‘One of Britain’s fighting men’: Major Malachi Powell and Ulysses
U 15.4612-6: Major Tweedy, moustached like Turko the terrible, in bearskin cap with hackleplume and accoutrements, with epaulettes, gilt chevrons and sabretaches, his breast bright with medals, toes the line. He gives the pilgrim warrior’s sign of the knights templars.
Writing to his aunt, Josephine Murray, from Paris in 1921, James Joyce made clear where the inspiration for Molly Bloom’s father had come from, referring to, ‘Major Powell – in my book Major Tweedy, Mrs Bloom’s father.’1 While the name Tweedy was perhaps derived from the real-life soldier, Major General Willis Tweedie,2 Joyce sought out the characteristics for his old soldier closer to home. The author had already sent his aunt a full list of questions on Powell, an old family friend, which she had responded to, and now he was looking for information on his wife and daughters.
Since Richard Ellmann’s early researches into Joyce’s social circle, the reputations of both Major Malachi Powell and his fictional counterpart have been much questioned by those seeking to find a background to Molly Bloom, and very little to either’s credit. Ellmann described Powell as having bought a farm in Cork on his retirement, the value of which he wasted on drink, before marrying ‘a woman with property’, who later left him when she became ‘tired of his bullying ways’.3 According to the same account, Joyce toned down the negative aspects of Powell’s character in his literary counterpart.
J. H. Raleigh, in his study of Ulysses, trawled through its pages to build up a picture of Tweedy’s character – mainly through the eyes of Molly, from which he concluded he was a pipe smoker, had a strong Irish brogue and was a non-stoic like Bloom. Others, exploring the nuances of Joyce’s portrait, have detected hints of tragedy and romance in Tweedy’s past. ‘I suggest’, wrote Ruth von Phul, ‘that he never knew his parents, having been farmed out at birth to the care, but not the caring, of paid foster parents. His unhappy situation, I suggest, was because he was a bastard, born of a passionate romance between a gentlewoman and a poor musician.’4
Whatever his background, his claim to the rank of a commissioned officer was intended to signal an aspiration to some social status in the world. In the Circe dream sequence, Bloom, having visited a brothel, imagines defending his reputation in court, and hears his wife’s voice pleading their respectability by reference to her father and his defence of the British Empire:
Clearly Joyce intended us to see through these claims to respectability and heroism. The critic Jonathan Quick described Tweedy as ‘something of a rascal: a drinker, a petty thief, a keeper of bad company, on several counts a fraud, a begetter of an illegitimate daughter’.5 On the surface he appears as Bloom sees him in the Circe episode: ‘a most distinguished commander, a gallant upstanding gentleman’; but, as Quick points out, this image is not to be trusted, as Tweedy’s claims to heroism were fraudulent at best:
But how much of Tweedy’s military career was actually based on that of Powell, and was Powell similarly deceptive? Certainly, there is no evidence that Powell ever fought in the Zulu wars, or, more importantly, was stationed at Gibraltar, the place that formed part of the background to Molly Bloom’s character. But did Powell, like Tweedy, make outlandish claims about his own career? Some scholars, starting with Ellmann, have questioned whether or not his rank was that of a proper major. Raleigh noted Molly Bloom’s complaint of social ‘slights and snubs’ in Dublin because of her father’s status as soldier rather than officer:
Surviving evidence, outlined below, shows that in fact Powell had indeed risen through the non-commissioned ranks of the British army to become an officer. His rank of ‘Major’, however, was an honorary one, granted not by the British army but by the Volunteer Military Force in South Australia where he was to serve during the last stage of his career. This shows that his claim to this rank was legitimate but did not reflect his status while on active service in the British Army.8 Thus, the widespread notion that Powell fraudulently claimed the rank of Major9 is technically incorrect, but may reflect the relative obscurity of a rank derived from a colonial militia on the other side of the world. Nevertheless, as this paper will show, there does turn out to be an unexpectedly fraudulent background to his use of this honorary title in Dublin during his retirement years.
For Joyce, the Major and other associates of his family from the older generation belonged to what he called a ‘vanished world’, and in his memory they appeared as ‘very curious types.’10 Channelled through the haze of his own childhood recollections, his father’s anecdotes and his aunt’s ad-hoc observations, the details of the Major’s rank were unlikely to have survived intact.
Early military career
The few clear facts about Powell’s life that can be ascertained reveal that his rise to the officer class came relatively early in his career. Although his obituaries stated he had been born in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny in 1821,11 when he joined the 1st Life Guards in London as a private in 1848, his records state he was born in Liverpool in 1827.12 However, he gave his trade on enlistment as ‘farmer’ suggesting he may have come from an Irish farming family which had recently migrated to Liverpool from Thomastown.
