The P**** with the Stick


This statue of James Joyce stands on Earl Street in central Dublin, on the north side of the Liffey, close to the junction with O’Connell Street and opposite the Millennium Spire.

It took a bit of digging to find out that the sculptor was Marjorie Fitzgibbon who was born in 1930 in Reno, Nevada in the USA. Trained as an actress,  during a trip to Greece she fell in love with art and  sculpture. She moved to Ireland in the 1960s

Locals have a rather rude rhyming name for it (as they do for a number of other sculptures around the city).

Sun and showers by the sea in Dublin


I’ve been working in Ireland again this week. I sailed over on Sunday, the day the Giro was due to arrive in the Dublin. I’d decided that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to arrive in the city in the aftermath of the finish as I was likely to get tangled up in traffic, so instead booked on the fast ferry to Dun Laoghaire, which is well to the south of the city centre. As the boat arrives early afternoon I had some time to explore.


I decided to avoid the city centre and instead explore the coast south of the port, something I’d been intending to do for a while. And despite having got caught in one VERY heavy downpour and dodging a few others, it was a good decision. I parked up about half a mile from the port and walked along the shore over to Sandycove.


On the way the heavens opened and a gale started to blow. I dashed for cover but by then I was almost at my destination – the James Joyce museum, located in an old Martello Tower. So when it eased off I dashed the last hundred yards to the museum. It’s where Joyce lived for a while and where the first chapter of Ulysses is set.


We visited a few years ago when we were holidaying in Ireland. At that time we were charged an entrance fee, but it’s free entry now, which was a pleasant surprise. I did put some Euros in their donations bucket though. It’s an interesting little museum, both from the Joyce perspective but also because it’s interesting to get inside one of these towers which are dotted along the coast round Dublin. And there’s a good view from the top. The Joyce exhibits included a death mask, copies of his books – including a First Edition of Ulysses – photographs and pictures – some very good.


Near to the tower is the Forty Foot – a bathing pool in the sea. Originally men only (with no cozzies) it’s now used by both sexes.



There were some brave souls in the water which is probably never that warm even in the midst of summer.


After that I drove down the coast around Dalkey, stopping off to take photos and managing to avoid the rain. Just off the mainland there’s an island – Dalkey Island – which has another Martello Tower and a ruined building – probably an old chapel.





The weather kept changing – bright sunshine one minute, heavy rain the next.



All all along the coast there were examples of Georgian houses


Driving further down the coast road there were good views of the bay towards Bray head and Sugar Loaf mountain


Looking back towards Dalkey Island


By now it was late afternoon and more rain was coming in


People were abandoning the beach


It was time to get back in my car and head off to my hotel in Naas.

The James Joyce Centre


Given the number of times I’ve been over to Ireland and it’s capital, Dublin, in recent years, I really ought to read some of the work of James Joyce. I’ve tried to make a start on his masterpiece, Ulysses a couple of times, especially since our visit to the Martello Tower in Sandycove which was the setting for the first chapter of the epic. But I’ve never made it further than the first few pages. Nevertheless, recognising that Joyce was a major author, I’m interested in his life and his connection with his home city (which he left in 1904 when he was 22 years of age). So during my latest stay over in Dublin I decided to visit the James Joyce Centre at 35 North Great George’s Street.

The centre is housed in a typical Georgian terraced house on the “north side” of the city centre. The area was very fashionable in the 18th Century but it fell into decline in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today the house has been lovingly renovated by the James Joyce Society.


Joyce never lived in the house. But there’s a somewhat tenuous connection as at one time Professor Denis J. Maginni, a colourful character in Dublin who appears several times in Ulysses, ran a Dance Academy here.

The visit didn’t take very long as there wasn’t a great deal to see. The main exhibition is on the top floor where there’s an interpretation of a bedroom like Joyce would have lived and worked in during his “exile”,

2013-04-19 15.47.51

some information boards and interactive computer displays, a copy of his death mask

2013-04-19 15.49.28

and a film show of three short documentaries.

In the front room of the first floor, the piano nobile, there are a number of paintings of Joyce, his wife Nora Barnacle, and some of his family and ancestors.


In the yard at the back of the house the original door from No. 7 Eccles Street,  Leopold Bloom’s address in Ulysses is displayed

2013-04-19 16.26.10

and there are very interesting murals depicting the story from his epic.

2013-04-19 16.26.24

2013-04-19 16.26.36

A devotee of Georgian architecture I enjoyed looking around the house itself where the plasterwork on the walls and ceilings has either been restored or recreated.



