Noble Yeats winning the Grand National is an omen says Cahal Dallat

Image above: Grand National winner Noble Yeats in Sam Waley-Cohen’s final ride – picture BBC Sport

Noble Yeats and Nobel Yeats

It’s an omen! Seeing a horse called “Noble Yeats” win the Grand National can only be seen as a good omen in the year in which a sculpture designed to celebrate the Nobel winning poet and his connections with Bedford Park is erected outside St Michael & All Angels Church, says Cahal Dallat.

It is also a timely reminder that William Butler’s younger brother Jack was no slouch himself. Somewhat overshadowed by his sibling, Jack became a famous painter, whose work featured horses.

Cahal Dallat, founder / organiser of the WB Yeats Bedford Park Project has written a guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar about the Other Yeats. Cahal will be giving a lecture at St Michael and All Angels on Wednesday, 20 April at 7.30 pm (free public event, no booking required, all welcome) on the Yeatses and how the Yeats project is going.

Images above: “The Gypsy Jockey” by Jack B Yeats; portrait of the artist

The Other Yeats

By Cahal Dallat

Last Saturday’s Grand National win by fifty-to-one outsider “Noble Yeats” is evidence the Yeats name is never far from the news and that the tall house with its regulation Bedford Park picket fence at No. 3 Blenheim Road produced not one, but two, outstanding geniuses.

National winner “Noble Yeats” (b. 2015) was sired by a horse called “Yeats” (b. 2000) named after Willie Yeats’s young brother and famous painter, Jack, who attended Chiswick School of Art (where ArtsEd is now situated) and did his first drawings for the suitably alternative-ish/Bedford-Park-ish Vegetarian magazine.

Jack would move into Expressionism in the 1920s and become Ireland’s leading 20thcentury artist, and the first whose paintings sold for over a million pounds: Reverie (1931), for example, sold for £1.2 million in 2019.

Like many migrant families, when times were tight (as father, John Butler Yeats, struggled to find work as a portrait painter), the Yeats children often found themselves shuffled off to live with grandparents in Sligo.

Image above: Jack B Yeats, “The Jockey”

Jack, the youngest, spent much more time there and became fascinated by fairs, circuses and the races at Strandhill. So much so that, back in London and trained as an artist, his work continually featured horses, both in his illustrator phase and as he moved into bleaker and more surreal landscapes and settings that had echoes of the bleak postwar vision portrayed in drama by his friend Samuel Beckett and in sculpture by Alberto Giacometti.

Jack would also become the first person to win an Olympic Medal for Ireland (though he was born in London!) as the modern Olympic Games initially featured an “arts and culture” segment like their Ancient Greek predecessors.

The winning painting, The Liffey Swim, together with his portraits of racing, boxing and acrobatics remind us that Jack was the sportsman of the family, taking a completely different strand of his West of Ireland heritage from Willie, who preferred the landscape, legends and lore of their mother’s home county of Sligo.

Image above: From the later Expressionist period: Jack B Yeats “From Portacloy to Rathlin O’Beirne” (Hunt Museum,
Limerick)

“Outsiders” all

So the younger Yeats would have been delighted to see “Noble Yeats” pass the winning post on Saturday as a fifty-to-one outsider rather as he and his older brother felt themselves very much “outsiders” in London…

Outsiders, at least until they came to Bedford Park and found a community and a neighbourhood where radical, progressive artistic ideas were the norm and where the creative imagination was nurtured.

A community which is now not only honoring Willie’s world-famous literary achievement with London’s latest, dazzling, literary landmark and a total arts/educational/heritage wraparound visitor experience and smartphone Yeats Walk, but celebrating the first-garden-suburb’s fostering of an Irish exile family that produced two geniuses and contributed so many of our late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century ideas a hundred years before their time.

Image above: The Woodstock Road house where the Yeats family moved when young Willie (WB Yeats) was enrolled at Godolphin in Hammersmith, which was a boys’ school in the 1870s/1880s

What did WB Yeats ever do for Bedford Park (and vice versa)?

I will be giving lots more on the amazing history of Bedford Park, and WB Yeats, and the Yeats family, next Wednesday night, (20 April) with a lecture and update on the project, introduced by Fr. Kevin Morris, Vicar of St. Michael and All Angels, the Yeatses’ family parish church from 1879.

The lecture, with Yeats readings from poet Anne-Marie Fyfe, isn’t just for anyone who wanted to know more about Nobel-Prize-winning poet Yeats, a local schoolboy from an Irish migrant family who went on to outstanding international literary fame and major cultural importance in the first half of the twentieth century…

…it’s also for those who want to know why Yeats matters to Bedford Park so much more than the many other writers and artists (Irish, Scottish, Indian, Ukrainian, French, American and – of course – English) who inhabited and frequented the unique housing/community experiment that became the world’s first garden suburb.

What did WB Yeats ever do for Bedford Park (and vice versa)?” 7.30 pm, Wednesday 20 April, St Michael and All Angels Church, Bath Rd.

Info on: www.wbyeatsbedfordpark.com

Contact: cahal.dallat@wbyeatsbedfordpark.com

Image above: Computer Generated Image of Enwrought Light by Conrad Shawcross RA, inspired by WB Yeats, which will honour the poet, just yards from his childhood home and beside the path on which he walked daily to school, here at the entrance to Chiswick’s unique Bedford Park garden-suburb/artist’s colony

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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