James Joyce's wife Nora Barnacle is at the centre of Bloomsday celebrations in Galway.
Bloomsday is being celebrated in the City of the Tribes today, but the focus is not on James Joyce the author of 'Ulysses’. The woman at the centre of Galway’s celebration is Nora Barnacle who grew up in a tiny house on Bowling Green which is now a museum.
Nora Barnacle left Galway for a chambermaid’s job in Dublin at Finn’s Hotel 1904. She met James Joyce just weeks later on Nassau Street. He asked her out, and they arranged to meet, but she stood him up.
An undeterred and clearly smitten James Joyce wrote to her at the hotel in the hope of meeting her again,
I looked for a long time at a head of reddish brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected.
Their first date was on 16 June, the date on which Ulysses is set.
The Nora Barnacle House organised a day of events to celebrate Bloomsday, and during a walking tour of the city Joyceans took in the atmosphere of the places associated with the writer and Nora Barnacle during the early years of their relationship.
While some of his friends claimed that she was not a match for him intellectually, Nora Barnacle was a strong character who loved and supported Joyce throughout his career. Without her Joyce’s best work might never have been written, as according to one man,
He had great ambition and the confidence to think of himself as a genius. I doubt whether he would have realised it unless he met Nora.
After the death of James Joyce Nora continued to promote his final work ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. She felt it was not getting the publicity it deserved. Sheila Gallagher, owner of Nora Barnacle House says that,
When they used to ask her about 'Ulysses' she used to say, why are you not studying ‘Finnegan’s Wake’?
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 16 June 2000. The reporter is Carole Coleman. This report contains third party content which is not RTÉ copyright including 'Bloom' directed by Pat Murphy.