Bloomsday on the double

Rodney Devitt

Sixty-five years ago, a photograph, which was to become a cultural icon, was published in the Irish Times. Five literary gentlemen, John Ryan, Anthony Cronin, Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh, and Tom Joyce, a cousin of James Joyce, decided to visit, as far as was possible, the various famous scenes throughout Dublin depicted in James Joyce’s great novel Ulysses.

On the morning of the 16th of June, 1954, the fiftieth anniversary of the date the novel was set, they commenced their odyssey, thus inadvertently creating the first “Bloomsday”.

Many stops for refreshments were made along the way, and their full itinerary was never completed. While still reasonably steady on their feet, their picture was snapped in front of Sandymount Tower, more or less on the spot where Stephen Dedalus asked himself the question: “Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand?”

Sixty-five years later, with Bloomsday now an international institution, that celebrated picture is recreated in the same location by five members of the Sweny’s Pharmacy Joycean Museum: Paddy O’Dwyer, Joe Kenny, Val O’Donnell, Rodney Devitt, and Gerry O’Reilly, in homage to their illustrious predecessors.

The original photographer is now unknown. His modern successor is Philip White.