There is perhaps another explanation for the discrepancy: many years later Powell’s son, the Rev Jordan Powell, would apparently claim that his father was ‘a Power of Kilmacthomas’ (Co. Waterford) but changed his name to Powell on joining the army to ‘ease his social acceptance.’13 If this is true, it may explain why in 1848, a year of famine in Ireland, Powell gave his birthplace in England.14 However, the Thomastown connection should not be lightly dismissed; a search through the baptismal records for County Kilkenny reveals a ‘Malachy Power’ born in Condonstown in the union of Thomastown in 1825.15 The mother and father of this man are listed as James Power and Margaret Butler, who are recorded in the Catholic parish records as having two other children, Anastatia (b.1827) and Nell (b.1830). We find several members of the extended Power family in this townland listed in Griffiths Valuation in the 1850s, occupying 80 or so acres of land on the Castle Morres estate of the de Montmorency family.16 The 1901 census reveals a brother, John, then living with sisters Anastatia and Ellen (presumably ‘Nell’), none of whom had married.17
The struggles of the famine years provide a simple explanation for Malachi’s enlistment in the British army in 1848. The 1st Regiment of Life Guards, as part of the Household Cavalry, was one of the smartest in the British army and since its glorious days at Waterloo had assumed a rather ornamental character.18 Regiments rotated between Knightsbridge, Regents Park, and Windsor and spent much of their time helping to police London. For the non-commissioned ranks the conditions were very bad, the barracks cramped and the rate of mortality (in peacetime) higher than for the general populace. In contrast, the officers lived in great comfort, reflecting the wide gap that still prevailed between the upper and lower ranks of the army.19
Nevertheless, Powell was clearly intent on bettering himself. In 1852 he was promoted Corporal.20 Three years later he saw the opportunity for further promotion on the formation of the new and short-lived Land Transport Corps in 1855, which was designed to facilitate supplies to the Crimean front and which sought to attract new recruits by the promise of transfers at higher ranks.21 The corps was assembled quickly and suffered from inexperienced men and lack of discipline, possibly offering the young cavalryman a chance to shine.22 Powell entered the corps as a troop sergeant-major on 10 March 1855, but was promoted two weeks later to regimental sergeant-major. After twelve months he had been promoted to cornet, the lowest rank of commissioned cavalry officer, serving under Generals Simpson and Codrington at the siege of Sebastopol.23
Only one-tenth of the officers in the Transport Corps were retained in the permanent Military Train established after the Crimean War, and many were degraded in rank. At least some of those promoted had to return to their positions as non-commissioned officers or were discharged at a lower rate of half-pay than their new rank had merited.24 In protest, they petitioned parliament in August 1857.25 However, there is no evidence that Malachi Powell suffered the same fate. He had taken up a new post as Riding Master in the Military Train (which supplanted the Transport Corps) in March of that year, at Aldershot in Hampshire.26 On his return, he had married Louisa Mathews, the twenty-two-year-old daughter of a gardener from Maidstone in Kent, on 1 January 1857.27 The wedding took place at Wateringbury, five miles east of Maidstone, apparently where she was then living. He was described in the marriage notice as ‘of the Maidstone cavalry depot’. She gave birth to their first child, Letitia (later known as Polly28), in September of that year.29
The following year, he brought his family to Ireland where he served in the Curragh, a position that lasted eight years from 1858 to 1866. Here his wife gave birth to four more children at two-year intervals. In 1866 he was transferred back to Aldershot where his three youngest children were born. In all, he had five daughters and three sons between 1857 and 1870. He left the army on half-pay in 1869 but was still in the locality of Aldershot when his youngest daughter, Agnes, was born the following year.30
In 1872, at 45 years of age, and after 24 years of service in the British army, Powell retired to Floraville, a rural residence four miles from Dublin at Clondalkin.31 Thom’s Directory for that year gives his rank as ‘Captain’, suggesting that he was promoted on retirement. When he was selected the following year as one of forty-eight special jurors in the Galway election prosecutions, he was listed in the press as ‘Malachi Powell, gentleman’, which accords well with his apparent material affluence at Clondalkin.32 Floraville, which was easily accessible by train from the city, and close to the Grand Canal, represented a significant social advance on the part of a former NCO and his wife - the daughter of a domestic servant. It had formerly been the residence of Robert Eglinton Seton, a captain - and later colonel - in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers,33 and its position close to the main route between the military barracks at the Curragh and the city may have made it an obvious place of residence for a former military man. Its suburban sounding name reflects this situation in the hinterland of Dublin, resonating perhaps with Leopold Bloom's comment that his ideal home would be a place called 'Flowerville'.
