December 2014

That’s the music of the future

    *Before Nelson’s pillar trams slowed, shunted, changed trolley, started for Blackrock, Kingstown and Dalkey, Clonskea, Rathgar and Terenure, Palmerston Park and upper Rathmines, Sandymount Green, Rathmines, Ringsend and Sandymount Tower, Harold’s Cross. The hoarse Dublin United Tramway Company’s timekeeper bawled them off:
—Rathgar and Terenure!
—Come on, Sandymount Green!
Right and left parallel clanging ringing a doubledecker and a singledeck moved from their railheads, swerved to the down line, glided parallel.
—Start, Palmerston Park!

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 96)

Trams feature in many of Joyce’s writings but particularly in Ulysses. The extract above is taken from the opening of the Aeolus episode. The episode opens and closes at Nelson’s Pillar from which the trams depart. Interestingly none of the trams are going to the northside of the City.

Bloom speculates several times on the possibility of having a tramline on the North Circular Road carrying animals from the Cattle Markets to the Quays.

Of course if they ran a tramline along the North Circular from the cattlemarket to the quays value would go up like a shot.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 47)

—I can’t make out why the corporation doesn’t run a tramline from the parkgate to the quays, Mr Bloom said. All those animals could be taken in trucks down to the boats.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 81)

 (in alderman’s gown and chain) Electors of Arran Quay, Inns Quay, Rotunda, Mountjoy and North Dock, better run a tramline, I say, from the cattlemarket to the river. That’s the music of the future.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 390)

A scheme to connect by tramline the Cattle Market (North Circular road and Prussia street) with the quays (Sheriff street, lower, and East Wall), parallel with the Link line railway laid (in conjunction with the Great Southern and Western railway line) between the cattle park, Liffey junction, and terminus of Midland Great Western Railway 43 to 45 North Wall, in proximity to the terminal stations or Dublin branches of Great Central Railway, Midland Railway of England, City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, Dublin and Glasgow Steam Packet Company, Glasgow, Dublin and Londonderry Steam Packet Company (Laird line), British and Irish Steam Packet Company, Dublin and Morecambe Steamers, London and North Western Railway Company, Dublin Port and Docks Board Landing Sheds and transit sheds of Palgrave, Murphy and Company, steamship owners, agents for steamers from Mediterranean, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and Holland and for Liverpool Underwriters’ Association, the cost of acquired rolling stock for animal transport and of additional mileage operated by the Dublin United Tramways Company, limited, to be covered by graziers’ fees.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Pages 590,591)

In his book Through Streets Broad and Narrow, A History of Dublin Trams, Michael Corcoran writes

Bloom also speculated about the possibility of carrying livestock from the cattle market straight down to the North Wall by rail.  This idea could also have come from Joyce’s knowledge of post – 1904 tramway developments in operation by the time he wrote Ulysses. In this instance, a later decision by the DUTC to handle freight resulted in some livestock wagons, mainly from the Dublin & Blessington, being employed for Cattle Market Traffic. However no rails were ever laid on the North Circular Road east of Berkeley Road and cattle droving, from the markets down to the North Wall, continued to be a major nuisance well beyond the end of tramway operation.

Michael Corcoran. Through Streets Broad and Narrow, A History of Dublin Trams (Page 72)

Corcoran highlights an interesting point about Ulysses. It was set in 1904 but was written between 1914 and 1921 so many events that are looming or are being thought or speculated about by the characters have already happened in reality.

I ran along the stretch of the North Circular Road from the Prussia Street end to the junction with Summerhill. It is noticeable that the route of the tram lines is similar to that of the modern day route of the 46A bus, and many of the bus routes simply developed from tram routes. Most transport routes from Dublin radiate out like spokes from the City Centre, hence the groupings of trams at Nelson’s Pillar. There is little lateral transportation routes and hence no tram ran along the North Circular Road to the Five Lamps, where an important outward radial route ran to Dollymount and Howth. Hence in the Wandering Rocks episode of Ulysses Father Conmee has to walk from Gardiner Street via Mountjoy Square, Fitzgibbon Street, the North Circular Road and Portland Row.

Father Conmee also speculates on the introduction of a tram.

    Father Conmee turned the corner and walked along the North Circular road. It was a wonder that there was not a tramline in such an important thoroughfare. Surely, there ought to be.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 181)

This lack of connectivity and a concentration on radial routes persists in Dublin to this day, as there are still no bus stops along Father Conmee’s walk.

In his book A Portrait of Dublin in Maps, published in 2013, Muiris De Buitléir writes,

Conservatism and inertia are also characteristics of Dublin’s bus system. A glance at the map of the original tram system will show a strong similarity with the present bus network, although a century separates the two systems. `Until relatively recently bus routes 1 to 31 followed the routes of the tram, with only minor modifications and extensions. Another unusual characteristic of the system is the centralised nature of the system, centred on O’Connell Street, and the radial pattern of the routes. Almost every north—south bus route crosses o’Connell Bridge, while the other twelve bridges between the toll bridge and Islandbridge carry only a handful of routes.

Muiris De Buitléir. A Portrait of Dublin in Maps (Page 082)

References cited

Corcoran, M. (2008) Through Streets Broad and Narrow: A History of Dublin Trams. London, United Kingdom: Ian Allan Publishing.

DeBuitléir, M. (2013) A Portrait of Dublin in Maps: History, Geography, People, Society. Dublin, Ireland: Gill & Macmillan.

Joyce, J. (1998) Ulysses. Edited by Hans Walter Gabler, Wolfhard Steppe, and Claus Melchior. Afterward by Michael Gordon edn. New York, United States: Vintage Books.


There is a longer bibliography of background material here


You can see more of my research output on the Technological University Dublin repository Arrow, here