Sligo: W.B. Yeats Statue

Nobel Prize-winning poet W.B.Yeats is County Sligo’s most-famous son. When you visit the town you can’t miss this visually striking statue of the poet.

The statue of W.B. Yeats in from of the Ulster Bank building, in Sligo town.

The statue of W.B. Yeats in front of the Ulster Bank building in Sligo town.

Created in 1989 by sculptor Ronan Gillespie,¬†this statue was erected outside the Ulster Bank at the corner of Stephen Street and Markievicz Road (across the Garavogue River from the equally striking Glasshouse Hotel) on the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death. Among other reasons for this location was Yeats’ remark on receiving his Noble Prize that the Royal Palace in Stockholm resembled the Ulster Bank in Sligo. The statue also looks across the river at the Yeats Memorial Building, home to The Yeats Society and exhibitions about the poet.¬†

Yeats StatueIt’s notable that rather than an excessively reverent, realistic statue, as is the usual safe choice to honor dignitaries, this statue is flamboyant and a little cheeky. The poet’s body is made larger and distorted by a jacket that almost resembles a pair of wings. His clothing is completely covered in words, all excerpts from his poetry, symbolizing the work that was both his legacy and his armor. His enigmatic hand gesture resembles both flipping the bird and a thumbs up, depending on the angle from which it is viewed; something that struck me as particularly appropriate for a poet who held high hopes for the fledgling Irish state, yet often called out the people and policies that he feared were taking the nation in the wrong direction.

Tread SoftlyAnnual Yeats Festival

Tread Softly, the annual festival dedicated to the work of the Yeats brothers, William and Jack, takes place in County Sligo at the end of July. 2014’s festival features over 90 exhibitions, performances, tours, and music. The festival is a highlight of Ireland’s cultural year, and a feast for anyone who has enjoyed W.B. Yeats’ poetry or Jack B. Yeats’ paintings.

Close-up of some of the lyrics on the Yeats statue.

Close-up of some of the lyrics on the Yeats statue.


Yeats Statue

Yeats’ enigmatic gesture.

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  1. Nora Zee’s avatar

    I enjoy traveling and over the years have come to notice what statues civil societies erect to their favorites. Overwhelmingly, these are males, usually soldiers, with or without horses. I’ve been stuck that Ireland honors its favorite writers and the statues are “cheeky,” original, approachable, and unique. The Yeats statue is one, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde are two more. I know there are others but I do not know the names of all of them. One is a statue of a man sitting on a bench which is quite wonderful. Good for you, Ireland.

    1. Rich Rennicks’s avatar

      The lad on the bench is likely Patrick Kavanagh, another poet. He’s honored by a statue on a bench along the canal in Dublin.

      1. Nora Zee’s avatar

        That’s the one, indeed. i also like the James Larkin statue with the big hands.

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