Patrick Flynn the elder and Patrick Flynn the younger
D 15.1078-81 (‘The Dead’): So the old gentlemen, as I said, harnessed Johnny and put on his very best tall hat and his very best stock collar and drove in grand style from his ancestral mansion somewhere near Back Lane, I think.
Peter Costello refers to Patrick Flynn the elder, who opened a starch and blueing factory at No 53 Back Lane (at the “back” of the High Street) in the years leading up to the Battle of Waterloo. This information derives from Dublin directories of the period, such as the following:
There were in fact two Patrick Flynns, presumably related but not necessarily father and son (perhaps uncle and son), who had businesses in Back Lane, just west of the castle in central Dublin. They need to be distinguished.
1) No 53 Back Lane and Patrick Flynn the elder
In the 1810s William Hyland, father and son, had businesses along the south side of Back Lane. In 1811, William Hyland the elder, leather-seller and lessee of Nos 52 and 53 Back Lane since 1793, was declared bankrupt.1 By 1815 (Treble’s Almanack, cited above) old Patrick Flynn is trading from this address as a starch manufacturer.
In 1814 he is also negotiating on another property on Back Lane – apparently No 21, a “dwellinghouse messuage or tenement” on the north side, towards Corn-market:
By this time, the Hylands are listed only at Nos 48 and 49 Back Lane (Wilson’s Dublin Directory for 1814):
But Patrick Flynn of No 53 Back Lane is not destined to remain a starch manufacturer for long. By 1817 both he and Laurence Fitzsimons (with whom he was negotiating in 1814) have turned publicans, as can be seen in a later deed relating to No 21 Back Lane:
Wilson’s Dublin Directory of 1817 confirms Patrick Flynn the elder’s new role:
Maybe he is the “Patrick Flinn” who thanks his customers in November 1829 in a notice to the Freeman for their “encouragement” at the revived “old Carlingford Tavern” on Aston’s Quay:
It cannot be said with certainty what relation this Patrick Flynn was to Joyce.
2) No 50 Back Lane and Patrick Flynn the younger
William Hyland the younger was also declared bankrupt in 1814.5 Patrick Flynn the younger moved rapidly to secure the business at No 50 Back Lane:
It seems that Patrick Flynn extended his business premises in Back Lane further in 1823, by obtaining further land and buildings from William Hyland the younger:
From this contract we can see that Patrick Flynn also controls premises in nearby Francis Street. This is confirmed in the 1818 issue of Treble’s Almanack, which lists old Patrick Flynn as a spirit merchant at 53 Back Lane, and young Patrick Flynn as a starch and blue manufacturer at No 157 Francis Street:
It is noticeable that the old Patrick Flynn normally (though not systematically) spells his name using the older form “Flinn”, and the younger styles himself “Flynn”.
Patrick’s uncle James (or perhaps his
brother – Peter Costello is certainly right to be cautious here) is also
involved in the family business, and they take on new property in Thomas Street
and later in John Street West, all in the same area of central Dublin west of
the castle. The following list gives some impression of the range and network
of businesses operated by the family:
At this time there were at least eight other starch-manufacturing businesses in Dublin. The fact that potatoes were so important for starch manufacturers led to difficult times during the periods of famine in Ireland.
3) Patrick Flynn the younger – marriage, a young family, and a court appearance
Patrick Flynn the younger (or “of Thomas Street”, as he later tended to be called in newspaper notices) was one of James Joyce’s great-grandparents. He had married Mary Fitzsimons by 1815. Perhaps Mary Fitzsimons was a relation of the Laurence Fitzsimons with whom Patrick Flynn the older had dealings in Back Lane. Patrick and Mary Flynn had many children, including the “Misses Flynn”.
The first child was Mary, named after her mother and baptised on 6 August 1815 at the church of St Audeon. The church was just north of the High Street, and part of the northern side of Back Lane fell into its parish.
When Patrick and Mary’s next recorded daughter, Bridget, arrived, in 1821, she was baptised at St Catherine’s church on 8 April. St Catherine’s church is on Meath Street in Dublin, which forms a junction with Thomas Street, where Patrick had his starch business. In the following year their next daughter, Catherine, was also baptised at St Catherine’s, on 7 March.
