We owe James Joyce a final resting place in Dublin

Exile was a key part of James Joyce’s strategy as a living writer. That it followed him into eternity was not part of the plan. Since his death in 1941, there have been periodic hopes that his body would be repatriated. But, eight decades on, the remains of a man who spent his life writing about Dublin are still planted in Zurich.

When Joyce died suddenly in a Zurich hospital on January 13th, 1941, Joseph P Walshe, the secretary of the Department of External Affairs in Dublin, sent a message to the charge d’affaires in Berne, Frank Cremins, asking, “Did he die a Catholic?” while instructing him not to attend the funeral.

The only link with Ireland at the graveside was a green wreath with a lyre on it, sent by Seán Lester, secretary of the League of Nations in Geneva. Joyce was buried in a single grave as his wife, Nora Barnacle, intended to have him repatriated. This was refused by the Irish Government “due to the hostility to Joyce among the Catholic clergy, scholars and politicians”.

It was the repatriation of WB Yeats in September 1948 that raised the matter again in Nora Barnacle’s mind. She did not like living in Zurich and asked Joyce’s literary executor, Harriet Weaver, to put out feelers on the matter concerning her husband. There was a new coalition government in Ireland and she hoped that the response would be favourable this time, with Seán MacBride, who had facilitated Yeats’s repatriation, as minister for external affairs.

A wealthy American bibliophile and diplomat named John Jermain Slocum visited Europe in 1948 on a buying spree of Joycean material. He visited Galway, Dublin, Paris and Trieste. In Dublin he was received by president Seán T O’Kelly at Áras an Uachtaráin.

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Perceptive lettermo

In Paris he met Joyce’s wife and son. They told him of their strong desire that the repatriation would happen. On his return to the US in November, he wrote a long, perceptive letter to president O’Kelly.

He referred to the recent repatriation of Yeats, asking: “Without discounting the differences between the two men – their different relationships with their country and their countrymen, the difference in their reputation and the love which they inspired – I wonder if it is unreasonable to think that James Joyce might be so honoured someday, and that in so honouring him, his country would be honouring itself? I realise that this proposal is presumptuous coming from a foreigner. I realise that it has probably been made a dozen times by people of widely different tastes and points of view. I do not think that I, or anyone else, could ask for a definitive answer, but if you were to express to me even a belief that such a return of his body to Ireland was possible, I think that I could start his friends in Zurich, in Paris, in London, in New York and even in Dublin, working on it wholeheartedly.”

Joyce had mocked MacBride’s mother and father, dubbing them ‘Joan of Arc and Pope Pius X’

Slocum never received an answer to his letter, as he told Constantine Curran in March 1949. “I have had no answer . . . If you should see him, tell him to get after his secretary. I am waiting for an answer.”

The matter came before government in July 1949. A note on the file of the Department of the Taoiseach dated July 17th reads: “Spoke to Taoiseach. No action.” Unlike his stance in the repatriation of WB Yeats which he enthusiastically supported, Seán MacBride did not support the repatriation of Joyce. He had personal and political reasons for his stance. Joyce had mocked his mother and father at the time of their marriage, dubbing them “Joan of Arc and Pope Pius X”.

Snubbed Maud Gonne

Joyce had also snubbed Maud Gonne when she graciously wrote explaining why she was not able to receive him when he called to her home in Paris and inviting him to meet her later. The new government led by John A Costello, like de Valera’s earlier ones, was profusely Catholic. Costello had sent a message to Pope Pius XII on behalf of the government saying “my colleagues and myself desire to repose at the feet of Your Holiness”.

MacBride himself wrote to Cardinal D’Alton: “I should be indebted to Your Grace if Your Grace would say a prayer asking God to give me the wisdom necessary to carry out my new duties well and faithfully.”

