By Paul Craven
James Joyce met Nora Barnacle for the first time on Dublin’s Nassau Street on the 10th June, 1904. They made a date for the 14th, a few days later, but Nora failed to turn up. So, he sent her a brief note, and, she turned up for their next appointment, this time for two days later, the 16th of June, 1904.
After this, they met each other regularly, and eventually got married in 1931. However, on his fortieth birthday, 2nd of February 1922, he published Ulysses in Paris.
Since then, it has been regarded as the most influential single work of fiction in the English language.
It describes the adventures of the principal character, Leopold Bloom, as he wanders through Dublin City on the 16th of June 1904, the day on which James Joyce had his first date with Nora Barnacle.
Then, on the 16th of June, 1954, fifty years after the day on which the action of Ulysses is set, the first ‘Bloomsday’ was celebrated.
A group of writers, including the Monaghan-born poet, Patrick Kavanagh, Brian O’Nolan (otherwise ‘Myles na gCopaleen”’), accompanied by a relative of James Joyce and others, retraced the route of the wanderings of Leopold Bloom fifty years earlier. And, in the following six decades, more and more people have taken part in even more elaborate celebrations on the 16th of June each year.
These involve visiting places mentioned in ‘Ulysses’ and re-enacting some of the events which Joyce described.
And, as a result, ‘Bloomsday’ is now an annual feature of the cultural life of Dublin.
However, if one cares to look through the history books, it can be seen that other important events took place on the 16th of June.