Their next two daughters were baptised at the church of SS. Michael and John on Lower Exchange Street. These were Judith (baptised on 9 January 1825) and Lucy (16 December 1827). Another son, James Joseph was born around this time – probably in 1826. Just after Judith’s baptism a James Flynn (probably Patrick’s brother or cousin) married a Jane Fitzsimons at the same church – with “Patt Flinn” as a witness.
These, then, were the first recorded children of Patrick and Mary Flynn, and amongst them the first potential “Misses Flynn”: Mary, Bridget, Catherine, Judith, and Lucy. Between 1829 and 1831 Julia and Ellen (later Mrs Callanan) arrived, though the baptismal details have not yet come to light.
By a miraculous chance, we learn something about young Bridget and Catherine through a newspaper report in the Freeman’s Journal of 15 January 1829. The newspaper narrates – in an article headed “Child Stealing” – that, the previous March:
Bridget Flynn was about seven years old at the time; she and her sister (presumably Catherine) were walking to school in French Street (now Mercer Street) one morning when they met Esther Beahan, whom they knew previously.7 Esther took them off to nearby Stephen’s Green and asked them to give her their ear-rings, bonnets, coats, and boots, saying she would get them better ones. Needless to say, Esther disappeared and the little girls had to be taken home by a gentleman who took pity on them. We know Bridget is the Bridget Flynn who was the daughter of Patrick and Mary, because when the old gentleman took them home he is said to have taken them to “No. 50, Back-lane”. Patrick Flynn had to attend court and was examined at some length, corroborating those details he knew. The Freeman journalist was clearly impressed by the calmness that Bridget showed in court, and we have early evidence for the descriptive powers of a relative of Joyce:
This was not a one-off crime by Esther Beahen. The following week she was indicted in the Recorder’s Court on a similar charge, kidnapping a child named Mary Byrne, and stealing a cloak and bonnet.8
There are at least two points of relevance to “The Dead” here. Firstly, the Freeman states categorically that Flynns lived in Back Lane. In “The Dead” Aunt Kate responds to Gabriel’s comment that Patrick drove to the military review “from his ancestral mansion somewhere near Back Lane” with:
We now know from the newspaper and from other evidence that he did live there, at least in the late 1820s.
Secondly, Aunt Julia is said to have embroidered the picture of the two murdered princes at school:
It now seems that this is likely to have been one of the Free Schools on French Street.
4) Patrick Flynn the younger – more children, a fire, bankruptcy, and politics
The 1830s were a significant and sometimes difficult time for Patrick Flynn. They started on a happy note. On 24 January his next daughter Elizabeth was baptised in the parish church of St Michael and St John.
The Dublin City Valuation of 1830 shows Flinns as the occupiers of Nos 50 and 51 Back Lane ("4 stories, with yard and buildings for starch manufactory"); No 11 John Street (3 stories, with yard) – occupied in conjunction with one other person; but they no longer leased or owned No 21 Back Lane.11 We also find Patrick Flynn starting to engage in political activity in a small way, demonstrating nationalist leanings and support for Daniel O’Connell. In April 1830 he is one of the signatories to a notice about the O’Connell Fund published by members of the parish of St. Michael and St. John.
But Patrick's busines suffers a severe knock in early July. As well as the premises at Back Lane and elsewhere in that area, he had a manufactory in Henrieta Place, north of the river. The Freeman’s Journal takes up the story:
The newspaper may, however, have overwritten its account. Patrick was quick to dampen fears in the newspaper the next day:
Patrick continued to run his business from Back Lane for a few years more, but somehow things were going wrong. He maintained his low-level political activity, but would have been very aware of the problems of running a starch manufactory, such a significant user of potatoes as raw material, during a time of growing poverty and famine. Down in Cork, alarming scenes against starch manufacturers were witnessed in November 1830:
Back home, there were more children on the way. Patrick’s son Patrick Flynn was baptised at St Michael and St John on 23 January 1831, and Lawrence was similarly baptised there the following year, on 29 April. In the Treble Almanack for 1832 Patrick still gave his address as 50 and 51 Back Lane (note also J. Flynn and L. Fitzsimons, Starch and Blue-manufacturer, 29, High Street). It was around this time that his daughter Margaret Theresa (later Mrs Murray and Joyce’s maternal grandmother) was born. By 1835 Patrick was trading from the address with which he is most associated in later years, 79 Thomas Street,12 and on 23 April his youngest daughter Anne is baptised, this time back at St Catherine’s, in Thomas Street.
