Tag Archives: Sandymount




            A girl stood before him in midstream: alone and still, gazing out to sea. She seemed like one whom magic had changed into the likeness of a strange and beautiful seabird. Her long slender bare legs were delicate as a crane’s and pure save where an emerald trail of seaweed had fashioned itself as a sign upon the flesh. Her thighs, fuller and softhued as ivory, were bared almost to the hips where the white fringes of her drawers were like feathering of soft white down. Her slate-blue skirts were kilted boldly about her waist and dovetailed behind her. Her bosom was as a bird’s, soft and slight; slight and soft as the breast of some darkplumaged dove. But her long fair hair was girlish: and girlish, and touched with the wonder of mortal beauty, her face.
She was alone and still, gazing out to sea; and when she felt his presence and the worship of his eyes her eyes turned to him in quiet sufferance of his gaze, without shame or wantonness. Long, long she suffered his gaze and then quietly withdrew her eyes from his and bent them towards the stream, gently stirring the water with her foot hither and thither. The first faint noise of gently moving water broke the silence, low and faint and whispering, faint as the bells of sleep; hither and thither, hither and thither: and a faint flame trembled on her cheek.

—Heavenly God! cried Stephen’s soul, in an outburst of profane joy.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man  (Page 150)

The quote above is from the closing passages of Part IV of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man where Stephen Dedalus walks out the Bull Wall on the north side of the River Liffey. Much has been made of the parallels between Stephen Dedalus and the young James Joyce, as well as the middle aged Leopold Bloom and James Joyce.

It is interesting to compare the quote above from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with the following quote from the Nausikaa episode of Ulysses.

And she saw a long Roman candle going up over the trees, up, up, and, in the tense hush, they were all breathless with excitement as it went higher and higher and she had to lean back more and more to look up after it, high, high, almost out of sight, and her face was suffused with a divine, an entrancing blush from straining back and he could see her other things too, nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin, better than those other pettiwidth, the green, four and eleven, on account of being white and she let him and she saw that he saw and then it went so high it went out of sight a moment and she was trembling in every limb from being bent so far back that he had a full view high up above her knee where no-one ever not even on the swing or wading and she wasn’t ashamed and he wasn’t either to look in that immodest way like that because he couldn’t resist the sight of the wondrous revealment half offered like those skirtdancers behaving so immodest before gentlemen looking and he kept on looking, looking. She would fain have cried to him chokingly, held out her snowy slender arms to him to come, to feel his lips laid on her white brow, the cry of a young girl’s love, a little strangled cry, wrung from her, that cry that has rung through the ages. And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft!

James Joyce, Ulysses (Page 300)

It was darker now and there were stones and bits of wood on the strand and slippy seaweed. She walked with a certain quiet dignity characteristic of her but with care and very slowly because —because Gerty MacDowell was…
    Tight boots? No. She’s lame! O!
    Mr Bloom watched her as she limped away. Poor girl! That’s why she’s left on the shelf and the others did a sprint. Thought something was wrong by the cut of her jib. Jilted beauty. A defect is ten times worse in a woman. But makes them polite. Glad I didn’t know it when she was on show. Hot little devil all the same. I wouldn’t mind. 

James Joyce, Ulysses (Page 301)

The similarities of locations and scenes is striking and makes an interesting comparison. In each case the observers and observed are aware of each other. The Young Stephen sees the perfect beauty stirring the water with her foot, has a religious experience and an outburst of profane joy. The older Bloom on the shoreline on the south side of the River Liffey, masturbates onto his shirt, as the roman candle  firework explodes high over the trees behind the foreshore. And when the Gerty rises from the sand her foot does not gently stir the water, but instead she is lame and she limps away.

The quotes above are from novels. In Joyce’s second published short story, An Encounter from Dubliners there is also a sexual encounter and in this case, not with a young woman viewed by the young artist or middle aged advertising salesman, but with a middle aged man who preys upon the young boys with his own fantasies.

Then he asked us which of us had the most sweethearts. Mahony mentioned lightly that he had three totties. The man asked me how many had I. I answered that I had none. He did not believe me and said he was sure I must have one. I was silent.
—Tell us, said Mahony pertly to the man, how many have you yourself?
   The man smiled as before and said that when he was our age he had lots of sweethearts. Every boy,he said, has a little sweetheart.

