John Ryan (1925-92)

[b. Dublin; son of Senator Séamus Seamus and Agnes Ryan [née Harding], both active in the War of Independence; his father, originally from Tipperary, successfully founded of the Monument Creamery in Dublin; John was brought up in Burton Hall, Co. Dublin, with seven siblings; ed. Clongowes Wood and Metropolitan College of Art, Dublin [later NCA; NCAD]; engaged in work as an artist, broadcaster, publisher, critic, editor; fnd ., with J. K. Hillman and Valentin Iremonger, Envoy (1949-51), subtitled An Irish Review of Literature and Art in emulation of Cyril Connolly’s Horizon, and including regular ‘Diary’ contributed by Patrick Kavanagh; elicited contribution to Envoy from Samuel Beckett; brought out a Special James Joyce Issue in 1951; terminated due to ‘adverse trading conditions’ during British tax embargo on Irish magazines; ed. Dublin Magazine (1970-75), using a caravan in his front garden as his “office”; in 1968 he organised the erection of a canal-bank seat for Patrick Kavanagh - now superseded by a bronze monument on the same theme;
elected to Irish Academy of Letters; Ryan purchased The Bailey public house in Anne St., Dublin, 1957; ed. A Bash in the Tunnel (1970), essays on James Joyce by chiefly Irish writers incl. Patrick Kavanagh and Brian O’Nolan [aka Flann O’Brien], but also Bernard Benstock; he inaugurated Bloomsday with a Joycean odyssey from Sandycove to the Bailey undertaken with O’Brien, Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, A. J. Leventhal and Tom Joyce, a dentist and cousin of the writer, in 16 June 1954; Ryan rescued the door of 7 Eccles St., which he installed inside the Bailey Pub - later removed to the Joyce Centre at N. Gt. George’s St. in 1955; also established the Sandycove Martello as a Joyce museum; issued Remembering How We Stood (1975), memoir of Kavanagh, Flann O’Brian, Behan, et al., in episodic and anecdotal form; he also wrote A Wave of the Sea (1981), a marine memoir.
contrib. frequently to Sunday Miscellany on RTÉ; saved the door of 7 Eccles Str. for The Bailey, St. Anne St. Dublin, from whence it was removed at the demolition of those premisses and transported to the Joyce Museum on N. Gt. George’s St., Oct. 1995; Hon. Sec. IAL; arranged that Joyce Tower become museum; son and namesake is a journalism; his portrait was painted by Edward McGuire; his son and namesake John Ryan is also an art publisher. DIL FDA OCIL DIL2

Bloomsday 1954 - A film made by John Ryan
[ Click on video to see Youtube source. ]

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Ed., A Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce by the Irish (Brighton: Clifton Books 1970) [infra]; Remembering How We Stood: Bohemian Dublin at the Mid-Century (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1975; rep. 1987); A Wave of the Sea (Swords: Ward River 1981).

Ryan contrib. with Valentine Iremonger, John Montague, and one other to ‘symposium’ on ‘The Young Writer’, The Bell, Vol. XVII, No. 7 (Oct. 1951), cp.15; see Terence Brown, Northern Voices (1975), p.150.

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Bibliographical details
A Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce by the Irish, ed. by John Ryan (Brighton: Clifton Books 1970), 259pp. Frontis. ‘James Joyce’ by Sean O’Sullivan, RHA [in chalk]; [untitled] poem by John Montague; CONTENTS: Introduction [9]; B. Nolan [aka Flann O’Brien], ‘A Bash in the Tunnel’ [15]; Samuel Beckett, ‘Dante ... Bruno ... Vico ... Joyce’ [21]; W. B. Stanford, ‘The Mysticism that Pleased Him: A Note on the Primary Source of Joyce’s Ulysses’ [35]; Edna O’Brien, ‘Dear Mr. Joyce’ [43]; Patrick Kavanagh, ‘Who Killed James Joyce?’ [49]; Joseph Hone, ‘A Recollection of James Joyce’ [53; rep. as ‘An Irish view of Dubliners’ in Deming, op. cit. 1970 [Vol. 1], pp.58-59]; Aidan Higgins, ‘Tired Lines: Or Tales My Mother Told Me’ [55]; Niall Montgomery, ‘Joyeux quicum Ulysse ... swissairis dubellay gadelice’ [61]; Ulick O’Connor, ‘Joyce and Gogarty’ [73]; Stanislaus Joyce, ‘The Bud’ [101]; John Jordan, ‘Joyce Without Fears: A Personal Journey’ [135]; Eoin O’Mahony, ‘Father Conmee and his Associates’ [147]; Patrick Boyle, ‘Drums and guns, and guns and drums. Hurrah! hurrah!’ [157]; Denis Johnston, ‘A Short View of the Progress of Joyceanity’ [163]; Andrew Cass [John Garvin], ‘Childe Horrid’s pilgrimace’ [169]; Arthur Power, ‘James Joyce: The Internationalist’ [181]; Bernard Share, ‘Downes’s cakeshop and Williams’s Jam’ []189; J. B. Lyons, ‘Doctors and Hospitals’ [193]; F. Harvey, ‘Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: The Intervention of Style in a Work of the Creative Imagination’ [203]; Monk Gibbon, ‘The Unraised Hat’ [209]; Thomas McGreevy, ‘The Catholic Element in Work in Progress’ [213]; John Francis Byrne, ‘Diseases of the Ox’ [221]; Benedict Kiely, ‘The Artist on the Giant’s Grave’ [235]; ‘What the Irish Papers Said: The Obituary Memoirs Appearing in the Irish papers of January 1941’ [243]; Notes on Contributors [251]; Index [255]. (See Introduction, infra; also several extracts under named authors as above elsewhere in RICORSO, e.g., Edna O’Brien, &c.)

