PAULINE MURPHY looks back at a time when James Joyce clashed with his Irish language teacher Padraig Pearse!


Bloomsday, which is observed annually on June 16th, celebrates all things James Joyce, most notably his novel Ulysses which is set on that date in 1904. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the main character in the book who spends the day strolling around the capital city.

The true meaning behind the date June 16th lays within Joyce’s relationship with Nora Barnacle – the pair first walked out together on June 16th.

Barnacle was a west of Ireland girl with a basic education and mild manners; she was the opposite to the brash know-it-all Dubliner and, unlike Joyce, Nora had a better grasp of her native tongue than he did.

Just a few years previously Joyce tried – and failed – to learn the Irish language, a failure he put down to his teacher.

Before he became the revolutionary martyr of the 1916 Easter Rising, Padraig Pearse tried to teach James Joyce Irish. Pearse taught weekly Irish language classes through the University College, Dublin, at Newman House on St. Stephen’s Green.

It was at this Jesuit college that the young Joyce befriended Limerick-born George Clancy who, later in life, would become Sinn Féin mayor of Limerick and die at the hands of the British auxiliaries in 1921.

Clancy was an avid cultural nationalist and was one of the founders of the UCD branch of the Gaelic League. The affable Clancy encouraged Joyce to join and take some lessons under the tutorship of an up-and-coming star on the nationalist scene by the name of P. H. Pearse.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own