Be dad, it's the DuBedats


The name, DuBedat, sounds like the name of a cartoon, or a Joycean-type word, but they were a Huguenot family who came to Ireland in the early 18th century. For almost a quarter of a century, Maria Wootton has been fascinated by the DuBedats. "I've been gathering bits and pieces about them since 1975," she says. It's taken her 20 years to collect enough information about the family to write her 77-page booklet, The DuBedat Story: Killiney to Kommetjie.

Before Wootton's marriage in the early 1970s, she visited her future in-laws at their home Frankfort House (now Kenah Hill) in Killiney. Inquiring about the history of the house, she discovered that it had originally been built for a stockbroker named Frank DuBedat.

A member of a prominent stock-broking and banking family, DuBedat had been a flamboyant figure on the Dublin scene in the late 19th century. He took creative liberties with other people's money, investing heavily without their permission. In 1890, the year in which he was elected president of the Dublin Stock Exchange, the stock market slumped. DuBedat had accumulated debts of £100,000 and Frankfort was one of the first assets to go.

This was to be the first of two spectacular brushes with the law for embezzlement, and he was consequently imprisoned twice.

Many Irish people were financially ruined through him and memories still run deep with some of the surviving members of the DuBedats. "Some of them agreed to speak to me about my book," Wootton says. "But others didn't. There's still a shame there."

Frank DuBedat also had elastic morals, which did not go down well in that Victorian era. After the first period of imprisonment, while still married to the mother of their three children, he started living with a beautiful young actress. He had met South-American born Rosita Tennyson, who was 24 years his junior, somewhere on his travels.

Tennyson had appeared with Henry Irving at London's Lyceum Theatre and was described as charismatic and exotic by all who met her in Dublin. "I'm fascinated by Rosita," Wootton says. She is convinced that she was the inspiration for The Lady Gwendolen DuBedat who appears in Ulysses, in Bloom's Messiah-fantasy in Bella Cohen's. When she sees Bloom, she "bursts through the throng, leaps on his horse, and kisses him on both cheeks amid great acclamation." Whether Maria Wootton's hunch is right or not she says she'll leave it to Joycean scholars to decide.

Similarly, Wootton is convinced that one of Frank DuBedat daughters, either Rosa Elizabeth or Mary Rosa, also appears in Ulysses: "Wouldn't mind being a waiter in a swell hotel. Tips, evening dress, half-naked ladies. May I tempt you to a little more filleted lemon sole, Miss DuBedat? Yes do bedad. And she did bedad. Huguenot name I expect that. A Miss DuBedat lived in Killiney I remember."

As for the great embezzler, Frank DuBedat. He married Rosita Tennyson 11 days after his first wife died of a broken heart in 1902. They hid their notorious past and settled in a remote fishing village called Kommetjie near Cape Town, where he died in 1919. Tennyson died in England in 1952.

The DuBedat Story: Killiney to Kommetjie, by Maria Wootton, is available at £12 (p&p included), from Tram Cottage Productions, Gray's Lane, Howth, Co Dublin