By VINCENT ALTMAN O’CONNOR
IT’S almost Bloomsday! Time for the denizens of Cork to be underwhelmed as Dubliners celebrate the adventures of Leopold Bloom on June 16.
But perhaps there is more in the book Ulysses for Corkonians to get excited about than meets the eye.
While many are aware that Joyce’s father, John, had his roots in Cork, there is now strong evidence that the book’s famous fictional character Leopold Bloom also had Cork connections.
The link stems from a real-life character called Albert Liebes Altman, known as Altman the Saltman. I believe there is now a strong case that this character was Joyce’s main source for Bloom.
Altman, a Jew, was elected to Dublin Corporation as a radical Nationalist in 1901. With an address at Ushers Island, this merchant supplied salt and coal to the nearby Jewish baths — hence his nickname.
The Joyce family who visited their relatives, the Flynns, a few doors away — immortalised in The Dead — would have been well aware of this colourful personality.
In 1880, Altman married Susan O’Reilly of Thomond Square, Old Blackrock Road, in St Finbarr’s South, Cork, daughter of Denis O’Reilly, a paper merchant of Maylor Street.
Like Leopold Bloom, Altman had a son, Albert Denis, who died in infancy. He also had a daughter Mimi — Milly is Bloom’s daughter.
Altman became a strong supporter of Parnell and the Land League. Rumour had it that James Fitzharris, known as Skin the Goat of the Invincibles, and later James Connolly were employed at Altman’s salt depot. In Ulysses, Leopold Bloom meets Skin the Goat and the crusty sailor from Cork at Butt Bridge.
Altman was buried in Glasnevin a few metres from Matthew Kane, on whom the character of Dignam is based.
Prominently etched on Altman’s gravestone is the name of his Cork father-in-law, emphasising the importance he gave to his Cork connection.
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Cork Evening Echo