our plan.”

As Yeats marches around the drawing room dictating, Lady Gregory types, and they draft letters to send to her wealthy and influential friends, asking for money to start their theatre.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

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In the summer of 1888…

…aspiring writer Edward Martyn, 29, that great rarity, a rich Irish Catholic landlord, has taken his annual trip to the Bayreuth festival with his cousin, also a west of Ireland landlord, novelist George Moore, 36. As usual, they have visited the great cathedrals and attended concerts of Edward’s beloved sacred music.

On the train trip there, Martyn whistled the tunes from the operas they would see at the festival, to bring Moore up to speed, and lectured him on the difference between Gothic and Norman architecture.

Now, on the way back, they are visiting Paris, where Moore had spent his early years. He introduces Martyn to his painter friend, Edgar Degas, just turned 54. Martyn is so impressed he buys his paintings, as well as some by Oscar-Claude Monet, 47.

Martyn wants to take the art back to his recently restored 15th century family castle, Tullira, near Coole Park in west Ireland. He has devoted a lot of time and a big chunk of his inheritance to refurbishing it, with gargoyles on the battlements and Edward’s monogram everywhere. His widowed mother had hoped that fixing up the castle would encourage her only son to marry; but he still sleeps in a bare bed with a thin mattress in his turret where he spends most of his time. That’ll show her.

Tullira today

Tullira today

Tullira sold at auction about a year ago, with an asking price of £5.5 million [approximately $9 million]. Check out the interiors [Trust me on this one]: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2451911/King-castle-16th-century-stately-home-sale-5-5m.html

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.