Tag Archives: flann o’brien

Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) – it’s molificent!

 

MoLI - Newman House

MoLI – Newman House

MoLI is the latest addition to Dublin’s literary map, and a splendid place it is too. It is situated in Newman House (86, St Stephen’s Green), a wonderful building that has been splendidly revamped, and there are exhibits on different floors. This reimaging of the grand, old house’s purpose has been, no doubt, well considered, and deftly achieved.
The museum is a collaboration between University College Dublin (UCD) and the National Library of Ireland (NLI) with the latter supplying many of the exhibits including, most famously, the first copy of James Joyce’s greatest work Ulysses. Joyce signed the first hundred copies (of the original one thousand print run) and the first one he gave to Harriet Shaw -Weaver, the English political activist and magazine editor (The Egoist), who had supported the writer financially for many years.

Some of our literary greats

Some of our literary greats

Early in the exhibition homage is paid to the multitude of Irish writers whose works have entertained, provoked and, no doubt, encouraged others to put pen to paper. For a small island our contribution to world literature is impressive, and undeniable when you see the list of famous names.

A Riverrun of Language shows, through various media, the development and history of Irish writers. Then the Dear Dirty Dublin exhibition (Bayeaux Tapestry-like), which was proving very popular, takes you on a tour of Joyce’s life and writing. The city model, with streets and buildings highlighting scenes from his books, was of particular interest and very informative. It shows Dublin, the muse that he loved but had to leave, when he observed (in An Encounter, Dubliners) ‘I wanted real adventure to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.’

Dear Dirty Dublin

Dear Dirty Dublin

Upstairs there are items from the lives of George Bernard Shaw and WB Yeats, with the telegram informing the poet of his Nobel Prize award. With the extensive archives of both UCD and, particularly, NLI to draw from, exhibitions will change to showcase the collections and the works of Irish writers. So there will be plenty to see for years to come, and of that you can be certain!

Even the statue has a book!

Even the statue has a book!

The garden at the back of the museum is easy on the eye, and an oasis of calm in the heart of the city. With access directly from the restaurant I can see it being a popular place when the weather permits.

The building itself is a treat and dates from the early 1730s. It was once owned by William ‘Buck’ Whaley, a Member of Parliament, a renowned bon vivant and gambler. It was bought in 1854 for the Catholic University of Dublin (now UCD), and is where Joyce and many other famous Irish writers like Flann O’Brien, Maeve Binchy and Mary Lavin attended.
There is much to see and enjoy here, and I’ll finish with a comment that I overheard as I was looking at one of Joyce’s much-corrected notebooks.
First Voice: So,  what do you think?
Second Voice: Well, if you must know, I’m suitably…mollified.’
I had to smile, and I knew that Joyce would be happy that the Dublin wit he so appreciated was alive and well. Oh yes, it’s a wordy place!

A place for quiet reflection

A place for quiet reflection

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Filed under Art, Dublin, flann o'brien, Ireland, James Joyce, poetry

Flann’s Your Only Man!

The craic house

The craic house

Well, it’s that time again, thankfully, and fans of the great wordsmith will be gathering once more to celebrate his wit and wisdom in The Palace Bar. It’s the perfect place for such an occasion and this year the day has pushed back to Easter Monday – April 2nd – but that will not in any way dampen the fun. It’s a great day where fans read, recite and sing from his extensive canon of words and a lively time is had by all. I have been to a few such days and I can only say that it’s one of the best and most friendly ways to spend an afternoon, or later as I vaguely remember. You know what I mean. So, if you are in town, why not drop in and enjoy the craic – see you there. Slainte.

I think The Third Policeman should see this....

I think The Third Policeman should see this….

 

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Bloomsday – Where It All Begins

June 16th is unique in literature in that it actually has a day named after it. Now known the world over as Bloomsday, it  is named after the main character Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s most famous work Ulysses. And the date was deliberately chosen by the author as it was on this day in 1904 that he and Nora Barnacle, his future lover and wife, went on their first date. By the following October she would leave Dublin and accompany him to France, where they struggled for many years until his eventual breakthrough and international recognition.

