Saturday, 6 November 2010

Budleigh ... and WB Yeats?

A while back - see Life and death in Bludleigh - I followed the trail to what seems the most likely explanation for an otherwise unverified factoid about PG Wodehouse having a Budleigh Salterton connection. Something of a follow-up: Angela Williams e-mailed us with - apart from a very nice comment about the blog - an enquiry about the inclusion of WB Yeats on Wikipedia's list of notable people associated with Budleigh.

A bit of forensics finds it was added in an anonymous edit back in April 2009 (here), but as this edit accurately mentions Andrew Marr (who paints in the area) it looks at least worth investigating.

It is well-documented that the Yeats family had some Devon connections. See The Yeats connection at The People's Republic of South Devon: the basics are that WB Yeats' grandfather, William Pollexfen, lived at Kitley House, Yealmpton; that the Yeats family holidayed in Branscombe; and that WB Yeats's brother, the artist Jack Yeats, lived in Strete for some years.  However, Budleigh doesn't figure.

Looking through Google Books, the only findable connection between WB Yeats and Budleigh is an extremely third-hand one: that the descendant of a colleague of Yeats died there. Augusta, Lady Gregory, was another leading figure in the Irish Literary Revival, closely associated with WB Yeats and Jack Yeats. In the Yeats Annual, Issue 2, 1983 (page xi) there's a report of the "death of Major Richard Gregory, Lady Gregory's grandson, on 23 October 1981 in Budleigh Salterton".

Perhaps, like the Wodehouse link, this is down to some kind of garbling. It's quite interesting that Budleigh Salterton War Memorial includes among those commemorated:
2093 Private Albert James Yeats of the 2nd/1st Field Ambulance, the Royal Army Medical Corps. Son of W. T and Fanny Yeats of 14 High Street, Budleigh Salterton. Born in Budleigh Salterton in the June Quarter of 1898. Died 14 August 1916 aged 18.
It looks quite possible that WT Yeats might have somewhere along the line been mistaken for WB Yeats.  That's my best guess so far; I've put a "citation needed" tag on the Wikipedia statement, and will remove the reference if nothing is forthcoming.  Yeats was, incidentally, a very common surname in Budleigh in the late 19th and early 20th century - see The Yeats of Devon and Somerset - but these Yeatses appear to all descend from the blacksmith Henry Yeats: no relation to the Irish Yeats family WB Yeats came from.

- Ray

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