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Kurt Jacobsen, ‘An Interview with John Ryan’, in Journal of Irish Literature, 17 (Jan. 1988), pp.3-14; Peter Costello, ‘John Ryan’, in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1993); Constantine FitzGibbon, ‘Dublin’s grand époque’, review of Remembering How We Stood, in Times Literary Supplement (10 Oct.1975;

See also remarks in Ulick O’Connor, Brendan (London: Hamish Hamilton 1970); Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature (London: Pluto Press 1998), p.118f. [comments on Envoy]; Huber Butler, ‘Envoy and Mr Kavanagh’ [1954], in Escape from the Anthill (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1985), pp.156-57; rep. in R. F. Foster, ed. & intro., The Sub-Prefect Should Have Held His Tongue (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press; Dublin: Lilliput 1990, pp.83-91), and Bruce Stewart, ‘Another Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce and the Envoy', in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review , 93, 370 (Summer 2004), pp.133-46 [copy as attached].

See also Adrienne Leavy, ‘Envoy, the literary magazine that sought to put Irish culture on the map’ in The Irish Times (17 Aug. 2015) - as infra.

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Stan Gébler Davies, James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist (Poynter 1975), gives an incidental account of the rescue of door of 7 Eccles St., relates that those participating were Ryan, Patrick Kavanagh and Mr Leslie Mallory, journalist and film-maker, and that the Reverend Mother was unwilling to permit the removal on the door on the grounds that it was associated with ‘that pagan writer’ but was softened by a donation to the Foreign Missions. (p.238; ftn.) Davies incls. a photograph of his own ‘research’ at the Joycean address.

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Anthony Cronin, No Laughing Matter, The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien (1989), comments on Envoy: ‘Soon Brian O’Nolan, or Myles, as everybody in the pub, including the barmen, called him, was a contributor to the magazine also, the general editorial policy being to foster a counter-trend of sophistication and cosmopolitanism against the debased Celtic twilightry and the rorms of rural picturesuqe which, it was felt, still held sway in established literary circles. Alas, we were not to know that Celtic twilightry and rural picturesque are hydra-headed monsters which survive all attempts to extirpate them either by precept or example. Many of the contributions to Envoy, including Kavanagh’s, had a strong anti-nationalist coloration, a more or less humorous form of protest against the tattered and cliché-ridden national triumphalism with its endless references to the “War of Independence” and “our unique Gaelic culture” which was the official ethos of the country; and it was to the Envoy that Brian contributed the story “The Martyr’s Crown” [1950]; ... In the following year, 1951, John Ryan asked Brian O’Nolan to edit a special James Joyce issue of Envoy ... a brilliant idea.’

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Brian Inglis, Downstart (London: Chatto & Windus 1990), writes: ‘Ryan ran Envoy, a literary magazine which provided a lifeline for many impecunious Dublin writers: I do not recall that we ever met, but he published the one and only short story I have ever written.’ (p.185.)

