Saint George’s bells, once heard ringing out by Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, have finally, after 100 years, started to chime in celebration of Bloomsday .
he bells are name-checked repeatedly in James Joyce’s renowned novel, which is marking its centenary.
Despite being cherished in Dundrum, south Dublin for three decades, the historic significance of George’s bells had long been forgotten.
Yet, the bells are perhaps one of the most relevant real-world reminders of Ulysses, capturing not only the spirit, but the sound of Joyce’s novel.
Originally encased in St George’s Church on Dominic Street on Hardwick Place, Dublin, the bells had once been part of Joyce’s beloved Dublin.
However, they lay dormant after the church’s closure in 1990 and the memory of their place in Joyce’s heart died.
The ringers of Taney Parish in Dundrum, south Dublin, who claimed the bells as their own more than 30 years ago, started to ring them in time for the Millennium celebrations.
Now for the first time in Dundrum, the bells have been rung to commemorate Bloomsday and their special place in Ulysses.
Steeple keeper Michael Ryan told Independent.ie: “This is the first year we’ve rang to celebrate our St George’s bells to remember their significance in Ulysses.
“A connection was made with the Bloomsday Committee. They realised St George’s bells were here and they contacted us.
“We embraced it enthusiastically. We knew about the George’s bells being in Ulysses but we didn’t connect their significance and that they should be marked annually.
“It was a bit of a dawning upon us moment. But we’re delighted the dots have been joined up and we will make sure from today, this is an annual celebration.”
The parish has 27 ringers, mostly aged from their mid-40s up. Several ringers joined in the commemorative event, dressing up in full Bloomsday attire.
The public were invited to participate and stop off for a cup of tea, to watch and listen to the bells.
Taney parish ringmaster Brian McCann and second ringmaster Helen Little were among those celebrating Bloomsday at the church.
“There are 35 towers across Ireland,” Mr Ryan said. “And most need ringers. Taney needs new ringers too and we’d love to see some young people taking part.
“It’s a great social activity and fun. We laugh a great deal. And we’re just delighted to have a historic part in Bloomsday.”
Meanwhile, Arts Minister Catherine Martin attended a Bloomsday breakfast in The James Joyce Centre in Dublin city, to mark the 100-year anniversary of the publication of Ulysses.
Ms Martin said Ulysees was a “masterpiece” and it was important to celebrate all James Joyce’s “heroes and rich characters,” who had “fed imaginations for generations and which continue to inspire, amuse and reflect a lot that is Irish”.
The minister said she was “delighted” her department “supports the James Joyce Centre which oversees the Bloomsday Festival”.
More than 100 events took place, organised by the festival and rolled out across an entire week of entertainment.
Bloomsday has been a central focus in theatres, parks, beaches and on city streets in recent days and has offered a fresh reminder to the post-pandemic world of Dublin’s global cultural vibrancy.
Ms Martin herself joined in the theatrics of the day, reading from the Calypso section of the novel, which began with Leopold Bloom making his breakfast.
Dublin’s deputy Lord Mayor Joe Costello attended the event, along with Indian ambassador to Ireland, Akhilish Mishra, Chair of the James Joyce Centre board Deirdre Ellis-king, Senator David Norris and James Joyce Centre scholar Terence Kill, whose book Ulysses Unbound is regarded as the best readers’ companion to Ulysses.
Other dignitaries included Argentinian ambassador to Ireland Moira Wilkinson, New Zealand ambassador to Ireland, Brad Burgess and representatives from the Mexican and Norwegian embassies.
Actors Les Doherty, Elaine Reddy and Ian Toner, and musicians Suzanne Savage, Simon Morgan and David Bremner entertained dignitaries.
A special Bloomsday event to mark 25 years of Franco-Irish Ulysses research also took place.
Representatives from the Irish Research Council and the Embassy of France in Ireland, were joined by Franco-Irish artiste, Camille O’Sullivan, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their joint Ulysses funding programme in the French Ambassador’s residence in Dublin 4.
The Ulysses scheme provides funding to facilitate the exchange of ideas and collaboration between researchers working in Ireland and France.
The event was attended by those whose research projects are being awarded funding of €100,000 under the scheme, together with some past awardees.
Camille O’Sullivan read a soliloquy from Ulysses for guests at the reception.
The Ulysses scheme is supported by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, RTE-France, EirGrid, Health Research Board, ADEME and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
If you are interested in becoming a bell-ringer at Taney, you can contact: [email protected] or for bell-ringing at a local parish, contact other churches with manually operated bells.