(Above: The First Bloomsday Celebrations at Sandycove, Co. Dublin, June 16th, 1954. From l-r Anthony Cronin, John Ryan, Patrick Kavanagh)
I used to see Anthony Cronin every day, as he’d pop into my late father’s grocery shop on Westland Row.
Anthony always used to chat to my Dad at length about anything and everything, and was always an exceptionally kind and gregarious man. This was when I was quite young, years before I had any idea who he was, or aware of what he had done for the arts in Ireland.
Labels like poet, critic or author, don’t go far enough to capture the breadth and influence of Cronin’s life and work, who helped found the Irish Museum of Modern Art and initiated the official celebration of the first Bloomsday in 1954.
Here is a hilarious silent one-minute clip of Cronin, Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh, John Ryan, Tom Joyce, and others, beginning their Joycean pilgrimage at Sandycove.
The day degenerated into an epic pub crawl by horse and cart. You could say Bloomsday hasn’t changed too much, except now it is celebrated all over the world.
I’m just back from attending Tony’s funeral in Donnybrook. Mourners included our President, Michael D. Higgins, and numerous figures from the arts in Ireland. Eamon Dunphy delivered a touching prayer of the faithful paying tribute to Tony’s love of horse racing.
There will be a lot written and said over the coming days, as there should be, as Tony was an extraordinary man.
I’d like to publish a poem of Tony’s here that mentions my father.
Rest in Peace Tony. Hope you’re up there somewhere catching up with my Dad.
Ar dheis Dé do raibh a anam