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Adrienne Leavy, ‘Envoy, the literary magazine that sought to put Irish culture on the map’ inThe Irish Times (17 Aug. 2015): ‘First published in December 1949, Envoy was the brainchild of writer and artist John Ryan, and the poet and diplomat Valentin Iremonger. The impetus behind the magazine was an attempt to fill what they perceived as a literary gap in Irish culture. The foreword to the first issue announced that “Envoy, by its arrival, brings to a close a two year period during which the reading public of this island have had no monthly magazine wholly devoted to literature and the arts”. Determined to put literature first, Envoy was less concerned with issues of Irish nationalism or cultural politics, and instead, cast itself in a self-consciously European mode, mixing local appeal and a dash of international contributions. Envoy commenced with a detailed editorial plan which Ryan and his assistant editors (Iremonger and JK Hillman), outlined in their introduction to the first issue: the periodical would come to the aid of Irish culture “by serving abroad as envoy of Irish writing and at home as envoy of the best of international writing”. An ambitious aesthetic platform was spelled out in the second issue, which, despite the editors’ avowed inclination towards European literature, curiously confined itself to Irish authors. [...] Another important facet of the magazine was the inclusion of a regular column or “Diary” written by Patrick Kavanagh. Although Kavanagh’s Diary column initially captured the essence of Envoy’s cultural outlook, it became, with the passage of time, a vehicle for Kavanagh to pick fights and settle old scores. In several issues he uses his column to vent his scorn on other contemporary poets, most notably, Austin Clarke, John Hewitt and Louis McNeice, all of whose work Kavanagh considered inferior to his own. Other moving targets included the Abbey Theatre, the Catholic Church’s involvement in the arts, Radio Éireann, the Irish Club in London and the regular clientele of The Pearl Bar. Less measured opinion pieces than frequently very funny belligerent rants, Kavanagh displayed his not inconsiderable gifts as an acerbic satirist in these columns, which paved the way for his own publication, Kavanagh’s Weekly. He also was responsible for most of the letters to the editor that the magazine received. [...]’ (For full-text version, see under RICORSO Library > “Criticism > Reviews” - via index or as attached.)

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Editorial’ (Envoy, Vol., 3, No. 9): ‘The younger poets [...] take their nationality rather more for granted. They seem to be less interested in the technical craftwork by means of which one apparently becomes Irish - the over-use of assonance, Larminie, Raftery, a strained and imprecise Imagery - and rather more concerned with the craftsmanship involved in trying to write good poetry; their attitude seems to correspond more with Paul Gerrard’s - that if the poet happens to be Irish, the result, as like as not, is probably Irish poetry. They would probably claim that being Irish is no more an attitude of mind than the wearing of embroidered coats.’ (p.6; quoted in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature, Pluto Press 1998, p.118.)

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A Bash in the Tunnel (1970) —

‘In 1951, whilst I was editor of the Irish literary periodical Envoy, I decided that it would be a fitting thing to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of James Joyce by bringing out a special number dedicated to him which would reflect the attitudes and opinions of his fellow countrymen towards their illustrious compatriot.
  To this end I began by inviting Brian Nolan to act as honorary editor for this particular issue. His own genius closely matched, without in anyway resembling or attempting to counterfeit, Joyce’s. But if the mantle of Joyce (or should we say the waistcoat?) were ever to be passed on, nobody would be half so deserving of it as the man whom under his other guises as Flan [sic] O’Brien and Myles Na gCopaleen, proved himself incontestably to be the most creative writer and mordant wit that Ireland had given us since Shem the Penman himself.
  The exigencies of space and finance in ouor ssmall journal allowed only for the inclusion of eight of the writers who are represented in this present volume [...]
  Since then there has been a continuous demand for republication. It was agreed, therefore, not only to provide for this need but at the same time considerably to expand the scope of the original work by adding material of a similar subject matter that had appeared earlier by Irish writers and friends and also such work as had been produced in the following years. In addition, much has been newly commissioned from Irish writers of today, who, if not Joyce’s contemporaries in the strictest sense, grew up when his living presence was felt. Alas [[13] Brian Nolan, who died in 1966, was unable to assist me [...]
  A formidable corpus of Joycean scholarship and pseudo-scholarship has emerged since the writer’s death, much of it of excruciating abstruseness. This book hopes to be none of these things: it is a book by Irish writers about an Irish writer. To this extent I believe it to be unique.
  Joyce was quintessentially an Irishman to the extent that Wilde, Shaw or Yeats could never be. This quality was the great source of his genius, the inexhaustible mine from which he would hew Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
  To understand Joyce at all, this fact has to be faced. In seeing Joyce through the eyes of the Irish (not always smiling) we shall see the man more clearly and, I believe, understand the writer more fully.’
(End; pp.[13-14].)

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Seamus Deane
, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, p.529n; John Ryan (b.1925), founder-editor of Envoy (1949-51, and the Dublin Magazine, published a memory, Remembering How We Stood: Bohemian Dublin at the Mid-Century (1975; rep. 1987).

