A List of Irish Heroes from James Joyce’s Ulysses

One of my favorite passages in Ulysses (it’s from the “Cyclops” chapter, episode 12)—

He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which dangled at every movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages, Brian of Kincora, the Ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O’Neill, Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O’Donnell, Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O’Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M’Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff, Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan, Marshal Mac-Mahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castille, the Man for Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap, The Woman Who Didn’t, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L. Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo, Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez, Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve, Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye, the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O’Sullivan Beare. A couched spear of acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time by tranquillising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of paleolithic stone.

 

7 thoughts on “A List of Irish Heroes from James Joyce’s Ulysses”

  1. Not sure Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, Muhammad et al were Irish, but otherwise thanks for posting.

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  2. Although, on reflection, I see that it wasn’t you but Joyce who was claiming the above as “Irish”. Presumably he wasn’t being entirely serious …

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    1. According to what I was told in a pub in Dublin, there were many other Irish historical figures. Including the first known European to sail to North America. I saw a replica of the animal hide boat. The Irish likely invented humor.

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      1. Ah yes, the tiresome Irish habit of claiming to have discovered and invented everything. (I’m Irish, so am very familiar with this trait!) Alas, it’s about as likely that St Brendan discovered America as that he discovered Atlantis. As for the Irish inventing humour, you’re joking when you say that, but if an Irish person said it, he might not be! I think it’s this tendency to claim credit for everything and everyone that Joyce was satirising in that passage.

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        1. It’s the imagination that makes the story interesting. The litany of names provides the rhythm. High culture. A way with words, as the Irish say.

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  3. Yes but he overdoes it a bit I think. I remember the first time I read the list of names bursting out laughing at “Dolly Mount”. If you know Dublin, you’ll know that Dolly Mount isn’t a person but a place (Dollymount Strand). I thought it was genius, until I read the next name: Sidney Parade. Exactly the same joke: Sidney Parade (or Sydney Parade as it’s now known) is also a place (a street and a train station). It was funny the first time but the second time … kinda not really. It’s a basic rule of humour – don’t tell the same joke twice. I don’t mean to nit-pick, there are lots of glorious bits of Ulysses, but also bits that are highly repetitive (eg Nighttown, which becomes unbearable after a while).

    It sounds sacrilegious to say so but I think Joyce never quite recaptured the perfection of Dubliners.

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