Jim Henry - A lifetime's odyssey

The Translation of Ulysses

Jim combined a love for his native language with a fascination with the work of James Joyce to produce Irish translations of Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Dead. 

His early retirement meant he had the time to pursue this interest.

The Translation

How Jim Henry came to James Joyce.

Jim Henry was always a voracious reader. His sister remembered him always having a book in his hand, (when he should probably have been doing something practical and useful). His cousin Mary who lived in Buffalo sent him a copy of Ulysses shortly after it was published and he was intrigued immediately. He just loved James Joyce (and called his only daughter after the author.) Anyone who knew him knew that he was a Joyce fan.

Due to his early retirement Jim had a lot more spare time and in 1976 he wrote Old Man on an Island, about a character called Philo C Tetes. Anyone who knows the Odyssey will recognise the character Philoctetes who was abandoned because of the dreadful, smelly wound in his foot but whose skill with the bow was necessary to win the Trojan war. The “wound” in Jim’s work was alcoholism.

He was introduced to Iris Murdoch by a mutual friend and they exchanged correspondence. She wrote to him saying, “Thank you very much for Old Man on an Island. I do like it. And God bless Joyce, and you.”

His son Phelim recalls that Iris Murdoch said to him, “You can certainly write, now put Old Man on an Island into a drawer and forget about it.”

And he did.
He self published several works, including a collection of short stories Tan Ann and his translations of James Joyce and chose as a name for his publisher Foillseacháin Inis Gleoire, (Inish Gleoire Publications) after the island off the Mullet peninsula close to his mother’s birthplace. This island is associated with several folk stories, mainly the Children of Lir. You can see the grave of Clan Lir  on the island.

Even this cartoon of characters at RAF Gaydon mentions James Joyce.