It didn’t take very long to look round the exhibition and the house, but I think it was worth the 5 Euros entry fee. And the visit has rekindled my enthusiasm to read some of Joyce’s work. I think I’ll give Ulysses a miss for a while and try his more accessible short stories in Dubliners.


St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin


Last Sunday, after looking round Merrion Square I wandered the short distance over to St Stephen’s Green and did the same. The pleasant park was really bustling with people of all nationalities (it seemed) enjoying the sunshine. And with daffodils and other flowers planted in the flower beds having finally emerged, it really felt that Spring had arrived.

2013-04-14 18.14.04

St Stephen’s Green was originally a marshy common on the edge of Dublin, used for grazing. But in 1663  Dublin Corporation decided to enclose the centre of the common and to sell land around the perimeter for building. The park was enclosed with a wall in 1664. As the South side of Dublin became fashionable Georgian style houses were built around the square. Unfortunately, relatively few of these original buildings remain today

Access to the Green was restricted to local residents until 1877, when the park was opened to be enjoyed by the general public.

This is the Fusiliers’ Arch  at the Grafton Street corner  over the entrance on the north west corner, at the bottom of Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping thoroughfare. Erected in 1907 it commemorates the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Second Boer War.



This statue of Wolfe Tone stands at the north east entrance.

2013-04-14 18.05.13

On the other side of the wall, inside the park, is a monument to the victims of the Irish Famine.

2013-04-14 18.06.34

Other Irish Patriots are commemorated by monuments in the park.

Countess Constance Markievicz, a revolutionary nationalist and socialist who was second in command of a group of rebels who occupied the park during the 1916 Easter rising.

2013-04-14 18.10.01

This statue of Robert Emmet, leader of the 1803 rebellion, stands opposite his birthplace at 109 St. Stephen’s Green (although the original building is lng gone).


Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa was a leader of the Fenians and prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.


There are also a number of monuments to notable writers.

2013-04-14 18.12.07

A very typical work by Henry Moore dedicated to the Irish Poet W B Yeats.

2013-04-14 18.12.29

A bust of James Joyce


This bust of the Indian nationalist and Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, a friend of W B Yeats, was unveiled on the 17th October 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth.


This fountain, featuring the Three Fates inside the gate at the south east corner of the park was a gift from the German people to thank the Irish for help provided to refugees after World War II.



James Joyce Museum Sandycove

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

This is the first line of Ulysses by James Joyce – a great work of fiction that introduced the “stream of consciousness” to English literature – but also a book that many a person has started and never finished.  The opening chapter is set in a Martello tower on the coast at Sandycove, a small seaside resort just outside Dublin (well, its part of the Dublin sprawl these days). The tower is one of a series of small defensive structures that were constructed on the coast in Britain, Ireland and some other parts of the British Empire during the Napoleonic wars. They’re very strong with thick brick walls and would have had a cannon on the top.

Joyce spent six nights in the tower from 9 to 15 September 1904. His friend Oliver St John Gogarty, who the character, Buck Mulligan, is based on, had rented it from the War Office. Another occupant of the tower during Joyce’s stay was an Anglo-Irishman, Samuel Chenevix Trench, who appears as the character Haines in the book.  Joyce fled the tower after he was woken by Trench who was screaming, having had a nightmare involving a panther. Trench picked up a revolver and fired several shots into the fireplace, after which Gogarty grabbed a .22 rifle and fired at a collection of pans above Joyce’s bed.

Entrance to the James Joyce Museum at Sandycove

Today the tower has been converted into a museum celebrating the life of Joyce and his masterpiece. We called in on the morning of our last day in Ireland on the way back to Dublin to catch the mid-afternoon ferry.  On the ground floor there is a small collection of exhibits including a couple of death masks, some letters and portraits and photographs. There are a number of his personal possessions including his guitar , a waistcoat made by his grandmother and his cigar case. Taking pride of place is a first edition of Ulysses, published by Shakespeare & Co in 1922.

The recreated sleeping quarters on the first floor

The first floor the sleeping quarters have been recreated, just as they would have been when Joyce stayed there. From here you can climb up a very narrow staircase up onto the roof where you get a good view out to sea and along the coast as far as the Liffey estuary. You can also make out the nearby “Forty foot” – an open air swimming pool which also features in chapter 1 of Ulysees as its here where Buck Mulligan takes his morning dip. It’s really just a partially enclosed section of the sea and originally was for men only (in the buff!) although today mixed bathing is permitted and “Togs must be worn after 9am.” People swim here all year round – they must be crazy! The “forty foot” is nothing to do with the depth or width of the pool; rather it’s named after the Fortieth Foot Regiment of the British Army who used to be stationed near here.

Looking towards the "Forty Foot"

Rocky coast at Sandycove, looking south from the tower