A bad day for Ben Bulben as Yeats performance abandoned

Mountain-top staging of Yeats’s ‘Purgatory’ called off due to heavy rainfall

SligoLeitrim Mountain Rescue's annual Night Walk of Ben Bulben.

SligoLeitrim Mountain Rescue's annual Night Walk of Ben Bulben.


Some might say it was a bad day for Ben Bulben. Morning broke with news that Yeats does not actually rest beneath the mountain he immortalised, according to French documents. And as night fell the elements conspired to force Sligo’s Blue Raincoat theatre company to abandon plans to stage the (probably aptly titled) Yeats play “Purgatory” on top of that very mountain.

Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue (SLMR) team eventually made the hard call at 9.30pm on Saturday evening as the 70-strong audience for the first of three planned performances, and the cast and director, were within spitting distance of the plateau.

Niall Henry Blue Raincoat founder and director of the play was philosophical as he and the two man cast Ciaran McCauley and Kiefer Short were forced to turn back after an hour and half of trudging through a wall of persistent rain. And in true show biz spirit he vowed that the show will go on.

The 225 hardy souls who had tickets for Saturday’s mountain top performances will, weather permitting, be back on the mountain within weeks to see the play.

The adventure was a fundraiser for SLMR and was to be their fifth night climb on Ben Bulben. Earlier in the day two volunteers Heidi Wickham — who has climbed Ben Bulben “about 20 times” - and Chris Taylor had done a reckie on the mountain taking just two and half hours to go up and down, having placed a pathway of fluorescent way points to the top.

“You could land a small aircraft there now”, joked Wickham who stressed that they were not planning “a military hike” and that along the route climbers would be encouraged to turn off their torches just to listen to the sounds and soak in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately after a day of keeping their fingers crossed, the rescue team eventually had to call a halt, as 150 people battled towards the summit and a third audience were just about to set off.

“We will do it again. People are taking it well as they know we can’t risk anyone getting injured”, said Alan Sayers of SLMR

Having already staged the play on Knocknarea and brought Yeats’ work to such outdoor arenas as Cummeen Strand and Streedagh beach, Niall Henry admitted that part of him was happy to get back to the warmth of the car .

“It was actually good fun. They had a tent half way up the mountain so we all had tea and biccies there on the way back”, he said.

The tour buses are expected to continue pulling in at Drumcliffe graveyard, as surely as Yeats fans will get to experience Purgatory on top Ben Bulben.