There is a sculpture dedicated to James Joyce at the northern end of Sandymount Strand (see photo at left) that does not appear on maps of Joyce’s Dublin. It received no mention in the recent Bloomsday celebrations. And it is nearly nonexistent to the all-seeing eye of Google.
On a trip to Dublin for Bloomsday 2012 I walked to Sandymount Strand from the city through Sean Moore Park and was struck by a tall rough-hewn stone pillar where the grass field gives way to beach sand. I saw nothing identifying the sculpture, which resembled a massive single open quotation mark. Was this obelisk erected to mark the spot very nearby where Leopold Bloom stopped to enjoy a particular seaside girl on June 16, 1904? Or was it a protest by a typographic trade union of Joyce’s expulsion of quotation marks from his fiction?
I left Dublin without an answer.
But on June 10 this year during the Joyce Bus Tour sponsored by the James Joyce Centre, James Quin gave me an answer. He said the stone pillar was the work of Irish sculptor Cliodna Cussen and it had a name: “A Sundial for James Joyce.”
I returned to Sandymount Strand this Bloomsday morning as part of my celebratory peregrinations and revisited the stone. To my surprise it had a squat companion marker a few yards away that I had somehow overlooked a year before. These words are carved on the marker: ‘AN GALLÁN GRÉINE do JAMES JOYCE’ – which literally translates as ‘a solar pillar for James Joyce.’
A web search, however, turned up very little about Cussen and this Joyce sculpture. A scholarly article noted that it was dedicated on Dec. 16, 1983, as part of a project to mark the location of the rising sun on the winter solstice. (See “Time of Solstice Sandymount Strand, Dublin: Twentieth-Century Stonehenge,” Rosangela Barone, James Joyce Quarterly, Spring 1985.) This post and the photos accompanying are here to raise the profile of this striking feature on Dublin’s Joycean landscape.
But the mystery remains as to why this tribute to Joyce is so little recognized today. Has it just been lost in a city strewn with history and tributes and markers? Or is the sundial another example of Ireland’s somewhat estranged relationship with its most famous runaway son? – Steve Cole