Joyce taken up to Monto as inner-city Dublin celebrates ‘Ulysses’

Author set chapter in what was once one of Europe’s biggest red-light district

Students from Notre Dame at the Forty Foot near Joyce’s Tower in Sandycove during Bloomsday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Students from Notre Dame at the Forty Foot near Joyce’s Tower in Sandycove during Bloomsday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

There was no Chapel of Love, no Unchained Melody and certainly no Rock the Boat in Ulysses.

Neither was there a wedding but it it did not stop the North Inner City Folklore Project and the charity Hope (Hands-on Peer Education) staging one in honour of Bloomsday.

It may not be one for the Joyce purists, but the author, who had an irreverent streak and a fine tenor voice, would surely have approved of this raucous celebration of his great work.

The Bloomsday event was staged in Liberty House Park in the north inner city. It is on present day Foley Street, which used to be known as Montgomery Street and, in turn, gave its name to Monto, one of the largest red light districts in Europe. Monto is the setting for the Circe or Nighttown chapter, where the protagonists Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom find themselves in the same brothel.

The folklore project has staged Ulysses events before. They have also staged the “madam of the Monto wedding” as part of the Monto festival, usually in August, but this is the first time they have put the two events together.

The groom was sprightly local councillor Christy Burke and the bride was Connie Murphy, a volunteer with the Hope project. The bride arrived in a horsedrawn carriage. The groom wore a top hat and tails.

They arrived on stage to Chapel of Love. Then the straw boater hats went flying when the wedding party broke into Rock the Boat.

It was a deliberate attempt to “bastardise Ulysses”, said organiser Irene Crawley and to make it more interesting to a local audience.

“There are a lot of Bloomsday events around the city but none of them are where you hear a working-class accent,” she said.

“This park is full of drug dealers, so we just wanted to do something uplifting for the community.”

Bloom who?

Local historian Terry Fagan said the initial response was “Bloom who?” when he first approached locals about staging Bloomsday events.

“If it had just been Bloomsday on its own, I’m not sure people would have bothered,” he said.

The wedding was preceded by a funeral reading at Glasnevin Cemetery. The funeral of Paddy Dignam in the Hades chapter was based on that of Matthew Kane, the clerk to the chief state solicitor, who drowned on June 10th, 1904. Joyce attended the funeral.

A straw boater was left on the top of Kane’s grave. He is one of 131 people buried in the cemetery who inspired characters in Ulysses, including Joyce’s father John.

The Joycestagers, an acting troupe, gathered on green benches under a redwood tree, which rustled in the bracing wind. They were there to recreate the carriage ride to the cemetery in which the conversation strays from the necessity for tram tracks for cattle on the way to market in the city to poignant thoughts of Bloom thinking about his infant son who died.

Joycestagers actor Louis O’Byrne said the attractions of the chapter from an actor’s point of view were obvious. “It is a very typical Joyce mixture. There is a nice bit of lightness and then something comes in and hits you with a punch.”