Note: There is a Wikipedia article - online - in which RICORSO is cited as an ‘external reference’, and this in turn has been for the present entry. The matter cited from RICORSO is the quotation from the Introduction to A Bash in the Tunnel, which can be identified by the term [sic] associated with the mispelling of Flann as Flan (i.e., Brian O’Nolan’s nom-de-plume).

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Bloomsday: A Bloomsday record of 1954, informally filmed on 8mm. by John Ryan, follows Brian O’Nolan [Flann O’Brien], Patrick Kavanagh, and Con Leventhal on Bloom’s itinerary from Sandymount to Glasnevin cemetery.

Kith & Kin: siblings of John Ryan incl. Kathleen, Cora, Oonagh [bapt. Agnes Mary], Ide, Séamus. Of these Kathleen became a successful actress in Britain and America; Séamus [Fr. Vincent] became a Benedictine monk; Cora m. Sean Dunne, the Labour TD. Seamus Ryan Senior was a Fianna Fáil Senator. Oonagh, married Prince Alexis Guédroitz at 18 and later the artist Patrick Swift with whom she settled in Portugal. The couple’s friends included Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Brian O’Nolan, Brendan Behan, John Jordan, John McGahern, Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, and Nano Reid. In London the Swifts lived at Westbourne Tce., W2, where they founded the literary journal X with David Wright. Their domicile in Portugal was in a 17th c. cottage in the village of Carvoeiro in the Algrave - a region which they were among the first to colonise as artists. (See obituary of Oonagh Swift in The Irish Times, 10 Nov. 2012.)

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Bloomsday 1954 - see the account give in Peter Costello & Peter Van de Camp, Flann O’Brien: An Illustrated Biography (London: Bloomsbury), 260pp.

The date was 16 June, 1954, and though it was only mid-morning, Brian O’Nolan was already drunk. This day was the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. Leopold Bloom’s wanderings through Dublin, which James Joyce had immortalised in Ulysses.

To mark this occasion a small group of Dublin literati had gathered at the Sandycove home of Michael Scott, a well-known architect, just below the Martello tower in which the opening scene of Joyce’s novel is set. They planned to travel round the city through the day, visiting in turn the scenes of the novel, ending at night in what had once been the brothel quarter of the city, the area which Joyce had called Nighttown.


The rest of the party, that first Bloomsday, was made up of the poet Patrick Kavanagh, the young critic Anthony Cronin, a dentist named Tom Joyce, who as Joyce’s cousin represented the family interest, and John Ryan, the painter and businessman who owned and edited the literary magazine Envoy. The idea of the Bloomsday celebration had been Ryan’s, growing naturally out of a special Joyce issue of his magazine, for which O’Nolan had been guest editor.

Ryan had engaged two horse drawn cabs, of the old fashioned kind, which in Ulysses Mr. Bloom and his friends drive to poor Paddy Dignam’s funeral. The party were assigned roles from the novel. Cronin stood in for Stephen Dedalus, O’Nolan for his father, Simon Dedalus, John Ryan for the journalist Martin Cunningham, and A.J. Leventhal, the Registrar of Trinity College, being Jewish, was recruited to fill (unkown to himself according to John Ryan) the role of Leopold Bloom.

Kavanagh and O’Nolan began the day by deciding they must climb up to the Martello tower itself, which stood on a granite shoulder behind the house. As Cronin recalls, Kavanagh hoisted himself up the steep slope above O’Nolan, who snarled in anger and laid hold of his ankle. Kavanagh roared, and lashed out with his foot. Fearful that O’Nolan would be kicked in the face by the poet’s enormous farmer’s boot, the others hastened to rescue and restrain the rivals.

With some difficulty O’Nolan was stuffed into one of the cabs by Cronin and the others. Then they were off, along the seafront of Dublin Bay, and into the city.

In pubs along the way an enormous amount of alcohol was consumed, so much so that on Sandymount Strand they had to relieve themselves as Stephen Dedalus does in Ulysses. Tom Joyce and Cronin sang the sentimental songs of Tom Moore which Joyce had loved, such as Silent, O Moyle. They stopped in Irishtown to listen to the running of the Ascot Gold Cup on a radio in a betting shop, but eventually they arrived in Duke Street in the city centre, and the Bailey, which John Ryan then ran as a literary pub.

They went no further. Once there, another drink seemed more attractive than a long tour of Joycean slums, and the siren call of the long vanished pleasures of Nighttown.

Quoted in Open Culture (25 July 2013) - online [accessed 21.01.2017] - incorporating Ryan’s film of the event. )

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