Old Glynn

Old Glynn

In Brief

In Lotus Eaters and again in Sirens, Bloom thinks of "Old Glynn" who once played the organ in St. Xavier's church, appreciating his skill at making it "talk" and marveling that he was paid the handsome salary of fifty pounds a year. John M. Glynn (1834-1893) was a keyboardist of real distinction. He took the job at the Gardiner Street church in 1887.

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In a short article in Dublin James Joyce Journal 2 (2009): 143-46 and again in her book The Real People of Joyce's Ulysses (2016), Vivien Igoe reports considerable biographical information about John Glynn, who was previously unknown to Joyceans. Born and educated in Dublin, he took an appointment at St. Peter's church in Drogheda before returning to Dublin and successively holding positions at five or six churches there. He also worked as "professor of music in many of the most important schools and convents in Dublin," evaluated student performances on piano and organ, led choirs, composed numerous works of sacred and secular music, and organized concerts and festivals. Igoe writes that "As an organist Glynn had few equals. He was a gentleman of a most kind and genial disposition, affable manners, and possessed a ready wit."

In Sirens Bloom imagines what the organist's days must have been like: "Queer up there in the cockloft, alone, with stops and locks and keys. Seated all day at the organ. Maunder on for hours, talking to himself or the other fellow blowing the bellows." This intimacy must be judged imaginary, because Joyce was 11 years old when Glynn died, and from the evidence of Circe it seems that he did not even know his given name. As Bloom is burned at the stake, "A choir of six hundred voices, conducted by Vincent O’Brien, sings the chorus from Handel’s Messiah Alleluia for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, accompanied on the organ by Joseph Glynn."

Gifford, writing before Igoe's discovery, identified the organist as "Joseph Glynn," no doubt relying on the passage in Circe. Slote affirmed this name, perhaps not yet aware of Igoe's article. He also observed that the 1904 Thom's directory lists a "Joseph Glynn, soloist, 15 South Frederick Street." John, however, seems a more likely candidate for the "old Glynn" whom Bloom remembers playing the organ in St. Xavier's years earlier.

JH 2022
The pipe organ in St. Xavier's church. Source: www.buildingsofireland.ie.