The Treasure of the Garden


7 pages

The Treasure of the Garden

| 1902 | Strete, Ireland
Genre (as defined by the author)
Miniature theatre
Willie McGowan / The Man Hunter of the Gulf, Old Henderson, Old Man of the Emigrants, Bosun Hardbite, Jessie Henderson, Ballad Singer, Emigrants, Crew of the "Gleaner"
Number of acts

Jack B. Yeats wrote a series of toy theatre (also called paper theatre) plays. In "My Miniature Theatre" (The Collected Plays of Jack B. Yeats), he explains performing his plays each year during Christmastime to entertain the children of the valley where he lived. His plays were birthed from the influence of Robert Louis Stevenson and from a nostalgia for a time when successful plays for actors were then adapted to toy theater. The sets, the characters, and an adaptation of the script were sold for one penny (in black and white) or two pence (in colour) so that children could recreate the play at home. Nevertheless, certain scenes from traditional theatre were difficult to adapt to toy theater. Therefore, Yeats, who created his own stories, chose to limit characters that did ‘almost nothing besides talking and walking majestically.’ He highlighted the importance of voice since each character had to be distinguishable by their tone and way of speaking. Regarding the creation of the set and the characters, Yeats glued his scenery to cardboard, using watercolors and Christmas garland as well as candles to provide lighting.

Plot summary

A pirate becomes honest

In a prologue, the pirate Willie McGowan expresses his love for pillaging ships and their treasures. Yet he is weary of being assaulted by warships since the thieves generally attack in the morning when everyone is asleep. Many men die, and the pirates' only booty is a few bottles of rum. Thus, Willie decides to give up his ship and to return to his hometown to take up a less depressing occupation.

Three years go by, and Willie leads a contented life. He works on a boat, the Gleaner, and is well-paid. The ship's owner, Old Henderson, asks him to accompany migrants who want to go to America. Willie refuses; the Gleaner, he believes, will sink after three days at sea. Old Henderson tries to convince him that if the ship sinks, he could return on a sailboat stored onboard. He would be paid a handsome sum as the migrants have already paid their fares. Willie again responds with a no as he does not want to deceive the passengers. Old Henderson accuses him of cowardice and no longer being the pirate he once was. Jessie Henderson, his daughter, encourages Willie to go after the money since she could not possibly marry a poor man. Old Henderson finally decides to make the crossing with his daughter; he dreamt he would find treasure in the old garden near the Point, and he interpreted this as a good omen.

Willie digs in the spot Old Henderson described and finds the treasure. The master of the crew, Bosun Hardbite, announces that all have survived the sea journey, except Old Henderson and his daughter.

Composition date

First performance

Wicklow, Ireland, October 1902

Publications and translations


Jack B. Yeats, The Treasure of the Garden. London: Elkin Mathews, 1902.

Modern edition

Jack B. Yeats, The Collected Plays of Jack B. Yeats, Robin Skelton (ed.). London, Secker and Warburg, 1971.

Literary tones
Ironic, Humorous, Dramatic
Animations techniques
Toy theatre
Young audiences


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Cécile Decaix