I have lived so long abroad and in so many countries that I can feel at once
the voice of Ireland in anything
James Joyce to Frank Budgen
Within months she had not only found Dublin, New Hampshire, but was efficiently organising its first Bloomsday. Her research was fantastic this “Dublin NH” even had a Martello Tower nearby. The 16th June became a unique celebration and scouring the photographs of the occasion I recognised one figure in particular Michael Lonergan.
In 1998, following the Good Friday Agreement, Ireland appointed its first Consul General to Scotland. Dan Mulhall, who took up residence in Edinburgh was not only an astute politician but also “a man of letters in his own write”. I thoroughly recommend his A New Day Dawning: A Portrait of Ireland in 1900 (Collins Press 1999). His first literary venture on taking up his appointment in Autumn 1998 was to write a generous introduction to the Irish Issue of the Scottish magazine Chapman which I had compiled and edited. Then on June 16th 1999 he gave the inaugural Bloomsday Lunch. Writers, politicians and many members of the Media attended. It was liquid, convivial and wonderfully entertaining. Following Dan Muhall as “The Citizen”, Vice Consul Michael Lonergan declaimed well the words of Joyce in a less contentious situation: a lunch of Burgundy and Gorganzola. It is lovely to see him in his own Consular way in Boston continuing to communicate in another version of Dublin. He is fondly and amiably remembered in Edinburgh.
June 16th 1904 was “a fine breezy day, with four hours of sunshine and a clear night”. Ulysses itself was published on James Joyce’s 40th birthday, 2nd February 1922.The first recorded Bloomsday came after the anniversary itself on 27th June 1924 and happened in the Hotel Leopold in the small village of Les Vaux-de-Cernay just beyond Versailles. It was hosted by Adrienne Monnier and the many guests included James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Joyce later recalled that the latter was “ingloriously abandoned by the Wagonette in one of those temporary palaces which are inseperably associated with the memory of the Emperor Vespasian”
The first annotated Bloomsday in Dublin itself was in 1954 and was organised by my good friend John Ryan, “a man of means and letters”, and editor of Envoy and later The Dublin Magazine to which I was a Books Reviewing contributor for many years. John hired “two Broughams which had seen better days” and among his guests were the poet Patrick Kavanagh and the novelist Flann O Brien (in real life Irish Times columnist Brian O’ Nolan). On the way back from the Martello Tower in Sandycove they stopped near Sandymount Strand and the poet and novelist had “a falling out”. O’Nolan was abandoned in a pub in Ringsend.
My own celebrations have run into problems too, usually and frequently of the more sober sort. On June 16th 1904 the Ascot Gold Cup was won by a grey horse called Throwaway and this is mentioned several times in Ulysses itself. In 1980, in Edinburgh, I met the actor from Shetland and avid gambler Jon Tait. He proposed to select a grey horse running on the anniversary and has done so every year since even though he is now “resting” in Gozo, Malta. This seemed a good idea when in 1981 Toss of a Coin won. We have waited until 2009 for the next winner (Strawberrydaiquiri).
Joyce called his book “the substance of the tale of the evangelical bussybozzy” and I have adopted another of his quotes to justify my annual wordtrail “Chance furnishes me with what I need”. Now I hand it over to Imelda and wish all words well travelled to settle down in a catalogue of communication; all of a of a piece in New Hampshire.
Easter Weekend: Edinburgh, Scotland.