By Madeline O’Connor
AS James Joyce fans worldwide celebrated Bloomsday on Monday, Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley confirmed he is the proud owner of a medal awarded to the literary great.
Flatley, a well-known collector of art and antiques, also owns a first edition copy of the writer’s Ulysses.
The multi-millionaire bought the medal, won by Joyce at a Feis Ceoil in Dublin on May 16, 1904, at an auction in London ten years ago. He forked out nearly $20,000 for the pleasure – a sum nearly five times its pre-auction estimate at Sotheby’s auction house.
The medal is thought to have been made by Dublin jeweller Edmond Johnson, and has an engraving on its reverse with the lettering ‘Tenor Solo James A. Joyce 1904.’
Joyce was one of 22 singers who entered the singing competition at the Feis Ceoil in question, after taking preparatory lessons from Benedetto Palmieri, professor for the voice in the Dublin Academy of Music.
He sang two set-pieces – No Chastening, from Arthur Sullivan’s oratorio The Prodigal Son, and A Long Farewell, an Irish air. It is believed Joyce was asked to sing a third piece at sight, but left the stage in disgust as he was unable to read it.
Judge Luigi Denza, a professor at the London Academy of Music, had wanted to give Joyce the gold medal, but after his refusal to perform the piece at sight, decided to give him bronze.
Urban myth has it that Joyce later hurled the medal into the Liffey in a fit of anger.