Ballisodare (Ballysadare) was where W.B. Yeats visited his great uncle William Middleton at Avena House, which is located just off the main street in the centre of the village. The Middleton & Pollexfen flour mills stood nearby, producing flour under the brand name ‘Avena’.
Yeats visited his relatives in Ballisodare and was receptive to stories told to him by some of the servants and in particular Paddy Flynn, gardener at Avena House. In Sligo town lived Mary Battle, his uncle George Pollexfen’s servant who was said to have the gift of ‘second sight’, with whom he experimented with telepathy.
The Salley Gardens were said to be along the banks of the Ballisodare River in the village, a popular salmon fishing spot with impressive cascading waterfalls.
The name in Irish is Gáirdíní Saileacha meaning The Willow Gardens. Willows are regularly found growing on the banks of rivers and they were in common use for thatching and basket weaving, among other uses.
Yeats said the poem Down by the Salley Gardens comes from lines ‘imperfectly remembered’ from a ballad (Ye Rambling Boys of Pleasure) sung by an old woman at the fair in Ballisodare.
Although based on an old song, Yeats wrote the poem Down by the Salley Gardens in 1889, and the music was added in 1909 when Herbert Hughes set it to music using the old Irish melody, the Maids of Mourne Shore.
from Crossways (1889)
Down by the Salley Gardens
Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.
Parking: Car park
Longitude: 54.209533 Latitude: -8.5099719
View location on Google Map