WB Yeats funeral footage rediscovered

Photo of W.B. Yeats: Wiki commons

By David Prendeville

Previously undiscovered film of WB Yeats’s funeral has been found. The colour footage has been donated by Alan Aston to the Yeats Society in Sligo. Yeats, who was, of course, born in Sandymount, died in France in 1939, and had his remains returned to Sligo in 1948. This film of that funeral in Drumcliffe churchyard was in a box that had been handed down to Alan from his great uncle. The roll of film had more of less been untouched in 48 years. 

On a whim one day, Alan, decided to see what might be on the film. He had the film digitized. He began to realise it was Yeats’s funeral upon recognizing Ben Bulben and seeing Eamon De Valera present in the footage. The fact that the film was in colour was also a strong indicator that this was a film of a significant figure’s funeral. 

Susan O’ Keefe, the director of the Yeats Society, tells me that when she first received mail from Alan telling her about his discovery, she initially thought that the film may well just be a copy of already existing material of Yeats’s funeral. However, she was soon convinced that this was something new, a real story and she became very excited at what had been discovered. 

Alan Aston has now donated the film to the Yeats Society, an act that Susan describes as one of “real generosity”. She describes this development as “doubly-exciting”, given that the Yeats Society are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year and that is amazing to have something new and different, a “new story” on Yeats to add to all the others.