Martello Tower, Sandycove - where it all began

Martello Tower, Sandycove – where it all begins

Joyce had stayed in the Martello Tower, in Sandycove, with his friend Oliver St Gogarty (who had rented the building) for a short time before leaving hurriedly after a gun was fired late one night. However, he chose to set the opening scene of his book in the building and Gogarty (as Buck Mulligan) is immortalised in the first line:

Stately, plumb Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

A view north from the roof

A view north, to Dublin city, from the roof

The tower was one of many erected along the coast in preparation for an invasion by Napoleon’s forces. However, after Admiral Horatio Nelson (he of Nelson’s Pillar fame) defeated the French navy at the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st October 1805, the threat was extinguished. Many of the towers were subsequently sold off while others were left unattended and remain derelict to this day. The tower at Sandycove was maintained in good condition when Gogarty rented it in the early summer of 1904. Today, it houses the James Joyce Tower & Museum which is a ‘must-see’ for all Joycean fans and those interested in literary history. There is a fabulous collection of items, including; an original copy of Ulysses, many of Joyce’s notebooks and a vinyl recording of his voice! Up the narrow stairs the space has been remodelled with table, chairs and various contemporaneous items showing the living space as Gogarty and Joyce would have known it. Outside, there is Joyce’s death mask  and a guitar that he was fond of playing. Up the last flight of steps to the roof (from the stairhead..) you have the wonderful panorama of Dublin Bay, the coast northwards to Dublin City, leading you around to the mountains to the south-west. On a clear day it is spectacular and, not surprisingly, very popular with photographers.

Main Room - 1904 style

Main Room – 1904 style

Celebrating Bloomsday has become big business and events are now held in many cities around the world that have Joyce’s works to an ever increasing audience. However, the first Bloomsday celebrations on it’s 50th anniversary in 1954 (see short silent clip below) were rather prosaic by today’s standards, and involved a number of Dublin’s literati and two horse-drawn carriages.

The group: John Ryan (owner of The Bailey pub and founder of Envoy art magazine), Flann O’Brien, Anthony Cronin, Patrick Kavanagh, Tom Joyce (a cousin) and AJ Leventhal (Registrar of Trinity College) had planned a ‘pilgrimage’ along the circuitous route set out in the book. However, after a number of stops for ‘refreshments’ the adventure was abandoned due to ‘inebriation and rancour’ and they retired wistfully to The Bailey (on Duke Street).

Bloomsday's first Pilgrims: JR, AC, FO'B, PK, TJ

Bloomsday’s first Pilgrims: JR, AC, FO’B, PK, TJ

You may very well see some horse-drawn carriages on the big day but as to whether they will be ferrying such an illustrious group, well, I guess that you will just have to wait and see – and then you may have an interesting story to tell.  Happy Bloomsday!

 

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Guinness – A Dublin legend

What a deal!

What a deal!

Synonymous is defined as ‘having or expressing the same idea’ and Guinness has most certainly been that with Dublin for over 250 years.
On the 31st December 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease, at   £45 per year, for the 4-acre Rainsford brewery at St James’s Gate that had been on the market for almost ten years. The brewery now covers an area in excess of 60 acres, and having bought the original property the long-term lease is now redundant. A copy of the lease can be seen under glass on the floor of the atrium of the Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness is one of the most successful brands in the world, and is brewed in 60 countries and available in more than 120. Recent figures show annual sales of 850 million litres (1.5 billion pints!) and that is a long way from 1769 when Arthur first export of six-and-a-half barrels to Britain. Soon afterwards, in 1778, he started selling his dark beer. The most famous, porter or single stout (sometimes called ‘plain’), is remembered in Flann O’Brien’s The Workman’s Friend as ‘A pint of plain is your only man.’

That says it all!

That says it all!

