Unwholesome sandflats waited to suck his treading soles


The Great South Wall, Dublin.



    The grainy sand had gone from under his feet. His boots trod again a damp crackling mast, razorshells, squeaking pebbles, that on the unnumbered pebbles beats, wood sieved by the shipworm, lost Armada. Unwholesome sandflats waited to suck his treading soles, breathing upward sewage breath, a pocket of seaweed smouldered in seafire under a midden of man’s ashes. He coasted them, walking warily. A porterbottle stood up, stogged to its waist, in the cakey sand dough. A sentinel: isle of dreadful thirst. Broken hoops on the shore; at the land a maze of dark cunning nets; farther away chalkscrawled backdoors and on the higher beach a dryingline with two crucified shirts. Ringsend: wigwams of brown steersmen and master mariners. Human shells.
    He halted. I have passed the way to aunt Sara’s. Am I not going there? Seems not. No-one about. He turned northeast and crossed the firmer sand towards the Pigeonhouse.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 34)

The shoreline at Sandymount and Ringsend have seen substantial change since the writing of Ulysses.

The Great South Wall was completed in 1795. Much of Pigeon House Road that connects the wall to Ringsend has changed. Originally it was on a narrow promontory linking Ringsend to the Pigeon House Fort at the start of the Great South Wall. Much of this area has been reclaimed.

The land that now forms Sean Moore Park is where Bloom was originally on the foreshore in the Nausicaa episode of Ulysses. The Star of The Sea Church in Sandymount is directly across and to the South West of Sean Moore Park. When I first read the Nausicaa  episode I thought of Bloom and Gerty being positioned closer up and near the Martello Tower. This provides an indication of some of the motivations behind this blog, see changes in the City. This is probably one of the most dramatic.

You get a very good idea of the topography that existed in 2004 if you click on the Ordnance Survey Ireland Map online viewer here.

This shows the Ordnance Survey from 1907 that was published as an Ordnance survey Map in 1911. It shows the City much as it would have been on the day Ulysses is set. On the right hand side of the OSi Map viewer screen there are menus. At the bottom is a toggle marked slider. If you slide it across you can see an overlay to show the extent of the changes from the 1907 survey to the present day.

You can see an example in the video clip below, the OSi site has much higher quality imagery

You will notice on the 1911 map that a wall extends in a north eastwards direction from Chapel Avenue in Irishtown to the Dublin Corporation Main Drainage Pumping Station on Pigeon House Road. This is exactly in line with the back of the present day Ringsend Stadium. You can see it on the Google Street View image that shows an avenue where the wall once separated the South Wall Intake from the shoreline.

You can link to Street View here


There is excellent background to development of the area in the MA dissertation of Alexander Downes which can be accessed online here


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.

Click here to see the route details on Runkeeper

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