Mad cows and Dubedats

With genealogy blinkers on and up to your tonsils in luverly, luverly databases it can be hard to grasp the implications the records have for other areas of research. An obvious beneficiary is Joycean studies. Many of James Joyce’s 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 …

Joyce photographed by Constantine Curran in 1904. When asked what he was thinking, Joyce answered “I was wondering would he lend me ten bob”.

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, “manageress” of the Bailey in Duke St. in 1901 and a sister-in-law of the owner, William Hogan. No doubt “Douce” was a more suggestive 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 …

Irish Times Saturday 2 April 1904.

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  Irish Times of April 2 1904 has two tiny news-items side by side on page 6: “Cow Shot at Cabra Road” and “Supposed Mad Dog”. Maybe even Joyce sometimes got confused?

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7 thoughts on “Mad cows and Dubedats”

  1. The pound watch man was James Fitzharris aka Skin the Goat. The driver for some of the Invincibles in their escape after killing Cavendish and Bourke he had served 18 years hard labour.

  2. Hi John, I had a quick look recently through the 1821, ’41 and ’51 census records for Kilkenny; they are paltry for reasons well known. A few years ago when searching through micro fiches of the notebooks of the historian Fr. William Carrigan in the National Library; I came across numerous transcriptions of census records for the above years for Kilkenny and Laois. Among them were lots that related to my family and my neighbours at home in North Kilkenny. Fr. Carrigan’s interviewed many people for his diocesan history and afterwards transcribed the census records of these people’s families; a bit like snooping in Facebook I guess… Later on I found out that these transcriptions had been compiled and published in the first volume of Ossory Laois and Leinster. Hundreds of people are named; up to a thousand. Could or should these be added to the National Archives site? They are very detailed, places, ages, occupation and relationships are all there. They would surely be of great use for people searching for ancestors from Laois and Kilkenny. I guess I should have contacted the National Archives but I don’the see an option for this on their website.

      1. Hi John, yes, digitisation of the microfilms of those notebooks would be a great help; apart from the census transcriptions mentioned above, Fr Carrigan also transcribed numerous wills and other documents from the public records office in the Four Courts sadly long consigned to the atmosphere. Fr Carrigan’s notebooks in part were a divil to read; an older neighbour who was given access to look at the originals informed me that he was told that pupils in St. Kieran’s were used to go over the original faint pencil with ink! They are more like ancient palimpsests! Good night!

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