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Happy Bloomsday, from Mullingar

Friday, 16th June, 2017 4:09pm

Happy Bloomsday, from Mullingar

Celebrating Bloomsday – Ann Downes from Mullingar in period costume (left) with historian Ruth Illingworth. Ann bought her skirt 40 years ago at a second hand shop in London and believes it dates from the early 20th century.

Today is Bloomsday and historian Ruth Illingworth is conducting walking tours of Joycean Mullingar as well as reading from his books in the Greville Arms.

She did the first reading this morning and will do another at 6pm, plus, at 7pm, Ruth will be giving a guided walk that explores the world of Joyce in Mullingar during his time here in 1900 and 1901.

“He never forgot the town,” said Ruth.

“The tour will explore what life was like when Joyce was here during 1900 and 1901.

“The Westmeath Examiner is mentioned in his writings.

“At the time Joyce was in Mullingar, the Examiner office was beside the Greville Arms, the bit that’s between the Mad Hatter Cafe and the De Courcy Suite.

“He was fascinated by the Examiner because it was the same age he was.

“Anything that happened in 1882 he was interested in, I think he was seven months older than the Examiner,” she explains.

Mullingar is mentioned in nearly all of James Joyce’s books.

“His earliest novel, Stephen Hero, which he rewrote as Portrait to the Artist as a Young Man, the manuscript still survives and it was published in 1940. There’s a chapter set in Mullingar,” says Ruth.

“He mentions the Westmeath Examiner, the Railway Station, the Greville Arms Hotel.

“Stephen Hero describes the ‘long crooked main street’. His father was sorting out the electoral registers, he was employed by Westmeath County Council, so that’s why Joyce was here in the first place.

“James seems to have helped his father, they worked in the Courthouse and also in Cathedral House because the County Buildings hadn’t been built at that stage.

“It’s possible that he lived in what’s now Fagan’s Office Supplies. It was then run by a guy called Phil Shaw, a photographer’s, that where Millie Bloom, the teenage daughter of Leopold Bloom is working in Mullingar, as a photographer’s assistant.

“He was fascinated with things like Belvedere House because he had gone to Belvedere School because it was originally the town house of the Rochfort family. He seems to have visited Uisneach because he mentions ‘The Hill’ in Finnegan’s Wake.”

- The walk will start at the main door of the Greville Arms Hotel at 7pm.

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