TRON theatre artistic director Andy Arnold’s staging of Dermot Bolger’s adaptation of Ulysses in the autumn of 2012 kick-started for me a fascination with the work of James Joyce. Tied up in copyright/Joyce Estate complications since he had originally made it, Bolger’s playscript was almost accidentally discovered by Arnold at exactly the time the author’s works began to be free of those restrictions.

So it was that Glasgow was lucky enough to see the fully-staged premiere of the piece – before it went on to performances in Ireland and in China, where the writer’s work was being published in translation for the first time – and my involvement in a post-show discussion of the production drew me into a circle of Joyce enthusiasts whose company I have kept on a weekly basis ever since.

Theatre-makers from Scotland have also been essential to the Bolger adaption of Joyce’s masterpiece eventually finding its way on to the stage of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, for which it was originally intended. When Graham McLaren and Neil Murray moved from the National Theatre of Scotland to take over at Ireland’s national theatre, a McLaren-directed version of Bolger’s Ulysses was one of the first things on their production schedule.

There is a Scottish theatre aesthetic to his staging which has not been universally appreciated by critics in Ireland. With the audience in amongst the action, and clever use of beautifully-crafted puppets and kitsch music, as well as brilliant performances by the ensemble cast, it shares DNA with McLaren’s version of A Christmas Carol as well as Wils Wilson’s pub-theatre staging of David Greig’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, and ultimately the ceilidh theatre of John McGrath’s 7:84 Theatre Company that John Tiffany also incorporated into Black Watch.

Regardless of a lukewarm review in the Irish Times, however, the popular McLaren/Bolger Ulysses has returned to the Abbey this summer for a six-week run, opening in time for Bloomsday, Dublin’s annual celebration of the anniversary of the twenty-four hours in the city that Joyce chronicles in the book. Last Saturday evening the theatre was full to capacity for the performance, the culmination for many – myself included – of a whole day spent immersed in the entire Dublin Joyce experience.

While enjoying a full Irish breakfast (sans kidney, sadly) just round the corner from the James Joyce Centre, from where I would embark on a guided walking tour in the footsteps of the book’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, the waitresses could be overheard discussing the mystery of Bloomsday. “Sure, it is when the flowers come out,” explained one, authoritatively. She was in a distinct minority in her misguidedness. Ulysses may be a classic example of a book that defeats all but the most determined readers, but the city-wide phenomenon of Bloomsday is a remarkable one nonetheless. Flocks of people, many in quasi-Edwardian dress, populate the streets, learning at least something about a pivotal text of modernism.

The walking tour was not simply sightseeing but was structured around substantial chunks from the book, and a visit to Sweny’s Pharmacy to buy a cake of lemon-scented soap (as Bloom does on June 16, 1904) may coincide with a reading from the book in one of a selection of European languages. All over the city there are such events.

Edinburgh may be a Unesco City of Literature, but its literary heritage still has to be sought out by the determined visitor. And while there are Muriel Spark-related events scheduled for this year’s festival season in Edinburgh – marking the centenary of a writer whose biography has some intriguing parallels to that of Joyce – I fear that the opportunity to prime a Jean Brodie day for perpetuity may already have been missed.