Ringsend, Trieste, and Zurich

Actors Fiona Browne and Damien Devaney at No.60 Shelbourne Road. Photo taken by Eoin Meegan

By Eoin Meegan

While his voice touched every part of Dublin, fewer places can lay claim to the real heart of Joyce than the Sandymount area. The renowned village is the scene of no less than three pivotal episodes in the book. Namely, the Proteus episode, where Stephen Dedalus contemplates “walking into eternity along sandymount strand”; the Hades chapter which sees Mr. Bloom attend the funeral of Paddy Dignam, late of Newbridge Avenue, while ruminating on, inter alia, the loneliness of being with people; and the Naussica episode at the Ringsend side of Sandymount, where the same Mr. Bloom appreciates the beauty of one Gerty MacDowell as fireworks explode out in Dublin Bay.

But as well as Sandymount having a prominent place in the novel, many may not know that the real story behind Ulysses, the story which inspired it, that is the love affair between Joyce himself and Nora Barnacle took place within that very vicinity. Joyce met Nora, who had just recently moved from Galway, on June 10th 1904 and they went out on their first date on June 16th where he later recalls she “made a man of me”. Joyce had being residing at the time at no. 60 Shelbourne Road, and it was from this very residence that he set forth on the original June 16th to meet Nora where they spent the day in Ringsend. Nora followed him around the world, to Trieste and Zurich, but it was in Ringsend that it all began.

And it is this very event which was celebrated and reenacted with such authenticity and such love in the Citizens’ Breakfast on Bloomsday 2018. I know many places in Dublin quite rightly celebrate various aspects of Bloom and Stephen’s wanderings, but if you missed this one, well then, I’m afraid you weren’t at Bloomsday.

Written and produced by Gráinne O’Kelly Nugent and featuring the inimitable Damien Devaney and Fiona Browne the event managed to seamlessly interact Joyce and Nora with scenes that included Bloom and Molly as well as a host of other characters from the book. The action began around 10.30 outside no. 60 and continued down Shelbourne Road with theatre and scenes from the book, culminating in Slattery’s pub where we all enjoyed a wonderful breakfast (minus the kidneys I’m sorry to say!) with more layered portrayals of the fictional and factual lives of Joyce/Bloom/Nora/Molly. The entire extravaganza ended with a rendition of “Love’s Old Sweet Song”. I’ve witnessed great recitals of Bloom before, Barry McGovern in Sandycove tower and others in Fitzgerald’s come to mind, but this actually brought it to life.

Kudos to everyone all around for this splendid production.

I would also like to give a special mention to the Iris Charles Centre which also marked the event with a breakfast and musical accompaniment followed by festivities on Sandymount Green which included songs, excerpts from Ulysses and other Joycean works. Thankfully the rain stayed away and everyone looked very gay and merry in their finest Edwardian attire. Sadly there were no fireworks.