Bloomsday Comes Around Again


June 16th, Bloomsday, that devotional time of year when the disciples of James Joyce emerge in force to honour his timeless modernist novel Ulysses, widely considered to be the greatest novel of the 20th century.

It is a day when Joyceans the world over celebrate the adventures of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus by dressing up in Edwardian regalia, reciting prose from the novel and, naturally, tucking into a full Irish breakfast.

The James Joyce Centre is at the heart of the majority of Bloomsday events taking place around the city, with walking tours, Bloomsday survival kits and literary pub crawls being staples of the annual experience. This year’s Bloomsday festival had an added poignancy as it commemorated the 100th anniversary of Dubliners, another seminal work by Joyce.

NewsFour attended both the annual Bloomsday breakfast at St Andrew’s Resource Centre on Pearse Street, and the debut breakfast at the Iris Charles Centre in Sandymount.

The Bloomsday breakfast took place in St Andrew’s at 8 am, to coincide with the beginning of the day’s events in Ulysses itself. The event was organised by John Fitzsimons, administrator of St Andrew’s, and the breakfast itself featured the standard Bloomsday fare of sausage, puddings, eggs and even the odd kidney for those brave enough to indulge!

The breakfast was a distinctly informal affair with no speeches, but did include plenty of musical entertainment and some Ulysses scene performances by Mick Rafferty, a north inner city resident.

Representatives from numerous local community groups and businesses heartily tucked into the complimentary food, many of them from the city quays, north inner city and Ringsend areas.

John Fitzsimons told NewsFour the Bloomsday breakfast has been a great way to bring the local communities together in a fun and informal manner,

“It started off a few years ago and it was very, very small,” he said. “But now it’s become a social event where all community groups and everybody is invited to come along, have a bit of craic, no speeches, very informal and just have a bit of fun.”

St Andrew’s has an intrinsic connection to Bloomsday in several ways, as the centre was completely opened to the public on June 16th, 1989. The resource centre was also once a national school, and is mentioned in the Hades episode of the novel, when the funeral procession passes by to take Paddy Dignam to his final resting place at Glasnevin Cemetery. It was such coincidences that prompted the centre to become part of the annual tradition.

The Bloomsday event at St Andrew’s was almost called off this year due to financial constraints but for the intervention of local businesses, making this year’s breakfast the first sponsored in the centre’s history. John Fitzsimons was keen to express his sincere thanks for those who made this year’s event possible.

“The great thing about the event this year was that it was completely sponsored,” he said. “We would like to express dear thanks to all our sponsors this year. They know who they are!”
The Iris Charles Centre in Sandymount had its Bloomsday debut this year. The event was put together by Phyllis of the Centre, who said that the breakfast was a matter of “trial and error”, in determining whether or not it would be a success.

“We hadn’t a clue if we had enough breakfast for everybody when we started,” she told NewsFour.

After the breakfast, guests were brought on a Ulysses-related tour of Sandymount by Rodney Devitt, a Sandymount resident and Joycean. Devitt guided guests on a walk from 9 Newbridge Avenue (residence of Paddy Dignam) up to Leahy’s Terrace and Star of the Sea Church (featured in the Nausicaa episode of Ulysses) and then on to Sandymount Strand. It was here where Rodney Devitt elaborated on the significance of the strand in the novel, as it is the famous setting for Stephen Dedalus’

soliloquy, in which he utters the immortal words, “Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand?” a sentence which has made the Strand one of the most famous beaches in world literature. The group then retired to Sandymount Green to engage in public readings from ‘Ulysses’, concluding the day’s events.

Clockwise from top: Olive Farrell, Father Tonge and Mary O’Toole.
Anne Flood, Esther Kelly and Betty Ashe at the Bloomsday Breakfast in St Andrew’s Resource Centre.
The Bloomsday Trail finishing up in Sean Moore Park.

By Craig Kinsella