James Joyce statue on North Earl Street near its junction with O’Connell Street in Dublin, by Marjorie FitzGibbon

The James Joyce Sandymount Tour took place on the 13th and 15th of June.

It started from the James Joyce Centre on North Great George’s Street, Near the Rotunda at 11am. The tour consisted of visiting the various real life locations associated with the fictional masterpiece, Ulysses and with James Joyce’s own life. Bloom’s day takes place on 16th June every year – the date during which Ulysses is set. It was inspired by the day on which James Joyce met his great love and later wife, Nora Barnacle.
The tour ostensibly visits Sandymount. James Joyce was born in the relatively posh suburb of Rathgar, yet due to the family’s poor finances they were forced to move to various locations on the Northside, often living in “squalid” locations according to our tour guide, James Quinn.

The first house we visited was 60 Shelbourne Road. It was owned by Gretta Cousins, who was very tolerant of a pauperis Joyce. However, her son was not and Joyce moved in and out of the house several times as he struggled to pay the rent. During this period of his life, Joyce was not ‘Joyce the writer.’ He wished to be a concert singer. On John McCormack’s advice he entered the Féis Ceoil in the year 1904, and came second.

It was also here that Joyce first met Nora Barnacle and they began a frequent correspondence of “four letters a day”, according to Quinn.
James Joyce relied on Thom’s Official Directory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the Year 1904 for the biographical references in his books. However, despite Joyce’s famed attention-to-detail he made some notable errors in using Thom’s Directory. An amusing mistake is that the character, Paddy Dignam, whose funeral procession and ceremony takes place in the Hades episode of Ulysses, supposedly lived in no. 9 Newbridge Ave, Dublin 4. However, no. 10 is not next door to this house due to the unusual layout of the street. This meant that when Bloom enters the carriage headed to Dignam’s Glasnevin funeral ceremony he gets in on the wrong side due to Joyce’s error.

The tour also called on Talbot Street on the northside of the Liffey, a once famous red light district which Joyce called ‘nightown’ and visited regularly during his life. He visited from the age of 15 and in his honour, an abutting street was named James Joyce Street.

The tour concluded in Sean Moore Park beside Sandymount beach at Beach Road, where passages from Proteus and Nausicaa were read out to the delight of the group gathered.

by Kevin MacSharry