In 1900 and 1901,James Joyce visited Mullingar. He never forgot the town.
James Joyce visited Mullingar in the summers of 1900 and 1901 with his father. His father,John Joyce,had been employed by Westmeath County Council to sort out and update the electoral rolls for Mullingar. James Joyce,then just 18,worked with his father in the Court House.
He probably stayed in what was then Phil Shaw’s Photographers,(now Fagans’ Office Supplies) ,on Pearse (then Earl) Street. When he came to write “ULYSSES”,more than a decade later,Joyce had Milly Bloom,the 15 year old daughter of Leopold and Mollie Bloom,working in Shaw’s learning “the photo business.”.
In his novels,Joyce also mentions the Greville Arms Hotel,the Westmeath Examiner,the Railway Station and the Royal Canal. He visited Leavington Park ,now the home of novelist and artist J.P Dunleavy.
In his novels,Joyce also mentions the tragic Mary Molesworth,Countess of Belvedere,locked up by her jealous husband for 30 years,while he lived alone at Belvedere House,and the Hill of Uisneach,sacred centre of Ancient Ireland. While in Mullingar,Joyce wrote a play “A Brilliant Career.” While the play was never published,it was his first literary work.
A chapter of his first novel,”Stephen Hero”,is set in Mullingar. A poetry anthology owned by Joyce,now in Yale University,is inscribed “Mullingar .July 1900.”
An advertisement for “Teas,Teas,Teas”,which appeared in the window of a bar called Connellans,beside the Court House on Mount Street,where Joyce and his father used to eat, was transposed by Joyce to Dublin and is noted by Leoplod Bloom as he walks through the city centre on June 16th,1904,in “Ulysses.”
After 1901,Joyce never returned to Mullingar and would soon leave Ireland for good. But Mullingar remained in his memory. He never forgot the town.
The Bloomsday celebrations in Mullingar 2015 will be dedicated to the memory of local Joycean scholar,Leo Daly (1920-2010),who devoted much of his life to exploring the ways in which Mullingar influenced Joyce’s writings,and who highlighted those influences in his book, “JAMES JOYCE AND THE MULLINGAR CONNECTION..