W.B. Yeats and the Irish Naval Service

William Butler Yeats, the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet and playwright died in France in January 1939. The renowned poet had died at the HÁ´tel Idéal-Séjour, Cap-Martin while wintering in the South of France. Calls in Ireland for a State Funeral and a tomb in St Patrick's Cathedral were countered by Yeats' own wishes. In conversation with his wife, Yeats expressed his wish to be buried in France if he died there but to be returned to Sligo at a later date. "If I die bury me up there and then in a year's time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo." (R.F. Foster 'W.B. Yeats: A Life', Volume II). The outbreak of World War II in September 1939 ensured that no immediate plans would be made for Yeats' return to Sligo.

The Irish Naval Service

L.E. Macha

In 1946 a permanent Naval Service was established in Ireland and three corvettes, L.E. Macha (formerly known as H.M.S. Borage), L.E. Maev (formerly H.M.S. Oxlip) and L.E. Cliona (formerly H.M.S. Bellworth) were purchased from the British Admiralty. These corvettes were capable of seagoing voyages and in 1948 when plans were made for the repatriation of Yeats' remains the L.E. Macha was pressed into service.

Eastern Command Film Crew

In addition to her own crew the L.E. Macha also carried a film crew from the Eastern Command and a photographer, Lt Jack Millar. To view footage of this historic voyage please click on the image below.

An historic record of the removal of the remains of the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats from France to Ireland in 1948

Written Account of the Voyage

Commander Thomas McKenna, a senior Naval officer travelled with the L.E. Macha and sent a series of letters back to Captain H.J. Jerome, Commanding Officer of the Naval Service. A full copy of his correspondence, recounting the weather conditions, the Macha's reception at Gibraltar and Nice and daily life at sea, is available to view by clicking on the image below.