I believe that the ‘debt’ President Higgins spoke of could be paid by, at least, a Government offer of a repatriation

There the matter has rested until President Michael D Higgins’s historic visit to Joyce’s grave in Zurich in June 2018. On Bloomsday that same week, he spoke of James Joyce, saying: “We must never forget on Bloomsday the person, the family, and the sacrifices that gave us the groundbreaking literary inheritance that is celebrated all over the world. Ireland owes a debt to James Joyce. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to lay flowers at the grave in Fluntern, where Joyce has rested since 1941, later joined by his wife, Nora Barnacle, and other members of his family. I thanked the Zurich authorities and the gardener who have cared with such sensitivity for his resting place.”

I believe that the “debt” President Higgins spoke of could be paid by, at least, a Government offer of a repatriation.

Anthony Jordan is author of James Joyce Unplugged and Maud Gonne’s Men

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REPATRIATING JAMES JOYCE – Anthony Jordan

Sunday Miscellany – RTÉ Radio 1 – RTE

https://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-miscellany/

Sunday Miscellany Sunday 13 January 2019. Our first live … Repatriating Joyce, by Anthony J Jordan. Music: … Sunday Miscellany Podcast, 13th January 2019.

James Joyce died on 13 January 1941
When James Joyce and his family, minus his daughter Lucia was ill in a sanatorium, left Vichy France on 17th December 1940 for Switzerland, little could he have thought that he had less than one month to live. In Geneva he was met by Sean Lester who was then Secretary of the League of Nations. Lester remembered that Joyce was practically blind as his wife acted as his eyes. The Joyces then continued on to Zurich. There shortly after Xmas he was operated on for a duodenal ulcer and died at 2.15 am on Monday 13 January, aged 58. Lester was unable to attend the funeral and wrote to Frank Cremin, charge d’affaires at Berne, that he might like to attend so that some official Irish person would be there. As was usual the Joyces had little money and as usual his patron, the English woman Harriet Weaver, wired money to Nora for the funeral costs.
When the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs heard the news, he immediately wired Frank Cremin to find out ‘Did he die a Catholic?’ and instructed him not to attend the funeral. The grave chosen in Fluntern Cemetery could only accommodate one coffin as Nora intended to have her husband’s body repatriated to Dublin in due course. James’ friend Paul Ruggerio tried to persuade Nora to have a priest say the final blessing at the graveside, but she demurred saying ‘Oh I couldn’t do that to Jim’.
At the graveside Lord Derwent, the British Minister, was the first speaker. He said ‘George Moore is gone; Yeats is gone, and now James Joyce. But of one thing I am sure – whatever the rights and wrongs of the relations between Ireland and England, I know Ireland
will continue to take the finest and most ironical revenge on us; she
will go on giving us great men of letters’. The Swiss tenor Max Meili sang the aria ‘Tu se’ morta from Monteverdia’s opera Orfeo.
When Nora Joyce took soundings on the possibility of repatriation, the message came back that Joyce had offended too many politicians and priests for such a consideration.
The repatriation of WB Yeats in 1948 facilitated by the Minister for External Affairs Sean MacBride on behalf of his mother Maud Gonne, made Nora hope that the same might be done for her husband. An American named John Jermain Slocum wrote a very perceptive letter to President Sean T O’Kelly on the subject. He wrote, I do not think that I or anyone else could ask for a definite answer, but if you were to express to me even a belief that such a return of his body to Ireland was possible, I think that I could start his friends in Zurich, in Paris, in London, in New York and even in Dublin, working on it wholeheartedly. Slocum received no reply. Eventually the matter came before Government and Minister MacBride did not support such a repatriation.
There the matter has rested officially until June 2018 when President Higgins made an intervention. He became the first President to visit the grave at Fluntern Cemetery in Zurich. A week later at a function at Aras an Uachtarain on Bloomsday. The President said;
We must never forget on Bloomsday the person, the family, and the sacrifices that gave us the ground-breaking literary inheritance that is celebrated all over the world. Ireland owes a debt to James Joyce. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to lay flowers at the grave in Fluntern, where Joyce has rested since 1941, later joined by his wife Nora Barnacle and other members of his family. I thanked the Zurich authorities and the gardener who have cared with such sensitivity for his resting place.
Whether the Joyces will ever be repatriated home, remains a moot point. An ex-Ambassador to Switzerland has suggested that the Irish State should investigate the matter, aiming for 22 February2022, the centenary date of the publication of Ulysses, and Joyce’s birthday. We shall see.
[Anthony J Jordan 087-2076272]
Full story told in “MAUD GONNE’S MEN”

 

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Christmas Miscellany

Our Christmans Miscellany was held on the Teachers’ Club on Tuesday 4th December.  The programme was put together by Carmel Uí Loingsigh and Doreen Fitzgerald.  Carmel was the MC for the programme and introduced the participants in turn.  Everyone opined that this was the best Christmas Miscellany ever!