There must have been problems with the new business, as in November 1835 Patrick faces bankruptcy. But it is not long before he is trading again:
It seems to have been more of a cash-flow issue than the end of the business, and indeed a large number of Victorian businesses suffered the indignity of bankruptcy or threatened bankruptcy on the basis of reasonably small sums owing to creditors. By 1838 Patrick is one of the St Catherine’s parishioners subscribing, along with his two sons, to Daniel O’Connell’s “Precursor Society”, consisting of people who were in general supporters of the “Repeal” of the Act of Union with Britain:
In due course the Precursor Society gave
way to the Loyal National Repeal Association, and Patrick Flynn joined this
Patrick was active in collecting subscriptions for the local branch of the Repeal Association, and one newspaper listing, from October 1840, shows how successful he was in enjoining members of his own family to subscribe:
From this report it is clear that Patrick Flynn is now firmly based at No 79 Thomas Street, and is active in nationalist politics, at least on a local level. The order of names listed is indicative: first there is Patrick himself, and his wife Mary (née Fitzsimons), and then his sons James Joseph and Patrick junior; in the next set we find Kate (Catherine) and Julia, Margaret Jane (perhaps an error for Margaret Theresa?), and various other relatives – only some of which have to date been identified securely. From this listing it is probable that some of the thirteen children did not survive childhood, and indeed in later life we seem only to encounter seven: James Joseph, Julia, Ellen, Elizabeth, Patrick, Margaret Theresa, and Anne. The gifted concert pianist Henrietta Flynn of Harcourt Street, Dublin, is not a relation – or at least she is not demonstrably a close relation. The surviving children will be looked at in slightly more detail later in this article.
Patrick’s business in Thomas Street and
John Street appeared to thrive. He is regularly listed in the papers and
directories in various commercial and political roles. A typical report reads:
At some point along the way, Patrick is said to have wished to attend a military review in Phoenix Park, and to have gone out in his carriage pulled by his old horse Johnny. The tale is told in “The Dead”. When they reached the statue of King William, the horse proceeded to walk round and round the statue, rather than continue on its regular course. The family felt later that the horse may have thought he was turning the old starch mill:
This family story does not appear to have made its way into public record, and is perhaps unlikely to be found there.
A note of difficulty for Patrick Flynn arises in 1855, when he starts to make arrangements to handle creditors again:
A year later this is followed by worse news, as Patrick enters the waters of bankruptcy again:
The newspaper explains that, though unfortunate, Patrick Flynn has dealt respectfully with creditors:
But the starch manufactory had to be sold and so was only a very distant memory for the family when Joyce was growing up:
From this point onwards, references in the newspapers to the family are much more likely to be to the “Misses Flynn” or other musical members of the family. Patrick lost the house in Thomas Street around 1856, and moved temporarily to New Row, West (which runs from Thomas Street up to Wormwood Gate). By 1859 was living at 16 Ellis Quay, just north of the river but not far from the family’s old haunts of Back Lane and Thomas Street. His daughters the Misses Flynns moved here too. Thom’s Directory for 1862 has Patrick listed as a starch manufacturer, but most of his activity is probably covered by “commission agent”:
His wife Mary died on 7 January 1864, and she was interred at Richmond Cemetery:
Patrick himself followed her over four years later, bringing to an end a career that had followed the ups and downs of the starch industry in Ireland for fifty years, seen at least thirteen children born – and many survive him – and which had included the curious tale of the revolving horse which found its way into his grandson’s Dubliners:
Dublin Registry of Deeds:
July 1811 (625-402-438539): ‘The [blank] day of July 1811 between John Meara
[etc.] Assignees of the Estate & effects of Wm. Hyland of the City of
Dublin Leather Seller & Bankrupt’.
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