James Joyce, An Encounter, Dubliners (Pages 17, 18)

Route Notes

In these runs I try to link places  that have a relationship with Joyce’s life and writings. Hence the route runs between the two shoreline encounters, one on the north of the River Liffey and one on the South. I deliberately ran through Fairview, which is now a public park, but in the early 1900’s was mudflats, that Fr. Conmee avoided walking along, by taking the tram in the Wandering Rocks episode of Ulysses. I then headed along Wharf Road (now East Wall Road), following the route mentioned in An Encounter before crossing by the East Link bridge to Ringsend Village. In the story the narrator goes by ferry boat. The field in in An Encounter is most probably on Fitzwilliam Quay. The route also passes along the Dodder opposite the Swan River, mentioned in Finnegans Wake and past Paddy Dignam’s house on Newbridge Avenue from Ulysses.

You can see extent of the mudflats now Fairview Park in the images from below



Like the young narrator of the story, I was also too tired to visit the Pigeon House, this being the first blogpost written after a layoff from injury.

It was too late and we were too tired to carry out our project of visiting the Pigeon House

James Joyce, An Encounter, Dubliners (Page 16)

Click here to see the route details on Runkeeper

References Cited

Joyce, J., Gabler, H. W. and Hettche, W. (2006) Dubliners (Norton critical edition). Edited by Margot Norris. 1st edn. Norton, W. W. & Company. New York, USA.

Joyce, J. (2007) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Norton critical edition). Edited by John Paul Riquelme, Walter Hettche, and Hans Walter Gabler. Norton, W. W. & Company.New York, USA.

Joyce, J. (1986) Ulysses: Corrected texts (ed. Gabler, H.W., with Steppe, W. and Melchior, C., Afterword Groden, M.) First Vintage Books Edition, New York, USA.




Google Maps_03Screenshot 2015-11-15 16.12.11

    Mr Bloom with his stick gently vexed the thick sand at his foot. Write a message for her. Might remain. What?
    Some flatfoot tramp on it in the morning. Useless. Washed away. Tide comes here. Saw a pool near her foot. Bend, see my face there, dark mirror, breathe on it, stirs. All these rocks with lines and scars and letters. O, those transparent! Besides they don’t know. What is the meaning of that other world. I called you naughty boy because I do not like.
    AM. A.
    No room. Let it go.
    Mr Bloom effaced the letters with his slow boot. Hopeless thing sand. Nothing grows in it. All fades. No fear of big vessels coming up here. Except Guinness’s barges. Round the Kish in eighty days. Done half by design.
He flung his wooden pen away. The stick fell in silted sand, stuck. Now if you were trying to do that for a week on end you couldn’t. Chance. We’ll never meet again. But it was lovely. Goodbye, dear. Thanks. Made me feel so young.

James Joyce. Ulysses (Page 312)

The quote is from the Nausikaa episode of Ulysses where Leopold Bloom is on the seashore behind the church, Mary star of the sea in Sandymount. Bloom is observing Gerty McDowell who is on the seashore with her friends Edy Boardman, Cissy Caffrey, her young twin brothers and baby Boardman.

Bloom is fixated on Gerty MacDowell and towards the end of the episode he draws a message in the sand. Whilst we cannot be certain what the intended message was, many believe that the word after I. AM. A., is cuckold, Bloom having been cuckolded by Blazes Boylan that afternoon at 16:00 in 7 Eccles Street. The last word of the episode is cuckoo, repeated several times.

The area behind the church, formerly the foreshore, is now reclaimed land, used as a public park and as playing fields for the Clann Na Gael Fontenoy GAA club.

You can look and compare the historic and contemporary mapping on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland WebsiteYou can select areas of the city and apply different layers of contemporary and historic data. I like to compare the contemporary maps with the Historic 25″ Map from 1888-1913, contemporaneous with the period of time when Joyce lived in and wrote about, Dublin. You can look at the mapping on this link:

The overlayed image below shows the general area where I ran with the original coastline prominent on the lower left and the new reclaimed area to the right.


A detailed extract at the back of St. Mary’s Star of The Sea Church shows the dark line of the original sea wall more clearly.


I decided that just as Bloom’s words were washed away by the sand and were fleeting in nature, I would run a route that would track words as a form of GPS Art, only existing in computer code.

This post, although short in distance, was complex in planning. My original idea was to run the word Joyce on the open space on Sandymount Strand. I experimented with various forms of typeface but they all involved a lot of complex turns. I wasn’t sure how I would manage these and know where to change direction, without laying out a lot of cones and extensive preparation work. Then I thought I would run a freeform script but worried I would get dizzy and disorientated. You can see some of the plans in my notebook image below.


At a later date I thought about running the text that Bloom actually writes in the sand. I.AM.A. I quickly realised that this was much easier to run. The A and the M are essentially similar, the hard part being how to run the horizontal lines of the letter A. You can see in the image below how much simpler the running pattern would be. I decided to run on the playing pitches of Clann Na Gael and use the floodlights as visual markers. Even though this is conceptually easy…it took several runs to get the hang of it and to get the GPS map to work correctly so that it looked like written text in the various mapping apps such as Runkeeper and Google Earth both used at the top of this blogpost. The key learning was that I would have to run a large pattern and not double back at all, except where I had to in order to make the horizontal lines of the letter A.


