Thos. H. Dennany on a spit of land
Ulysses 6.459-62: Crowded on the spit of land silent shapes appeared, white, sorrowful, holding out calm hands, knelt in grief, pointing. Fragments of shapes, hewn. In white silence: appealing. The best obtainable. Thos. H. Dennany, monumental builder and sculptor.
Leopold Bloom, Martin Cunningham, and friends turn on to Finglas Road on the final stretch of their journey on Bloomsday before they reach Glasnevin (Prospect) Cemetery for Paddy Dignam’s funeral. On their right they pass a “spit of land” crowded with monumental figures in the yard of Thos. H. Dennany, “monumental builder and sculptor”.1 Dennany plays no part in Ulysses other than as the owner of the Stone and Marble Works, and Gifford (Ulysses Annotated) knows no more of him than this.
Thomas Hammond Dennany was born around
1840 in Drogheda, the son of James Dennany (a mechanic and evidently an ardent
nationalist) and his wife Kate Hammond. The Dennanys were a Drogheda family,
and it seems that in June 1850 James and Kate took their family from Liverpool
to New York on the SS Aberdeen to emigrate from the famine. The ship’s manifest
for the family group (accessible at ancestry.com under the surname Dinany)
shows the following family members:
Their stay in America must have been
shortlived, as the family is back in Drogheda by 1853. Thomas’s brother James
married in Drogheda in 1865 and by 1867 Thomas was listed as a "stonecutter" in Prospect Avenue (Thom's, p. 1555), conveniently near the cemetery at Glasnevin. By 1868 he is more established there as a “monumental builder”:
By 1870 Thomas is listed as a “Sculptor” in Dublin by Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of Ireland (p. 263).
Prospect House is shown on a North Dublin map of 1880.2 It is on Prospect Avenue (then Cemetery Road):
Prospect House was part of or adjacent to a string of houses owned by Thomas Dennany at the bottom of Prospect Avenue (Nos. 2 to 8 on the east side of the road). The cluster of buildings can be seen on the map just above the “spit of land” which formed the yard of the Stone and Marble Works. Joyce and his friends approached this by car from the south, forking left up Finglas Road to the Cemetery. The corner was informally known at the time as “Dennany’s Corner”.3 The map below shows the same area in 1913 (Glasnevin Road later became Botanic Road):4
The Dennany family were well known in the stonemason’s trade. Thomas’s brothers Arthur and Joseph (in 1901) lived in Phibsborough Road and worked as stonecutters (both described themselves as Monumental Workers in the 1911 census); in 1910 their brother James lived as a stonemason at No 8 Prospect Avenue (Thom’s). Their brother Francis had died in 1892.
work was referred to from time to time in the Dublin papers:
Like his father, Thomas maintained an interest in politics, standing for the Glasnevin ward in 1901. He came sixth out of eight candidates, polling 233 votes, the four highest-polling candidates being elected.5 In 1908 he was an active member of the Glasnevin Nationalist Registration Committee.6
Thomas Dennany’s “Leo”
monument (1885) in Glasnevin, for John Keegan Casey (1846-70)
I am grateful to Dr Murphy for information about three other monuments by Thomas Dennany in Glasnevin:
with a further monument by Thomas’s brother Arthur:
Arthur Dennany’s monument (1906) in Glasnevin, for Joseph Hegarty
Joyce describes Thos. H. Dennany as a “monumental builder and sculptor”. This is the description Dennany gives of himself in the 1901 census, though of course Joyce cannot have seen this. The Stone and Marble Works continued to be listed under Dennany’s name in Thom’s Official Directory until Thomas’s death in 1910, and it is significant that Thom’s uses the same form of name and description as Joyce in its listing from 1898 until 1910:
and so it seems that Joyce added this information from an edition of Thom’s.
Thomas Dennany died on 22 June 1910 “at his residence, Prospect House, Glasnevin, of heart failure”, “deeply regretted by his sorrowing wife, brothers, and nephews”.7
The Freeman of 28 June reports on his funeral at Glasnevin, listing those who attended, including the “chief mourners”, his brothers James, Joseph, and Arthur Dennany and several other family members.
Thomas Dennany was not a significant character in Ulysses, but he was typical of the everyday Dubliners whose lives impinged on the writer. He has no memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery and his only memorial is his transient appearance in Ulysses.
I am grateful to Mr. Godfrey O'Byrne, great grand-nephew of Thomas Dennany and to Dr Paula Murphy of UCD for their assistance in preparing this article.
1 "On a spit of land" is perhaps a reminder of the Homeric subplot as Ulysses approached Hades by ship.
2 From: Ordnance Survey. Map of the City of Dublin and its Environs, constructed for Thom’s Almanac and Official Directory (c1880)
3 Freeman’s Journal (1885), 11 August: “Drumcondra Commissioners … Resolved – That steps be taken to have the following footpaths laid in concrete agreeably to resolution of former meeting … from Dennany’s corner to St Joseph’s-crescent; [etc.].”
4 Plan of Dublin (1913)
5 Irish Times (1901) 17 January, p. 6.
6 Freeman’s Journal (1908) 14 September, p. 6.
7 Freeman’s Journal (1910) 24 June, p. 1.
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