Re-Joyce-ing author’s birthday at pub

Joe Cramer

Tuesday saw a true Irish renaissance at Flip & Bailey’s Bar and Grill in Garret Hill, as Villanova students and faculty gathered to celebrate famed Irish author James Joyce’s birthday.

Joyce, born on Feb. 2, 1882, produced some of Ireland’s most acclaimed literature over the course of his life, including the short story collection “Dubliners” and his most recognizable novel “Ulysses.”

The annual celebration of his birthday has been a draw for the Irish Studies program for years, and this year proved no different as attendees packed into the second floor of Flip & Bailey’s, despite competition for attendance from the basketball game.

James Murphy, professor of English and director of the Irish studies program, served as coordinator of the evening, introducing the readers and performers. 

This year’s celebration was Murphy’s last as director, as he will be retiring at the end of the semester.

He couldn’t have asked for better or more diverse participation. While many students and other attendees used the open mic and to perform readings from Joyce and other notable Irish authors, this year also saw traditional Irish music and dance performed live.

A Villanova alumna, Laurie O’Donnell Luebbers, Class of ’83, brought her three children with her, all of whom are accomplished Irish step dancers. 

Her son Ian is currently the champion for Irish dancing in North America and second on the international level. 

The three talented siblings put on several performances throughout the evening. 

Also performing attendance was the Irish pipe and drum band, appropriately called Irish Thunder. Led by Al Fox, also a Villanova alumnus from the Class of ’77, the band members are all part of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a prominent Catholic, Irish-American organization.

As a campus-sponsored event, student participation was widespread. 

While some students, such as Maggie Mallon, a senior English major, took advantage of the open mic to read passages from Joyce’s works, others such as Jimmy Yandoli sang traditional Irish folk songs.

Mallon, who was first introduced to the Irish studies program through Murphy’s course on James Joyce, was drawn to the celebration by her admiration for the writing of the prolific author.

“There is just something about James Joyce that pulls you in,” Mallon said. “His writing is so incredible that you want to be immersed in his world.”

Other students, such as Jim Ellis, a senior engineering major, attended because of past experience with Murphy. 

“My three friends and I studied abroad in Galway with him two summers ago,” Ellis said. “We came last year and it was a great time, so here we are again.”

Murphy was proud that he was able to organize an event that was equal parts social gathering and academic celebration, and to pay fitting tribute to the life of a man whom he admires greatly.

“He’d be very proud,” Murphy said of Joyce, “if he were still alive.”