I decided to start the run from the Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, onto the reclaimed land at Clann Na Gael to make my virtual text and then out of the park and onto Dromard Terrace. Joyce spent the night of 16th June 1904, the day on which Ulysses is set, in the house at 22 Dromard Terrace owned by his friends James and Gretta Cousins. Once there I looped back to the church along Sandymount Road.

This extract from Apple Maps shows an overview of the area of route with the dropped pin indicating the centre of the the text run.



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

In deciding to do the run I was inspired by the artist Jeremy Wood who has done a number of GPS Art projects. You can see his work here.

30_Don't BeatMe

    A very sullenfaced man stood at the corner of O’Connell Bridge waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and discontented: he did not even feel drunk and he had only twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back again in the hot reeking publichouse. He had lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled with fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said Pardon! his fury nearly choked him.
    His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed returning to his home. When he went in by the sidedoor he found the kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled upstairs:
—Ada! Ada!

James Joyce. Counterparts, Dubliners (Pages 80,81)

This grim story from Dubliners focuses on the mean character of Farrington. The story involves an unhappy work and home life, drink, poverty, the pawn shop, and bullying. It also introduces Nosey Flynn in his regular haunt of Davy Byrne’s public house, and they both reappear with the much more congenial Leopold Bloom in Ulysses. Joyce finished Counterparts, the sixth story of Dubliners in July 1905 and wrote to his brother Stanislaus on the 19th July 1905, Many of the frigidities of The Boarding House and Counterparts were written while the sweat streamed down my face on to the handkerchief which protected my collar. (Ellmann, Selected Letters of James Joyce, Pages 63 and 69). The difficulties Joyce experienced with the heat may have influenced the hopelessness if the story.

The story ends in Shelbourne Road, where, according to Vivien Igoe, Joyce resided from late March 1904 to 31 August 1904. (James Joyce’s Dublin Houses, pages 97, 124). You can see the house at 60 Shelbourne Road in Google Street View by clicking here. If you rotate the view you can see the wall of Beggars Bush Barracks across the road from the house that Farrington walks alongside in Counterparts. It would seem reasonable that the home referred to in the story is the house at 60 Shelbourne Road, except that none of the houses in the terrace has a side door.

Joyce left the family home at St. Peter’s Terrace to move south to Shelbourne Road. I ran the route of the trams that went between these locations. You can see the 1910 Dublin United Tramways Company timetable on the National Archives of Ireland website here. You can browse the routes and you can read the various schedules and fares. I ran along the Donnybrook and Phoenix (N.C. Road) Line from the North Circular Road to Nelson’s Pillar, now the location of The Spire of Dublin. I continued along the route of the Nelson Pillar to Sandymount tram. I ran the original Horse Drawn Tram route which, according to Michael Corcoran began in 1872 and ran via Westmoreland Street and Great Brunswick Street, now Pearse Street. In 1901 the route was electrified and ran via Nassau Street and Westmoreland Street. (Through Streets Broad and Narrow, A History of Dublin Trams, page 140).

Farrington’s real life counterpart may have been William Murray, Joyce’s uncle. William Murray lived at 16 Shelbourne Road. These houses, built in the Piano Nobile style have a side-door at the front, underneath the staircase to the main entrance to the house on the first floor. This layout matches the description of the house in the text.

In David Pritchard’s biography James Joyce, he writes The Murray’s played a prominent role in the childhood of James Joyce, and are recalled in his stories and novels. William and Red Murray are Alphy and Joe in the Dubliners story ‘Clay’, whilst in Ulysses William is Richie Goulding and Red appears under his own name. In the story ‘Counterparts’ he used an incident witnessed by his brother Stanislaus, who heard William’s son beg his drunken father: ‘Don’t beat me Pa! And I’ll…say a Hail Mary for you…’

David Pritchard. James Joyce. (Page 12)

These are the same words that end the bleak story, Counterparts.


Igoe, V. (2006) James Joyce’s Dublin Houses and Nora Barnacle’s Galway. Dublin, Ireland: Lilliput Press.

Joyce, J. (1992) Selected Letters of James Joyce. Edited by Richard Ellmann. London, England: Faber & Faber.

Joyce, J. (2006) Dubliners, Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. Edited by Margot Norris, Hans Walter Gabler, and Walter Hettche. New York, United States: Norton, W. W. & Company.

Pritchard, D. (2001) James Joyce. New Lanark, United Kingdom: Geddes & Grosset.

Click here to see the route details on Runkeeper

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