The Works of James Joyce

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Bloomsday’s Abroad


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




In June 1966, aged 20, I got my first copy of Ulysses. I had been introduced to it in the previous year by the poet Brendan Kennelly during a lecture in Trinity College Dublin. Though I was a Dubliner by birth I was not familiar with the city. The man from Kerry, who was also my Moral Tutor, laid out the literary grid devised by Joyce and I was hooked to meanderings across the city, both physical and emotional, for life.


In June 1969 I was in Paris as a guest of the artist/poet Julian Blaine. An arranged meeting with the Irish poet John Montague on the 16th failed to happen so my host organised a separate Bloomsday for me. It involved much walking and drinking and the placing of a letter restante in a cubby hole in Rue du Cardinal Lemoine where a friend of Julian lived and assured me that “Jem the Penman” had also staggered. Then a large meal was rounded off with a long reading from Ulysses to the baffled children of my host who were none the less delighted at the late night madness. I wrote some lines for the day. Julian designed and printed the poster “To/ have/ the/ evil eye/ of/a dragon fly”. This was the first of many similar occasions when I found myself outside Dublin on June 16th. Both book and I travelled widely over the decades that followed.


A shape rather than a formal format became traditional. A piece of writing, usually a poem or short essay, would accompany a graphic or illustration in a limited edition of 50, signed by artist and myself. This would get sent to friends and fellow artists all across the world. The artists ranged from the elderly Surrealist Raoul Housman, the Benedictine monk Dom Sylvester Houedard, to the Irish artist/ sculptor John Behan RHA who featured as the subject matter of my 2010 “word-offering”. Then I met Hugh Bryden.


In March 1988 I was invited to be visiting Writer in Schools across Dumfries and Galloway in the west of Scotland by Ms Frances Corcoran the Educational Adviser for the region. Within a year we were “walking out” together and she introduced me to her educational colleague the local born artist Hugh( Dalrymple) Bryden. When we got married in October 1991 he was the “official artist and photographer” for the occasion. For this exhibition of Bloomsday related material I enclose a copy of my pamphlet Lightheaded Hugh  compiled and written by me to mark his 60th Birthday in August 2010. Within this is a record of our collaboration for all our Bloomsdays since 1992 and appreciative comments from many including Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney and the Consul General of Ireland to Scotland Ms Cliona Manahan. In June 2008 she organised and hosted an exhibition of those Bloomsday artefacts in the Consulate in Edinburgh and threw a splendid lunch to which she invited her Consular colleagues from Italy, Switzerland and France, countries where Joyce had  lived in his lifetime . I enclose a copy of the Catalogue card for that occasion. Imelda Murphy has done me the great honour of including a selection of the Bloomsday wordofferings in that exhibition in her own 2011 celebration of Bloomsday


In early 2010 a mutual friend in Scotland had brought me in contact with Imelda Murphy. Initially it concerned the annual Edinburgh International Arts Festival which I have covered for Irish and Scottish papers for over thirty years. Then we discovered a more immediate, indeed obsessive connection. James Joyce and more specifically Ulysses and the commemoration of Bloomsday.


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.



Hayden Murphy

Easter Weekend: Edinburgh, Scotland.


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