The first Bloomsday
“The date was 16 June, 1954, and though it was only mid-morning, Brian O’Nolan was already drunk.”
Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Envoy editor John Ryan and dentist (and relative) Tom Joyce set out to walk in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom. Starting at the Martello Tower in Sandycove they made it as far as Sandymount Strand, no further, and certainly not as far as the shadier parts of Dublin that James Joyce called Nighttown.
Kavanagh and O’Nolan began the day by deciding they must climb up to the Martello tower itself, which stood on a granite shoulder behind the house. As Cronin recalls, Kavanagh hoisted himself up the steep slope above O’Nolan, who snarled in anger and laid hold of his ankle. Kavanagh roared, and lashed out with his foot. Fearful that O’Nolan would be kicked in the face by the poet’s enormous farmer’s boot, the others hastened to rescue and restrain the rivals.
With some difficulty O’Nolan was stuffed into one of the cabs by Cronin and the others. Then they were off, along the seafront of Dublin Bay, and into the city.
In pubs along the way an enormous amount of alcohol was consumed, so much so that on Sandymount Strand they had to relieve themselves as Stephen Dedalus does in Ulysses. Tom Joyce and Cronin sang the sentimental songs of Tom Moore which Joyce had loved, such as ‘Silent, O Moyle.’ They stopped in Irishtown to listen to the running of the Ascot Gold Cup on a radio in a betting shop, but eventually they arrived in Duke Street in the city centre, and the Bailey, which John Ryan then ran as a literary pub.
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