Tag Archives: seamus heaney

Bloomsday Hero

James Joyce Museum

James Joyce Museum

They say that you should never meet your heroes, but I suspect sometimes they are wrong. I know this, because when I, fortunately, met one of mine, it was a brief, but beautiful, moment.

It was on Bloomsday, a few years ago, and I went to Sandycove to sample the atmosphere and get my copy of Ulysses date-stamped in  the James Joyce Museum in the old Martello Tower. The place was alive, with many people dressed in Edwardian-era attire and lively chat filled the sea air. James Joyce look-alikes were everywhere, and a few, very attractive Molly Blooms caught the eye. ‘Yes, yes,’ one said in a sultry voice, like her famous namesake, and the crowd laughed and cheered.

James Joyce

James Joyce

Inside, the curator stamped the postcards that I was going to send to friends who were Joyce fans. Then she flicked open the cover of my book, put ink on the date-stamp and pressed down hard. I was delighted, and eased my way past the colourful crowds overlooking swimmers in the nearby Forty Foot, and headed home.

I got off the train at Booterstown and headed up the road, book and postcards safely tucked under my arm. I had only recently finished reading the great book after numerous false starts, and had decided to get it stamped on Bloomsday as a reminder of my long-delayed achievement. Yes, I had finally finished it, and it seemed like a good idea to get it stamped in the place where the story begins, and also to enjoy the merriment at Sandycove.  It was a good decision, and a few photographs and a luscious ice cream helped make the day.

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney

As I neared the local shops and thinking about finding a proper place for the book on a shelf at home I looked up, and stopped dead in  my tracks. I had to be seeing things, I thought, and quickly headed to the newsagents where none other than Seamus Heaney was buying a copy of the Irish Times. I waited at the door, heart beating fast, and when he stepped outside I stuck out my hand. ‘Happy Bloomsday,’ I said.

‘And a very Happy Bloomsday to you, too,’ he replied, giving me a firm and friendly handshake.

He noticed my book. ‘Good day for it,’ he said, smiling.

‘Yes,’ I managed ‘and I’ve just been to Sandycove to have it date-stamped.’

‘Good idea,’ he said ‘and a nice reminder of the day.’

I nodded. ‘Yes….and I wonder if you would be so good as to sign it. That would be terrific.’

So standing in the sunshine I handed my book to the great man and the cover was flicked open again. Moments later he handed the book back and again bid me a ‘Happy Bloomsday’. Then he pushed his spectacles up his nose, fixed the newspaper under his arm and walked to his car. He gave a final, friendly wave and was gone.

I stood there for a few moments looking at my book, a smile as broad as Dublin Bay on my face. It had indeed been the briefest of encounters, but I was very happy to have met my hero.

A little treasure!

A little treasure!

 

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Filed under Art, Dublin, Ireland, James Joyce

Mountains to Sea

The weather was great with the sun shining bright and warm on the crowds who attended the latest Mountains To Sea Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire. There was a superb programme in place with many interesting and entertaining events catering for readers of all ages and likes. Be it literature, fiction, non-fiction, seminars on publishing, workshops, literary tours and interviews with famous writers – all were catered for. And, of course, there was plenty for the young readers and poetry lovers. But even the sunshine could not mask the cloud of Seamus Heaney’s recent passing. He was scheduled to be ‘in conversation’ in the Pavilion Theatre, and his absence from the festival which he had so graciously supported for many years was obvious and raw.

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Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire

Due to prior arrangements I was out-of-town for the start of the festival, and missed out on a few special events. Having been a fan of Margaret Atwood’s writing for many years, missing her appearance was a regret. And the stroll with Declan Hughes (Festival Writer) around Dun Laoghaire, taking in places that featured in his crime novels would certainly have appealed. I like his books and getting information about them from ‘the horse’s mouth’ as it were, well, there’s really nothing more to say. Another time, maybe! I did, however, attend the Great-Ad-App-Tations in the Assembly Hall and thoroughly enjoyed the lively and informative discussion.

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Festival Bookshop

Outside the grey clouds gathered, signalling a sudden end to our surprisingly, fine summer. The Festival Bookshop was busy, so I decided to head into the Pavilion Theatre and get a ticket to see Jo Nesbo, King of Nordic Noir,  in conversation next week with Declan Burke as part of the DLR Library Series. It would  be a crime to miss that, too!

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Jo Nesbo – King of Nordic Noir

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Seamus Heaney – A Moment!

The middle of June and, thankfully for a change, the weather was bright and warm. It was Bloomsday and I decided to sample the atmosphere at the James Joyce Museum in Sandycove. Outside the famed Martello Tower, where Joyce stayed for a short time and which features in the opening pages of Ulysses, was a colourful scene. Many people were dressed in the Edwardian period style, and lively talk, laughter and compliments filled the air. I went inside, bought a few postcards, and asked the assistant if he would put the Museum’s stamp on them, and on my copy of Joyce’s book. He flicked open the cover and with a quick downward push pressed the unique stamp. I was delighted to have my book dated, but sadly not signed , of course, at the ‘the source’.

A little later I was walking home and went into the local shop and surprise, surprise who did I meet but Seamus Heaney who was folding a copy of the Irish Times under his arm. I stuck out my hand. ‘Happy Bloomsday,’ I said and we shook hands. He was on his way to a Bloomsday celebration and noticed my book. I told him about the stamp and when I asked him if he would sign it for me, he smiled and the cover was flicked open, again. He handed it back to me and headed for the door. ‘Happy Bloomsday,’ he said and it most certainly was. Thanks for the memory Seamus.

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Ulysses – signed by Seamus Heaney

 

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Filed under Dublin, James Joyce