James Joyce Tower

Load, aim, fire ... a curious incident in the life of James Joyce

The James Joyce Tower at Sandycove.
© Bernd Biege 2015

The James Joyce Tower at Sandycove - ultimately, this is just another Martello Tower on Ireland's coast, stout fortresses built for (possible, they were never used in anger) defense against Napoleon's fleet.

What sets it apart, however, is not the curious fact that nude men bath in its shadow and public view (at the "40 Foot") - but a short stay that Joyce enjoyed there as a guest of Oliver St. John Gogarty.

Joyce also chooses the tower as Leopold Bloom's starting place in "Ulysses". Soon Bloomsday, Joyceans still start the day here ...

Why You Should Visit the James Joyce Tower

Four reasons, folks:

  • This is one of the most important Joycean sites of Dublin - with tangible links to both Joyce's life and work.
  • Joyce as a person is one of the foci - an often forgotten aspect of the larger-than-life literary giant was the fact that he was shot at in the Martello Tower.
  • This was/is/will forever be the starting point of Leopold Bloom's odyssey through Dublin.
  • Last, but not least, this is a rare opportunity to see a Martello Tower from the inside.

Anything You Should be Aware of?

Yes, the exhibition is almost totally geared towards those interested in Joyce and "Ulysses" - occasional visitors might prefer a less high-brow attraction. Or just be content with walking by, taking a snap, then enjoying a stroll along the promenade.

So, What is the James Joyce Tower All About, Then?

The original Martello Tower was built during the Napoleonic wars. As a coastal fortress, equipped with cannon, designed to defend Dublin Bay against a naval threat from that Corsican upstart. Which never materialized. Later the towers were sold off, and Oliver St. John Gogarty used this Martello Tower as a home away from home, a seaside refuge in a seaside redoubt. It was he who invited James Joyce as a guest (not his only claim to literary fame by proxy, by the way, St. John Gogarty also dragged sourpuss W.B.Yeats to his one and only pub visit).

Much later the Martello Tower was re-invented and renovated as a Joyce Museum. And it still offers splendid views of Dublin Bay, and the Hardy (occasionally nude) bathers at the 40 Foot are a bonus.

When to Visit the James Joyce Tower

Bloomsday anyone? Every June 16th, Joyceans step out lively from here - as did Leopold Bloom on this day in 1904, the date is now known as Bloomsday, and every year all things Joyce are celebrated on that day.

But as the Martello Tower, situated splendidly on a headland at Sandycove, does not only have a this purely literary connection to the author of "Ulysses", you may come on other days as well. "James Joyce once slept here" would be a fitting inscription for a plaque. But it would be better not to mention the fact that Joyce fled the tower after being shot at by his host, Oliver St. John Gogarty.

Today the former fortress and later holiday home is an attraction much flaunted by the city he left in disgust. Indeed, there seems to be a string of un-cordial good-byes connected to this humble place.

The tower holds an interesting museum dedicated to all things Joycean, a must-see on the list of top Dublin attractions connected to James Joyce. And for some, the discovery of Joyce's human side is the best part of a visit to Sandycove.

Essential Information on the James Joyce Tower

James Joyce Museum
Sandycove Point
County Dublin

The James Joyce Tower is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission is free, but donations are very welcome.

Telephone: 01-2809265
Website: www.jamesjoycetower.com

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