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

Publication and Near Publication

After their initial forays into translating sections of Ulysses, Basil suggested to Jim that they let a native speaker look at their work. Jim knew journalist Polín Ní  Ciarán from Erris who was living in Belfast at the time, and he asked her to have a look. She told them they’d definitely caught the spirit and invited them onto RTE  to talk about it. Gearoid Stockman of the Celtic Studies department at Queen’s Belfast, heard the programme and suggested that An tUltacht might be interested; he had been editor of the magazine. The current editor Micheál Mairtin undertook to publish the first three chapters in 1984. The translation not only used archaic forms but actually looked a bit different from modern Irish which was standardised in the 1950s. But Jim had no objection to modern spelling used in An tUltach. He had a genuine dislike for modern Irish script and particularly disliked the use of the letter ‘h’ for aspiration so he used the lengthening accent, the fada, for both aspiration of consonants and lengthening of vowels. Some believe the limitations of his typewriter may have played a part in this practice.

But as time went on it was difficult to interest any publishing house in the Herculean task of of editing the translation.

Gerry O’Flaherty founder of the James Joyce Institute,  was interested and in 1980s it seemed that publication might become a real possibility. Writers Uinseann MacEoin and Ulick O’Connor joined O’Flaherty in discussions about the prospect of publishing. But, the Joyce Estate, in the person of Stephen Joyce, stepped in to forbid any such thing happening. (Stephen Joyce had a reputation for refusing permission for performance or adapting his famous relation’s work so it was a relief for many when Ulysses passed out of copyright.)

Undeterred, Jim continued his work, self publishing the episodes as he finished them.

He chose as the name for his publications Foilseachan Inish Gleoire. His mother was from a place on the Mullet peninsula just opposite the island.

He went on to translate and self publish Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Cinmhiol an Chuilb Mar Ógánach, and The Dead, Na Mairbh.

He also self published a group of short stories, Eag a mhadaidh nó ith an tua.

Three Translators
Dining room discussion with Gearoid O'Caireallain
Publication discussion; Gerry O Flaherty, Jim Henry, Ulick O'Connor, Uiseann MacEoin
Inish Gleoire (Island of Brightness)