James Joyce Seat
The Story of the James Joyce Seat at Federation Park Toowoomba
By Aileen Cater-Steel - Darling Downs Irish Club
The James Joyce Seat was placed in Federation Park (in Railway St adjacent to Toowoomba Railway Station) in 2004. It was a gift to the city from the Darling Downs Irish Club. It contains a brick from a Dublin house occupied by James Joyce.
Photo: Aileen Cater-Steel 2018
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 Feb 1882 – 13 Jan 1941) is considered to be one of the most influential writers in the early 20th century. Joyce is best known for his novel “Ulysses” (published 1922).
As a teenager, Joyce lived with his family in a semi-detached house at 2 Millbourne Ave, Drumcondra, Dublin. This house is mentioned in Joyce’s autobiographical novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
In 1989, despite efforts by Dublin Barrister Brendan Kilty to have the house preserved, it was illegally demolished by developers. Brendan decided to purchase 18 truckloads of bricks at a cost of about $4,000. Then he needed to come up with a plan to honour the memory of James Joyce.
Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach of Ireland at the time suggested to Brendan that a brick should be set into a seat commemorating Joyce at a nearby park. Brendan decided that rather than one brick in a seat in Ireland, he would offer the bricks to Irish communities around the world, to form a global monument to James Joyce.
A member of the Darling Downs Irish Club contacted Brendan after she heard his interview on ABC Radio National in February 2004. Under the leadership of President Derm Geurin, the Club received approval from TRC for the seat to be placed in Federation Park opposite the Irish Club Hotel and next to the Railway Station. The location is particularly appropriate, overlooking the Toowoomba Railway Station, the Heritage precinct of Russell Street and Irish Club Hotel, home to the Darling Downs Irish Club.
The seat is a gift from the Darling Downs Irish Club to the people of Toowoomba on the occasion of the centenary of the City, 2004. The year 2004 is also significant because it celebrated the centenary of Bloomsday, 16th June 1904, being the fictional date on which the events of Joyce’s renowned novel “Ulysses” took place.
In August 2004, a design by Miranda Lockhart and David Shaw of Street and Garden Furniture was submitted to Brendan Kilty for his approval. He responded with enthusiasm:
“I cannot tell you how pleased I am with the proposed design for the seat. Your designers have interpreted the brief in a wonderful fashion. They have obvious talent. It enjoys my full approval.”
On 26 November 2004, Brendan, President Derm Guerin and Mayor Di Thorley turned the sod at the site and Brendan was in Toowoomba to present the brick to Derm at The Dead Dinner, a recreation of the famous dinner set in Dublin during Christmas 1904 and served as described in the book, “The Dead”, complete with “a fat brown goose, pudding, stout, ales and minerals”.
The seat was unveiled by Mayor Di Thorley 18 December 2004. And it has featured in the Club’s annual Bloomsday celebrations since.
The inscription on the seat includes a quote from Ulysses that refers to the Irish people who emigrated en masse from Ireland:
"Would the departed never nowhere nohow reappear? Ever he would wander, selfcompelled, to the extreme limit of his cometary orbit, beyond the fixed stars and variable suns and telescopic planets, astronomical waifs and strays, to the extreme boundary of space, passing from land to land, among peoples, amid events. Somewhere imperceptibly he would hear and somehow reluctantly, suncompelled, obey the summons of recall” Ulysses, James Joyce (1882-1941).
The inscription also states:
“In recognition of the contribution of Irish migrants and their descendants to Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, the Darling Downs Irish Club presents the seat to the people of Toowoomba on the occasion of the Centenary of the City 2004. This seat also celebrates the centenary of Bloomsday 16th June 1904, the day of James Joyce’s renowned novel “Ulysses”.
The design developed by Street and Garden Furniture Company incorporates a brick, kindly donated by Senior Counsel Brendan Kilty, Dublin, from the house of James Joyce in Drumcondra, Dublin.”
Photo: Gerard Saide 2012