William Bulfin


Life
1862-1910 [var. 1864; pseud. “Che Buono”]; b. Derrinlough, Birr, Co Offaly; ed. Classical Acad and Presentation Schools, Birr; Royal Charter, Banagher at Cloghan, and Galway Grammar Sch.; emig. Argentina, with brother, 1884; worked at estate of Irish emig. on pampas; contributed to Southern Cross in Buenos Aires owned by Michael Dinneen from Cork; returned to Buenos Aires, sub-ed. Southern Cross; proprietor and editor; defended Catholic rights of emigrants; returned to Ireland, 1902;
 
his bicycle travels appeared in Southern Cross, and later in United Irishman, Sinn Féin, and NY Daily News; also in book-form as Rambles in Eirinn (1907); in it he expresses a strong animus against the English government in Ireland which allows capitalists to abandon railway line necessary for local development; he visits Goldsmith’s native place at of Lissoy and rhapsodises at Clonmacnoise and other sites of nationalist pilgrimage; he occasionally indulges anti-Semitic ranting against travelling pedlars and makes a tinker speak of W. B. Yeats as a ‘very high up poet’; also issued Tales of the Pampas (1900);
 
returned to Argentina in 1904; elected knight of St Gregory; returned to Ireland in 1909; sailed with O’Rahilly to USA in unsuccessful attempt to raise interest in founding Sinn Féin paper; d. Derrinlough, Jan. 1910; a friend of Maud Gonne, his daughter Catalina (1901-76), who became secretary to Austin Stack and married Seán MacBride; a son, Eamonn, was at St. Enda’s; d. 1 Feb. 1910. DIW DIB DIH OCIL

[ top ]

Works
Tales of the Pampas
(London: Fisher & Unwin 1900); Rambles in Eirinn, with preface by “Sean Ghall” [P. J. Kenney] (Dublin: M. H. Gill. 1907; 5th imp. 1917), xxiv, 456p., 25 pls.; and Do. [rep. edn.] (Roberts Wholesale Books [q.d.]), uniform with P. W. Joyce’s Old Celtic Romances; also Rambles in Eirinn, 2 vols. (London: Sphere Books 1981); also Rambles in the West of Ireland (Dublin: Mercier Press 1979), 90pp.

In translation, Cam-Chuarta i nÉirinn/Rambles in Eirinn [trans.] Eoghan Ó Neachtain (Baile Átha Cliath: Oifig Díolta Foillseacháin Rialtais 1936), 466pp., maps & port.; Tales of the Pampas/Cuentos de la pampa, ed. Alejandro Patricio Clancy, intro. Susan Wilkinson (Buenos Aires: L.O.L.A 1997), 163, 155pp.

[ top ]

Criticism
[q. auth.], ‘William Bulfin’s Rambles in Eirinn’, in Studies (Winter 1982), pp.391-98; Edmundo Murray, How the Irish became “Gauchos Ingleses”: Diasporic Models in Irish-Argentine Literature [Mémoire de licence] (Université de Genève 2003).

[ top ]

Commentary
James Joyce: ‘[..] one of the little illusions which gladden the heart of the staff of Sinn Féin is that the English don’t know how to pronounce their own language. When an English tourist meets Che Buono the latter sneers at him because he says, “How, I cawn’t heawh wot youah saying”, but he forgets his compatriot, who in Dick Sheehy’s story, after ranging the hotel burst in on the dinner-table, holding up his trousers and asked earnestly, “For the love of Jaysus, gintlemin, where’s the convanience?”’ (Selected Letters of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann, 1975, p.129; with ftn., explaining that Bulfin, 1862-1910, used the pseud. “Che Buono” in Sinn Féin but his own name in the Rambles compiled from those articles in 1907.)

See also Joyce’s remarks on Bulfin’s report from the Union Jack regatta in Galway: ‘[...] That Southern X [144] chap, Señor Bulfin, who is I am assured an Irishman, has a letter in Sinn Féin, ridiculing the Union Jack regatta at Galway. Two columns are consumed by his account of the talk of the classes. Ex: “Nice weather” “O, chawming” “Chawming regatta” “O, rawtha” “Funny how little interest the country takes in these things” “Quite to awfally funny, doncherknow!” He makes great fun of the shake-hands over the five-bar-gate and the [breaks off]. (Letter to Stanislaus of ?1 Feb. 1907, from Rome, in Selected Letters of James Joyce, ed. Richard Ellmann, Faber 1975, pp.140-43.)

[ top ]

Benedict Kiely, Drink to the Bird (London: Methuen 1991): ‘Alice [Milligan] had spent in Glencolumbcille in Southwest Donegal with Miss Gonne, not then od and grey and full of sleep, but with that proud head as though she had gaez into the burning sun. With them walked Mr William Bulfin, whose daughter was to marry the son of Maud Gonne, and who at that time was an exile, home on a holiday from the Argentine, and killing himself cycling round Ireland on a Pierce bicycle (also ponderous and made in Wexford and on the same principle on which the firm made their farm-mowing machines), so as to write a book, now a quite classical period-piece, called Rambles in Erin. / In the course of which journey, or book, he briefly visited a Martello tower, rudely converted into a dwelling-place at Sandycove on the coastal fringe of Dublin, and met there a wit, a poet and an Englishman. Three of them’ (p.131.)

[ top ]

Susan Wilkinson, Tales of the Pampas (London: Fisher & Unwin 1900; 1997), Introduction: ‘A fascinating collection of short stories about Irish sheep-farmers in Argentina “living in isolation in the pampas, of ne’er-do-wells a little too addicted to drink and not enough to work, of matrimonial “matches” going hopelessly awry, of horseraces, gambling and near-fatal stabbings, of tragedy and death. Here too were stories of gauchos and descriptions of the pampas written with an insight and a sensitivity that few gringos have equalled’. (Supplied by Edmundo Murray of the Irish Argentine Historical Society.)

[ top ]

References
Ulster Libraries: UNIVERSITY of ULSTER, Central Library holds Rambles, Vol. 1 (1925), vol. 2 (1927) [i.e., edns.]. BELFAST CENTRAL LIBRARY, Do.

[ top ]

Quotations
Rambles in Argentina: ‘How often during the cloudless dog days of the Pampas had I yearned for a cycling tour of Ireland!’ (from Rambles in Eirinn, q.p. )

[ top ]

Notes
Rambles in Eirinn (1907) contains anti-semitic references to Jewish peddlars in Ireland, robbing the Irish of their livelihood.

Mary Bulfin: Elaine Sisson, in Pearse’s Patriots: St. Enda’s and the Cult of Boyhood (Dublin: Four Court’s Press 2004), cites Mary Bulfin, being a senior student at St. Ita’s, the sister school to St. Enda’s, who played the Virgin Mary in an outstanding performance in 1911 and would subsequently marry Seán MacBride. (p.41; also port., p.54 facing; but see reference to Catalina in Life, supra.) Sisson also makes reference to Eamonn Bulfin, who founded the Fianna Éireann with his contemporary Desmond Ryan at St. Enda’s. (p.126.)

Mary Bulfin: Bulfin who played the Virgin Mary in Pearse’s Passion Play/An Pháis (Abbey Th./Easter 1911), remembers Willie Pearse in the role of Pontius Pilate for ‘the astonishing variety of his frowns’ (cited by Angela Bourke in a review of Patrick Pearse, Collected Plays, ed. Róisín Ní Ghairbhí & Eugene McNulty (IAP 2013), in The Irish Times, 20 July 2013), Weekend Review, p.10.

[ top ]