An auction notice, dating ten years earlier, gives some further details of their new home: it was valued at almost £80 a year (in 1862) and was described as ‘gentleman-like’, set in its own grounds with gatehouse, sweeping avenue, a handsome lawn, walled garden of half an acre in extent, greenhouse and out-offices. Attached were 29 acres of good farm land mainly under grass, but with three to four acres under wheat, oats and potatoes. It was clearly a good place for keeping horses, which may have been Powell’s main interest here.34 More notably, there were conveniently located schools at the Presentation convent and Carmelite monastery, to which he likely sent some of his eight children, aged between 3 and 16.35
Despite their many years living in England, the Powells were not immune to the resurgent Irish Catholicism of the late nineteenth century. Close to their new home was St Mary’s Dominican priory at Tallaght, which the Major’s eldest son, Jordan, soon after entered as a novice, while still a teenager. As late as the 1960s, his youngest daughter, Agnes, still remembered accompanying her parents on their first visit to her brother here. He was brought out to meet them by Fr Tom Burke, a preacher whose oratorical skills were famous, and who features in Joyce’s short story ‘Grace' in Dubliners (And his voice! God! hadn't he a voice!). Agnes remembered that while speaking to her parents, Fr Tom sent her and her brother into the orchard to eat as many apples as they could. Some of the older priest’s influence may have rubbed off on the young boy who was later remembered as an exceptional preacher, giving ‘an eloquent and most impressive sermon upon the Passion’ in the parish church of Clondalkin in 1889.36 He would later become professor of moral theology at San Clemente in Rome.37 One of the older girls, Annie Maud (known as ‘Toddie’ to her family), is thought to have become a nun.38
For the Powell children, it was a far cry from the exotic upbringing in Gibraltar given to Molly Bloom by their father’s fictional counterpart. Nevertheless, Clondalkin had its own Gibraltar – the name of a townland in the parish39 - then owned by Powell’s neighbours, the Finlay family, who manufactured gunpowder and had close associations with the British army.40 They were one of several prosperous families in the locality, some of whom were Catholic like the Powells. Not far to the south was White Hall, home of the Tynans, who had moved to Clondalkin a few years earlier - the daughters of which – Katherine and Nora (later well-known writers and friends of W. B. Yeats) – were similar in age to the Powell girls and attended the same convent school.41
During the mid-to-late 1870s, Andrew Tynan, their father, embarked on an unsuccessful venture to supply cattle to the British army in places such as the Curragh and Aldershot, and it is tempting to imagine his neighbour, Major Powell, had some role in this too, given his experience with the Military Train and knowledge of army depots.42 The fact that in 1873 Powell commuted his pension for £1305 suggests he had some business venture in mind around this time.43 In fact, he may have tried his hand at several means of employment during these years. In 1874 he had briefly advertised some horses to sell, giving himself the title of ‘auctioneer’ with addresses at Clondalkin and 18 Queen Street, Dublin, but this appears to have been short-lived as he is not listed as an auctioneer in the trade directory of the day.44
Shortly before the lease on Floraville was due to expire in 1878, Powell abandoned Dublin entirely, departing for Australia in December of 1877.45 Ellmann’s report of his ‘drinking up’ the value of a farm in Cork – if it has any basis in fact – more likely relates to his property in Clondalkin. He took up a post as Riding Master with the rank of lieutenant in the Mounted Rifles in Adelaide, South Australia, where he remained for eight years.46 By that period Adelaide was a well-developed colonial city with substantial public buildings.47 The Adelaide Mounted Rifle Corps had been founded in 1855 in response to the Crimean War and the fear of a Russian attack on the colonies, but was disorganised and in need of reform.48
The British army had pulled out of the Australian colonies in 1870, leaving them to organise their own forces of permanent and volunteer units. Powell was part of a contingent of staff under Colonel (later General) Downes and Major Godwin who arrived in 1877 to place the volunteer force ‘on a sound footing with systematic organisation’.49 Working under Colonel Biggs, Powell was in charge of instructing the cavalry, while three other men looked after the infantry. General Downes, as he later became, had a reputation as a ‘perfect disciplinarian’ and was said to have taught the South Australian Forces what drill and discipline were.50
It is unclear whether Powell brought his wife and children (now ranging in age from 7 to 20) with him, but later events make it unlikely. Indeed, Ellmann’s report that he separated from his wife, who became ‘tired of his bullying ways’, is perhaps borne out by his removal to so distant a location.
