Friday, 10 June 2011

Ella Young - a truly rare breed

Ella Young was a rare breed indeed. An Irishwomen, she was brought up in a Protestant family as a Presbyterian, later becoming an ardent Irish Nationalist, who helped hide ammunitions and weapons after witnessing the "terrible beauty" of 1916 the Easter Uprising.

 Friends with many trail blazers in the Emerald Isle's rocky history - Maud Gonne, William Butler Yeats and George Russell (known to most as the poet and visionary "AE") - she collected a vast array of Celtic stories, legends and myths from country folk. We can be grateful for the treasure trove of material she collected and saved for perpetuity.

When the Treaty between England and Ireland was signed on 6th December 1922 creating the Irish Free State, she felt betrayed and hatched a plan to emigrate to the United States. She believed the conditions of the proposed Free State broke up and destroyed much of the magic of the Emerald Isle.

By 1925 Ella had come to the United States, bringing with her all the myths and legends she had collected. She wrote them down as stories and poems and began lecturing in town halls and universities.

Her American audiences were truly captivated by her fantastic knowledge but also by the magic and wild romance of her words. Becoming an important literary and spiritual figure in California, she influenced many people, including the photographer Ansel Adams, the poet Robinson Jeffers and composer Harry Partch.

She found her Celtic faith again in the sacred land of Point Lobos and in the solitude of her magical cottage garden in the dunes of Arroyo Grande.

Growing up in Ireland I was always fascinated by her semi-mythical figure and the tales she so colourfully told. I was delighted to find out today that Starlight Press in Cheltenham have just published a new collection of her work edited by the industrious John Matthews and Denise Sallee. If you are interested in all things Celtic you will be delighted with "AT THE GATES OF DAWN: A Collection of Writings by Ella Young". Check this spirited and gifted lady's work out!


One night the beauty of the stars,
Made magic for me white and still,
I climbed the road above the hill
The road no waking footstep mars.

I met my Lady in the wood
The black pine wood above the hill,
Dream-fair her beauty, white and still;
I knelt as one before the Rood.

White Dream that makes my life a war
Of wild desires and baffled will
Once more my soul with beauty fill
Rise through the darkness, O my Star.

-         Ella Young

The Springtime of Dion Fortune

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