Here is the event in pictures!

 

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RTAI Gardening Course

Paddy Madden has given a gardening course to members in each of the past two years.  We hope to offer a course again this Spring.  Here is a picture of Paddy with participants from last year’s course

 

RTAI Gardening Course 2018[492]

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Visit to Rathmullan

Dublin South Branch of Retired Teachers shown here on a recent trip to Rathmullan, at the sculpture of the Flight of the Earls. Rathmullan pier is where they departed from and marked a pivotal moment  in Irish history. It was unveiled by President Mary McAleese in 2007 marking 400 years since their departure.  36 members enjoyed the wonderful three day trip and hope to return again next year.

 

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Anthony J. Jordan’s next book is titled Maud Gonne’s Men.

 

150 Anniversary of Major John MacBride

The 150th anniversary of the birth of John MacBride at the Quay Westport Co. Mayo occurred on 8 May 2018. He was executed on 5 May1916. John MacBride was the youngest of five brothers born to Honoria Gill from Clare Island and Patrick MacBride from Glenshesk in Co. Antrim. The family was steeped in Irish nationalism and John became a member of the Celtic Literary Society and IRB as a young man. He represented the latter at a Convention in Chicago in 1896. On his return to Ireland he travelled to South Africa and was joined shortly by his good friend Arthur Griffith. They formed an Irish Society there which commemorated the centenary of the 1798 Rising in Johannesburg. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899, MacBride organised a Volunteer Irish Transvaal Brigade which fought alongside the Boers during 1899-1900. As the war developed into a guerrilla war the Brigade was stood down and the members left got passage to America. They would have been charged with treason if they returned to Ireland. MacBride, who had, due to his activities become something of a national hero, stayed closer to Ireland and travelled to Paris where among the welcoming party was Maud Gonne. Within a few months the pair were in America on a fundraising tour for Griffith’s new United Irishman newspaper and the Boer War. They were married in Paris in February 1903. This was devastating news for WB Yeats, who had for many years been seeking to marry, his muse, Maud Gonne. This did not endear MacBride to Yeats.

The marriage had been advised against by both families and all their friends. They were told they had nothing in common except for a dedication to freeing Ireland from English rule. Maud was a wealthy independent English woman used to following her own star. Within a year the marriage was a failure and MacBride decided to risk returning home to Ireland in November 1904. Their baby boy had been born in January 1904. Maud had two babies earlier with her French lover, Lucien Millevoye. Her first baby had been a boy, Georges, who died in infancy, and whose death nearly drove Maud insane. She came to believe in reincarnation and saw her new baby boy as the reincarnation of Georges. The possibility of her estranged husband claiming custody of the baby preyed on her mind when he suggested she meet him in London with the baby. She travelled there with the baby and consulted her solicitor. She then advised John that unless he agreed to give her custody of the baby, she would institute divorce proceedings against him in Paris, accusing him of molesting her eleven year old daughter. Negotiations occurred in London without agreement. Maud returned home to Paris and began the Court case. She omitted the charge of molesting her daughter, but entered a charge of him committing adultery with her half-sister, Eileen Wilson. The case went to Court and MacBride insisted the allegation of molestation be raised and adjudicated upon. The Court did not find against him on either charge.

Maud exchanged letters with WB Yeats during this lengthy process. He was thrilled and hoped that Maud would get a divorce. Her letter of 8 August 1906 to him said “The Court thinks the charges of immorality are insufficiently proved. Grants Mrs MacBride Judicial separation and guardianship of the child…allows the father visiting rights…the father to have him one month a year when over six…I am very disappointed”.

