John Ryan (1925-1992) was a leading figure in mid-century literary Dublin as an artist, broadcaster, publisher, critic, editor, writer and – not least – publican. He was organiser of the first Bloomsday celebration, in 1954.
Two books by Ryan, both strongly recommended, are Remembering How We Stood (1975) and A Bash in the Tunnel: James Joyce and the Irish (1970). The former is a brilliant gossipy memoir of Bohemian Dublin in the 1950s, a time when Ryan seemed to know everyone, and everyone else as well.
A Bash in the Tunnel, edited by Ryan, is an anthology of Irish writers which includes eight pieces that had originally appeared in The Envoy, the literary magazine Ryan edited, to mark the tenth anniversary of Joyce’s death. Illustrious contributors included Samuel Beckett, Stanislaus Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Edna O’Brien, Aidan Higgins, Benedict Kiely and Brian O’Nolan (aka Brian Ó Nualláin aka Myles na gCopaleen and aka, most famously, Flann O’Brien), whose brilliant shaggy dog story gives the collection its title.
It’s about a Dublin man of O’Brien’s acquaintance who comes by a key to one of the Irish State Railway’s Pullman cars, and its well-stocked bar, and who occasionally takes advantage of the arrangement when it’s shunted onto a suburban siding at the weekend. If I choose this as a summer story it’s because I read it first in Dublin one August years ago and the light and heat of the day have stayed with me.
You can pick up a copy of A Bash in the Tunnel for less than the price of post and packing.
Chosen by David Collard. David is a writer and researcher based in London. His latest book is About a Girl (CB editions) and he is currently working on a group biography of writers associated with Ian Hamilton’s New Review in the 1970s. Since March 2020 he has been running Carthorse Orchestra, a weekly online cultural gathering. You can read David’s previous selections for A Personal Anthology here.
First published in The Envoy, 1951. Collected in A Bash in the Tunnel, Clifton Books, 1970