Irish Roots


January 30th 2012

- now also available as an Irish Times blog.

John Grenham


With genealogy blinkers on and up to the tonsils in luverly, luverly databases it can be hard to grasp the implications of these records for other areas of research. An obvious beneficiary, when you think of it, is the study of James Joyce. Many of his characters are based on real individuals, often appearing under their own names. The period he writes about is slap in the middle of the 1901 and 1911 censuses, transparent and free online; Dublin parish registers are also online; and Dublin newspapers, and Dublin directories, and Dublin voters' lists and maps and ...

A few examples: Miss Douce "of the bronze hair", immortalised in the Sirens episode of Ulysses, set in the Ormond Hotel, was actually Maggie Dowse, manager of the Bailey in Duke St. in 1901. No doubt "Douce" was a more fitting variant. The Dubedat family are celebrated in one of Ulysses' many joyously puerile jokes - "May I tempt you ... Miss Dubedat? Yes, do bedad. And she did, bedad." And there they are in Dublin Church of Ireland registers, the Du Bedats, Du Bidats, Dubédats ... Like genealogy, collecting Joyce trivia can become compulsive, and can lead in unexpected directions. A four-word headline noted in passing in Stephen Hero, "Mad Cow at Cabra", recalls the practice of driving cattle through the city streets from the markets in Prussia Street via Phibsborough down to the cattle boats at the North Wall. Sometimes, understandably, a cow would run amok. As so often in Joyce, even the tiniest details are made out of real incidents.  The weekly Irish Times of April 9 1904 has a tiny news-item at the bottom of page 20: "Mad Cow Shot at Cabra Road".

For more fun with Joyce, see jjon.org. The link was pointed out on The Irish Genealogical Research Society's excellent Facebook page, tinyurl.ie/5vx


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