MacBride exercised his visiting rights on a couple of occasion before returning to Ireland, never to see his son again.  John MacBride reintegrated himself into the national struggle. He wrote a thirteen part account of his Transvaal Brigade for the Freeman’s Journal and became a much sought after public speaker throughout Ireland and Britain. Padraig Pearse wrote to him;

 Sgoil Eanna on 17 February 1912:

A Chara,

                     Could you find time to address the members of St. Enda’s Branch of the Gaelic League in our Study Hall, some Friday evening in the near future? Any subject likely to appeal to the imagination of young Gaels would do; history, literature, science, travel, industry, even politics in the wider sense, would all be admissible…

                                         Yours sincerely

                                                PH Pearse

P.S. What the boys would really like is an account of your experiences in the South African War.

He was a confidant of John Devoy and acted as Tom Clarke’s Best Man in New York. He became Water Bailiff for Dublin Corporation, collecting dues at the port with an office at 4 Rogerson’s Quay. In 1914 he, Arthur Griffith, William O’Brien and Sean T. O’Kelly attended a meeting in Dublin with the majority of those who subsequently signed the Proclamation that decided on the necessity of a Rising.

MacBride advised Peadar Kearney that those who could leave Jacob’s Factory before the surrender in 1916 should do so, saying “Liberty is a priceless thing and any of you that see a chance, take it. I’d do it myself but my liberty days are over”.  At his trial he called one witness, his landlady, Clara Allan, of Spenser’s Villas  Glenageary. She was the woman he loved and who loved him. She told the Court-martial, “I have known the accused twenty five years… I have never seen him in uniform, nor has he got such a thing, as far as I know”. As they parted he said, ‘Mind the Flag’, in reference to the flag of the Irish Brigade. Clara was a Methodist and converted to Catholicism after the execution. She and her family protected his Papers etc. until eventually they were placed in the National Library and National Museum. After his trial John told Sean T. O’Kelly, “Nothing will save me, Sean. Remember this is the second time I have sinned against them”. Fr. Augustine OFM who ministered at his execution in Kilmainham reported that John died “a brave man, fearless of death”. In July 1916 Clara Allan together with Maire ni Bhrolcohain, went to Westport for a National Aid concert and stayed with Mrs MacBride on the Quay.

Anthony J. Jordan’s next book is titled Maud Gonne’s Men.

 

 

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Biographer gives archive ‘to inspire others’

Anthony J Jordan, member of RTAI Dublin South, the biographer who has written books on figures including Winston Churchill, Éamon de Valera and Christy Brown, has donated his literary archive to the National Library of Ireland (NLI).

Mr Jordan, who is from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, was in Dublin yesterday for the handover.

The archive includes books on W B Yeats and an early play written by Christy Brown, the writer and painter who had cerebral palsy.

Mr Jordan said: “Some of my most exciting moments of research occurred in this library and I hope that my manuscripts, and the correspondence that has informed my work, inspires future readers and researchers.”

Mr Jordan has worked in special education for a number of decades and was the former principal of the Cerebral Palsy Ireland school in Sandymount, Dublin, where Brown was a pupil.

In 1998, he published Christy Brown’s Women: A Biography Drawing on HisLetters. A large number of Brown’s letters were acquired by Mr Jordan several years after the writer’s death in 1981.

Other items donated to the National Library were The Guiding Light, an early play by Brown, which was transcribed by his brother in three notebooks. A substantial number of letters from Brown’s family and friends are also included.

A number of documents in the archive show Mr Jordan’s correspondence with Daniel Day Lewis, the actor, during filming for My Left Foot in 1998, during which the actor regularly sought out information on Brown. Day Lewis won an Oscar for his performance.

Other documents donated to the library include material relating to Major John MacBride, on whom Mr Jordan has written extensively.

Dr Sandra Collins, director of the NLI, said they were delighted Mr Jordan had chosen to donate his archive to the library where, she said, it would be preserved and accessible for generations to come.

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