Seán hands over Yeats letter that winged its way around the world

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A very special letter from America that wound its way from Roscommon to Manchester, then on to New York and Los Angeles, before winging its way back home again, was formally handed over to the WB Yeats society in Sligo by Londonderry man Seán McLaughlin recently.

The remarkable letter was written at an unknown date by the poet and addressed to the Manchester Guardian.

It appears to be a letter of thanks for a review of a collection of his ‘Irish Verse’ by the paper.

Seán explains: “The letter went from Ireland to Manchester, somehow got to New York, from there it travelled to Los Angeles, California, where it eventually became the property of my brother, Monsignor Billy McLaughlin, a native of Derry, who in time brought the letter to Donegal.

“He felt that the letter belonged to the Irish people and really should be in the care of the Yeats Society, Sligo.

“The facilities are there for protecting the letter for posterity.

“I presented the letter to the Yeats Society, on behalf of my brother, in August, 2015.”

Intriguingly, the letter was addressed as having been sent from Ratra, Frenchpark, which was home to one of the leaders of the Gaelic revival, Douglas Hyde, who would later go on to become the first President of Ireland.

His co-religionist Yeats, as well as being a fellow of the Gaelic revival and regarded by many as one of the greatest poets the English language ever produced, would also go on to have a political role to play south of the border.

As a Senator he famously spoke out in a debate on divorce in 1925, on behalf of Irish Protestantism.

“I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority.,” he told Senators.

“We against whom you have done this thing, are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence,” he said.

The fact he wrote the letter from Frenchpark may give literary historians a greater clue as to when it was actually written.

Regardless, after Manchester, it washed up in New York.

There Charles Hamilton Autographs, Inc, authenticated it and it was later framed, along with an accompanying portrait of the artist.

Mr Hamilton wrote: “This original autographic material was examined by me before framing and is guaranteed to be genuine.

“Together with the art work, it was carefully selected for dramatic interest and decorative beauty, then customatted and handsomely framed by an expert craftsman.

“If not exposed to direct sunlight, or to excessive heat or damp, it will remain an admired heirloom for many generations.”

From there, as explained earlier, it found its way to Billy McLaughlin on the West Coast of the United States.

Now, at last, thanks to Billy and Seán, the letter and portrait are back where they belong in North Connacht.