Damian Mac Con Uladh our Corinthian Correspondent awoke me to the Bloomsday connection to our fair town and indeed one of its prominent public worship buildings as well as the Holles Street National Maternity Hospital some years ago.
Bloomsday (16th of June when James Joyce first met his lover and wife – Galway-based Nora Barnacle) whilst celebrated the world over has muted acclaim in town even though the web of time and 117 years has brought us back full circle to the plot of Ulysess (celebrating its centenary year of publication) and the romantic wanderings around Dublin of the protagonist – Leopold Bloom .
For those unfamiliar with the novel "Oxen of the Sun", chapter 14 of Ulysses, mentions a Dr “Horne” no less than ten times. That refers to Sir Andrew J. Horne, who was born in 1856 in Ballinasloe, the son of Junius and Frances Horne of Society Street, who owned a number of buildings on the street, from the old Convent secondary school at No 2 (where they probably lived. Dr Rossitor later lived there) up to what was McCullagh's at No 5.
Horne was the founder and first Joint Catholic Master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street. He studied medicine in Dublin and Vienna , was joint Master for 30 years, he was active in the Foundation of the Women’s National Health Association as well as the Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Children. He became President of the Royal College of Physcians in 1907 and died in 1924.
It is suggested that Horne represents Helios, the Greek sun god, and also oxen (Horne=horn).
Playing around with his name, Joyce wrote: "Send us bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit." Referring to the hospital, Joyce continued: "Of that house A. Horne is lord. Seventy beds keeps he there teeming mothers are wont that they lie for to thole and bring forth bairns hale so God's angel to Mary quoth. Watchers tway there walk, white sisters in ward sleepless. Smarts they still, sickness soothing: in twelve moons thrice an hundred. Truest bedthanes they twain are, for Horne holding wariest ward."
In 1915, Horne had a stained glass window erected in memory of his parents in St. Michael's Church, which also contains windows erected by his father, Junius who died in 1907.
We published a snippet on the Facebook page last summer and I got a call from a former Portnick based Horne inlaw who thought I might be interested in meeting a descendant of the Hornes - the Great Grandaughter of Junius and Grandaughter of Andrew – Margret – a sprightly ninety something year old – still living a fiercely independent life in south Dublin in the Horne residence.
The appointment was arranged and I over stayed my welcome by some 2 hours – she was utterly engaging – she had unique memories of her childhood before the war and her father’s recollections of visits to Ballinasloe. The sitting room and dining room walls were bedecked with photos and souvenirs of her family tree – and she showed me wonderful scrap books of picnics at Garbally’s 40 steps, Clonfert Abbey, The River Suck in the thirties and forties.
Margret’s father Andrew , like his father born in Society St who gave his residence to the Sisters of Mercy for their School – studied medicine in Trinity and when the bugles sounded in 1914 he volunteered for service with Royal Army Medical Corps. He served with distinction and his photographs and watercolour sketches of his time on the front and tending to the wounded are fascinating. As a Lieutenant he was one of the very last cohort of officers with the wounded evacuated from Gallipoli.
The story of the fledging state and the Catholic natives finding their way through education and sacrifice – sometimes with huge support from the church and betimes frustrated by the same institution is etched into this family’s tree.
Andrew eventually became Assistant Master of Holles St. and was married to Delia Moclair it’s first ever assistant female Master! Margret herself studied and trained for Almoning ( modern day Social Services) she was the Chief Almoner to the Adelaide & Meath Hospital and was a pioneering voice in the early days of getting social workers accepted into the trade union movement . She also served in a variety of Catholic third world lay missionary activities. A connection with Sean Mc Bride (who famously was near killed in a road accident and nursed back to life by the FMDM sisters in Portiuncula –and became Chair of the Board of Trustees) saw her develop a friendship with Monsignor Louis Page. Sadly she was one his last visitors to Arus Vianney before he died in 1999.
The erudite, loquacious and very hospitable Margret was able last summer to get about to visit her since deceased twin sister , attend her religious duties – as a car driver but railed at the injustice of COVID having to stop her playing her GOLF !!
Ballinasloe had significant input into the Annual National Joycean Bloomsday Celebrations last year when, local Classical guitarist John Feely actually got to play Joyce 's original guitar for the President Michael D and his wife Sabina and acclaimed local author Nuala O Connor was flat out with oodles of live radio programmes and TV broadcast - discussing indepth Nora Barnacale who she profiled in her latest Bio Fiction Novel “Nora” .
Her Novel was selected by Dublin city Council for “ One Dublin One Book Read and featured recently on the RTE’s Book On One “ ‘I’m honoured and humbled that Dublin City Council has chosen Nora as its One Dublin One Book read for 2022, the Ulysses centenary year. I imagine Nora Barnacle would be as pleased as I am to see her contribution to the life and work of James Joyce celebrated in this way. I’m a proud Dub and this wonderful opportunity has me really looking forward to engaging with library users and readers, all over my home city, in 2022.’ stated Nuala.
NORA has been shortlisted for two awards - Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year at Listowel and Irish Novel of the Year at the Dalkey Literary Awards.
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