Famous for its advertising campaigns that gave us ‘My Goodness, My Guinness’, and ‘Guinness is Good For You’ the opening of the Guinness Storehouse in December 2000 offers a unique experience that has made it Ireland’s top visitor attraction. Housed in the former fermentation plant the seven-storey building was the first multi-storey steel-framed construction in Ireland when it was completed in 1902. It surrounds a glass atrium that is shaped like a giant pint of Guinness. And on each floor visitors can learn about the history of Guinness; details of Arthur’s life; brewing; transport and, of course, advertising. There are numerous interactive exhibitions that really bring the ‘story of Guinness’ to life. You can even learn how to ‘pull the perfect pint’.
On the top floor, or ‘Seventh Heaven,’ is the famous Gravity Bar with its 360 degrees view over Dublin. It’s a wonderful way to end a visit, and by the noise and chatter I heard while sipping a pint it was easy to understand its popularity. Same again!

Ah, the Black Stuff - magic!

Ah, the Black Stuff – magic!

 

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The Bloomsday Boys

Writing short stories is fun, but deciding which ones to included in my collection was very difficult. They are all important, each having been created at different times and for different reasons. Some of them I wrote quickly, while others took much longer. This was not necessarily to do with the length of the story, but just how it came into being. There is no hard and fast rule as to how you force the issue and get a story completed, because if you do so, I find, that it’s like dragging a horse to water rather than gently leading him. The phrase ‘less is more’ seems to suggest a good way to do your work.

So, after much toing and froing, I made my selection and they take their place in The Bloomsday Boys, which is now available as an ebook on Kindle. Click the image below for preview.

The Bloomsday Boys

The Bloomsday Boys

As good luck and timing would have it, I finished the book just before Bloomsday and the title story was read outside Sweny’s Pharmacy on the ‘big day’ by Shane Egan – and he did a mighty fine job.  The video below shows him in full flow, and some interesting pictures inside Sweny’s and of Bloomsday revellers dressed in appropriate, Joycean attire!

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MylesDay – it’s your only man!

Hello there,

It’s an odd thing but Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O’Brien) the great comic genius passed away on April 1st, 1966. I’m sure that if he had a choice as to which day of the year to ‘leave the stage’ then April’s Fool Day would be just about perfect.  Ah, what timing!

The Palace Bar

The Palace Bar

This year was the third annual celebration of his passing, and appropriately enough for such literary royalty, it was  held in The Palace Bar, Fleet Street, Dublin. The place was packed long before proceedings were due to begin, and the buzz of excitement was palpable. Many pints (‘A pint of plain is your only man!’) were drunk in a pub that the great man was familiar with, and much laughter and lively repartee filled the air. It was a great success with over twenty acts partaking in reading and performing works by Myles, some of which were truly hilarious. For those familiar with the works it was great fun, and for Myles’s virgins food for thought and ‘someone to find out about’.

Flann the Man & Joycer

Flann the Man & Joycer

I had the pleasure of meeting and taking a photograph of Myles and James Joyce, honestly, and they are both looking well – must have something to do with the consumption of Guinness and all the little molecules in it! Check out more about the event at the official website: MylesDay

Slainte – ’til next year!

 

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Dublin – Walking With Words 1

What is the world’s tallest sculpture?

Well you might be surprised to know that it is The Monument of Light (better known as The Spire) on O’Connell Street, Dublin. It’s just one little gem of information that I found when I was researching my e-book ‘Dublin – Walking With Words’ which will be available in May/June!

Walking With Words - front cover

Trinity College – front entrance

The guide covers Dublin, and in it you meet many of its most famous sons and daughters and hear what the city meant to them – in their own Words. It takes you on a stroll through its history where you meet James Joyce, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Elizabeth Bowen, Phil Lynott, Molly Malone and many others. You will find out where they lived and worked, and how the city influenced them in their artistic endeavors. Whether it was in the Georgian heartland of Merrion Square, along the Grand Canal, Trinity College or some favourite watering-hole, all these places have a story to tell, and with photographs and maps they are brought to life.

The guide is divided into five sections, each one taking about fifty minutes to complete – depending, of course, on how long you may decide to linger in some friendly pub or restaurant and enjoy the atmosphere!

So, if you have a little time in Dublin and wish to ‘get to know the place’ better than some of the locals, then put on your comfortable shoes and ‘Walk the Walk’.  (Check out the video below for a preview of your ‘Walk‘. I am very thankful to Derek Gleeson for his kind permission to use his composition as a soundtrack.)

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