Lady Gregory was a dramatist, folklorist and theatre director; also a co-founder of the Abbey Theatre.
George Bernard Shaw once described Lady Augusta Gregory as ‘the greatest living Irishwoman’.
Lady Gregory, also known as Isabella Augusta, was born in Roxborough, Co Galway. She married Sir William Henry Gregory in 1880. Sir Gregory owned an estate at Coole Park near Gort in Co Galway. The house at Coole Park had a large library and Lady Gregory, as she was now known, was delighted to have so many books at her disposal. She travelled to Europe and further afield with her husband. She began to write poetry and prose.
Sir Gregory died in 1893 and Lady Gregory returned to her home in Coole Park. She developed a great interest in the Irish language and began collecting folklore from around the local area. She published a number of volumes of folk tales.
Over time Coole Park became a focal point for writers who were part of the Gaelic Revival. Synge, Yeats and his brother the painter Jack, George Bernard Shaw, Sean O’Casey and many more visited Coole. They carved their initials into a tree on the grounds of the house. They can still be seen there to this day.
In 1896, Lady Gregory began translating William Butler Yeats’s work. The two collaborated on comedic plays about Irish history like Spreading the News in 1904. That year, along with J.M. Synge, they founded Ireland’s National Theatre, for which Lady Gregory wrote plays until her retirement. Lady Gregory died in Coole on 22 May 1932.
Lady Gregory’s house is no longer standing, however, is now Coole Park, a nature reserve of approximately 1,000 acres (4 km). It is operated by the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service, part of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The park is in a low–lying karstic limestone area characterised by seasonal turloughs. It has extensive woodlands. There are 6 kilometres of signposted nature trails plus a formal late 18th century walled garden. The grounds are open to the public all year round (free admission). A visitor centre located in the former outbuildings operates during high season (April to September inclusive). The centre offers a tea room, an audio/visual presentation on Lady Gregory and the literary history of Coole Park, and also a multi-media exhibition called ‘Coole Park through the eyes of ‘Me and Nu’, Granddaughters of Lady Gregory’.