Writing Workshops, Retreats, Mentoring

Day 2 2016 – A day in Malahide – and/or Dublin

Day 2 started with yoga, breakfast and the writing workshop (as every day would thereafter). The rest of the day was left “at leisure” to allow everyone to adapt to the new time zone. However, our strategies of staying awake as long as we could the day before, doing a very short (no more than 2 hour) nap, and going to bed at a “normal” time (around 10) worked for a lot of us. So some people did more exploration of Malahide (where they could walk back to the hotel and take another quick nap if needed.), while many of us caught the adorable commuter train into the heart of Dublin for bigger adventures.

The adventures started with a walk from the train station to the heart of Dublin. A bunch of us ducked into nearby O’Neills for a sumptuous lunch. The place was packed and when we tasted the food, we could see why! Of course it was Sunday too.

We kept them from going in with the promise of lunch!

Fortified by lunch we walked through the gorgeous Trinity College Campus and noted that if we wanted to see the Book of Kells, it would be a good idea to buy tickets online before we came back.

Walking along the street we were arrested by the sight of the windows of a Pharmacy filled with James Joyce memorabilia.
Turns out this was Sweny’s. F.W. Sweny and Co (Limited) opened its doors as a dispensing chemist in 1853. A central location in the heart of Dublin’s south inner city, it lay within 100 yards of the birthplace of Oscar Wilde. In 1904 the young James Joyce called in to this very store. He consulted with the then pharmacist Frederick William Sweny in such detail that it is possible to recreate the prescription he describes in Chapter 5 of Ulysses.

Sweny’s is described in sumptuous detail within the novel. The hero, Leopold Bloom, comes into the shop, admires its bottles of potions and compounds and ponders the alchemy that the place possesses. While waiting for the pharmacist Bloom smells the lemony soap on the counter and takes a bar with him.

“He waited by the counter, inhaling the keen reek of drugs, the dusty dry smell of sponges and loofahs. Lot of time taken up telling your aches and pains.”

Ulysses, J. Joyce (1922)

Sweny’s also lies within 50 yards of the location where James Joyce was stood up by Nora Barnacle on 14th June 1904. Two days later she would give in to his pressing advances and that day, 16th June 1904, would go down in literary history as the day that formed the backdrop for Joyce’s Ulysses.


Sweny’s has altered very little over time. It has been “preserved through neglect” in memory of James Joyce. Joyce’s works are cherished here and read aloud daily by the volunteers and visitors who take pleasure in the clarity of Joyce’s memories.

The sweet scent of lemon soap remains in the air; potions lie unopened and forever mystical.

Not much farther along we stumbled across this Oscar Wilde statue in a corner of Merrion Square Park. The author, playright and poet was born in 1854 at no. 1 Merrion Square – just across the road.

This sculpture was designed and created by Danny Osborne, an Irish sculptor, and commissioned by the Guinness Ireland group. It was erected here in 1997.

Wilde’s shiny green jacket is made from nephrite jade, sourced in Canada. The pink collar is made of a rare semi precious stone called thulite, brought here from central Norway.

Wilde’s head and hands are carved from Guatemalan jade. His trousers are made from larvikite – a crystalline stone from Norway, and his shiny shoes are black granite.

The expression on his face is fascinating. Taken as a whole, it’s a definite smirk. But if you cover one side of his face you see a pleased, happy expression. Cover that side and his face is full of sadness.

We were on a mission to find the National Museum of Ireland. In researching the literature for the trip, I had been really taken with Seamus Heaney’s poem about the Bog Man and wanted to know more.

We found the bog men and more. By this time it was latish in the afternoon and jet lag was beginning to catch up to us. But for an hour or so we pored over prehistoric Ireland, Ireland’s gold, bog bodies and much, much more, promising ourselves we’d return.

We felt so lucky being in Dublin during the 100 year anniversary of the great Rebellion. History was being celebrated everywhere!

Click Here to go to Day Three.

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