On 26 August 1909 Joyce travelled to Galway with his son Giorgio.
Joyce had promised Nora that he would take Giorgio to Galway to meet her relatives there. They travelled by train and spent Thursday 26 and Friday 27 in Galway where Joyce visited places he had heard about from Nora.
Joyce had used a letter from Roberto Prezioso, editor of Il Piccolo della Sera, not only to obtain a press pass to the premiere of Shaw’s The Shewing-Up of Blanco Posnet at the Abbey Theatre, but also to get some business cards made with his name and ‘Piccolo della Sera, Trieste’ printed on them. Using one of these cards, he persuaded the manager of the Midland Railway to give him a first class press pass to Galway, on the basis that he was going to write articles about Galway for the Piccolo.
Joyce attended the premier of Blanco Posnet on Wednesday 25 August and set out for Galway with Giorgio the following day. When they arrived at Nora’s parents’ house at 4 Bowling Green, Joyce apparently sent Giorgio into the house first, unsure of what reception they might get.
The Barnacles were delighted with their grandson and their ‘son-in-law,’ and Nora’s uncle, Michael Healy, put the visitors up at his house at 18 Dominick Street. Joyce bought a letter card illustrated with views of Galway such as Menlo Castle and St Ignatius’ Church. He wrote the letter card to Nora sitting at the kitchen table in 4 Bowling Green, and told her that he had been there all day talking with her mother, Annie Barnacle, whom he liked her very much.
Joyce persuaded Mrs Barnacle to sing ‘The Lass of Aughrim’ for him, though she was reluctant to sing him the final verses. He also told Nora that he had visited the house on Augustine Street where Nora had grown up with her grandmother, Catherine Healy, and her uncle Thomas Healy. Joyce planned to return there and, by claiming that he was interested in buying the house, hoped to get inside to see the room that Nora slept in when she lived there.
Joyce asked Annie Barnacle for photographs of Nora as a child, but she didn’t have any, and Joyce ended his letter to Nora hoping that they might visit Galway together the following year when Nora could be his guide around the city. Joyce and Nora visited Galway with their children in the summer of 1912.
Annie Barnacle lived at 4 Bowling Green until her death in 1939. The house, since renumbered 8, is now the Nora Barnacle House Museum.
Sources & Further Reading:
Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce – new and revised edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Igoe, Vivien: James Joyce’s Dublin Houses & Nora Barnacle’s Galway, Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2007.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
Maddox, Brenda: Nora – A Biography of Nora Joyce, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1988.
Information about the Nora Barnacle House Museum here.