(BL) John McCourt: The Origins of Bloomsday.

My recollection (sometimes or usually faulty) is that Professor McCourt said the earliest celebrations were called Ulysses Day with the first occurring in 1924. Attempting to improve on my memory I found a claim that Joyce’s unnamed friends began annual celebrations immediately after publication. Joyce mentioned the celebration in a letter after being presented a bouquet of blue and white flowers while hospitalized on that Bloomsday. Joyce actually scrawled in his notebook “ …twenty years after. Will anyone remember the date (?)”

In 1929 on the twentieth anniversary of the fictive date, Sylvia Beach’s publishing partner celebrated by releasing Ulysse, a French translation.

Joyce may have been prophetic in that it was not until thirty years after that date (on the 50th anniversary) that a Bloomsday we might admit to recognizing first assembled. In 1954, two horse-drawn cabs were rented to carry revelers in promenade along the Dublin Odyssey. Brian O’Nolan, prepared for an accurate, fortified portrayal of John S. Joyce long before the group assembled. He was joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce, and AJ Leventhal as living representations of males characters of the plot. A more modern news feature on the assemblage was headlined: “First major Bloomsday with Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh was a wild, drunk time.”

Somehow, I had survived to my advanced age without knowing that graduate students of Montclair State College in New Jersey studying Finnegans Wake under Frederick H. Young, funded and arranged for the installation of a 35‐pound bronze plaque, 18 by 24 inches on the site of Joyce’s birthplace. The site had previously been unmarked. The installation was unveiled on Bloomsday 1964.” It’s appropriate to note this same institution, now Montclair State University, also houses the museum dedicated to another word crafter of renown, Yogi Berra, who was reported to say: “You can observe a lot just by watchin’.”

Served an off-topic lob by the moderator, Dr. McCourt was asked about the desecration (my term) of the house memorialized in Joyce’s capstone of Dubliners. Developers owning Fifteen Usher’s Island of “The Dead” have received final approval for plans to convert the literary site into a 56-bed hostel. McCourt seems to hold out hope that somehow the approval might be reversed. No plan was disclosed.

Another question interjected by the moderator asked if Joyce’s remains should be repatriated to Ireland. His answer: “No.”  Zurich honored Joyce’s remains since his death and Ireland has proven a poor steward of Joyce’s literary heritage as evidenced by the fate of 15 Usher’s Island and 7 Eccles Street.

2 thoughts on “(BL) John McCourt: The Origins of Bloomsday.

    1. Martin, I’ve read disputed versions as to whether 7 Eccles Street actually fit the text’s description of the events. The question was whether there was a drop-down over the wrought iron fence and whether the kitchen could be breached from there. I know the address was selected as a tribute. I’ll take your opinion on this as the final word. Thanks, Don

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