There are frequent, if minor, references in the Australian press to his military life during these years. The South Australian Advertiser reported in the spring of 1878:
At that time, the mounted troops were armed with swords, but also carried the new Martini-Henry carbines that had come into service that year,52 and in April 1880 Powell superintended the cavalry at a rifle competition at the Kapunda rifle range.53 The following month he was amongst 500 colonists who attended a levée at Government House in Adelaide ‘who desired to show their loyalty to the Queen and their respect for Sir William Jervois, Her Majesty’s representative in South Australia’.54 In June he appears at a back-slapping session of the cavalry troop at the Plough-and-Harrow:
In 1881 he was promoted to captain, his former rank.56 In March 1883, we find him attending a rifle-club dinner at the Hampshire Hotel:
Powell’s distance from home may have allowed him a new personal freedom. On 9 May 1880 there is record of a Cuthbert Lewis Powell born in North Adelaide to a Malachi Powell and a woman named Eliza Florence Nowland.58 She appears to have been 23 years old and a native of the city.59 Her English father was a member of the Order of the Rachabites – a religious group which encouraged sobriety - who had come to Australia in 1839 and was described as ‘an active participant in important movements in the early days of the colony’, founding a Total Abstinence Society in 1840 and serving as a city councillor from 1841-3. He went into the tailoring business, building a shop on Morphett Street and later William Street in Adelaide.60 The birth of his daughter’s child took place in an area of Adelaide called Kent Town, just a block away from William Street, and close to the area in which Powell was stationed. The child, however, died only two months later.61 While it is unknown whether this ‘Malachi Powell’ married Nowland, the birth of their second child, Myrtle Olivia Powell, two years later, in June 1882, indicates the relationship was more than a casual one.62
While his time in South Australia was largely uneventful in military terms, in 1885 Anglo-Russian tensions over Afghanistan prompted fears of a Russian attack on the colonies. In Adelaide, it was ‘a source of alarm to many thrifty nervous people’, and one local paper chuckled at the sums of money being taken out of the town’s banks by spooked depositors: ‘probably the sovereigns will be stowed away in every conceivable rusty receptacle or well-darned old stocking, and the timid owners will feel more happy than if their coin were locked in the strongest safe which the Russians might open merely with the point of a bayonet.’63 Volunteers were sent to man various encampments round the city, and Powell was tasked with training new volunteer recruits to help protect Adelaide and its port nearby: ‘Captain Powell has now thirty recruits for the city troop in hand, and he treats them to two sound drills each day.’64 It may well have been a motley crew - Powell drilled them six nights a week without any weapons, but gave them some instruction in how to use a sword.65
The Russian threat, however, quickly faded, and Powell’s task was then to get his men ready for the great public review to be held on the Queen’s birthday later in the month. The day went off well and the city turned out in droves to watch the spectacle:
The military review turned out to be Powell’s last important public appearance as a soldier. A career that seems to have begun in 1848 with an opportunistic change of identity was about to come to a similarly opportunistic end.
‘A long and painful illness’
Towards the end of 1885, Powell applied for six months’ leave and returned to Britain on grounds of ill health.67 On 17 April 1886, a local newspaper reported that Powell had officially resigned from the Mounted Rifles and had cited his recent illness as the reason. His final, honorary promotion was announced in the press:
Although an Australian gossip columnist working in London, writing in March 1886, reported that the captain was ‘in much better health’ since arriving in Britain on the ship Sorota, his condition apparently became much more critical over the summer.69 Indeed, it seemed he would not have long to enjoy his new honorary rank of ‘Major’. On 29 January 1887 the South Australian Advertiser carried a notice to say that Captain Powell had died, ‘after [a] long and painful illness, at Aldershot’ on 4 July 1886.70 An obituary appeared in the same newspaper two days later, giving some details of his military career: an outline of his service in the Crimean War and his receipt of Crimean and Turkish medals; and, of course, his more recent activities as a riding master in South Australia. ‘The deceased officer’, noted the writer, ‘was a most capable instructor’, and went on to praise his ‘considerable patience’ and his ability to obtain the sympathy of the men under him.
Of his character, he wrote, ‘Captain Powell was a genial, thorough-going soldier, with all the capacity of an Irishman for wit’. In particular, he noted the fact that Powell had risen ‘from the ranks as the recruit of merit, and received his first commission as an officer many years before the abolition of purchase’.71 His death would be a regret ‘to a large number of South Australians’, according to the paper.
Despite the earnest newspaper reports, Powell did not actually die in July 1886. In fact, he appears to have taken the decision to abandon his young daughter and her mother when he left Adelaide on leave; and evidently finding no easy way to break the news, leaked a report of his death from England. The ‘long and painful illness’, referred to in the initial death notice, had evidently been planned since the time he handed in his resignation, and helped prepare Nowland for the worst.
Powell’s exact whereabouts in 1886 are unclear, but by 1887 he had returned to Dublin where we find him living with his original wife, remaining sons and unmarried daughters.
Powell’s family in Ireland
Prior to her husband’s return to Ireland, Mrs Powell had been living with her children at No. 3 South Circular Road during the years 1883 and 1884. Directly opposite them was the home of John Blake Gallaher, editor of the Freeman’s Journal, at No. 1.72 In 1884, the third eldest girl, Louisa, then aged 20, married her neighbour, Joe Gallaher, a journalist at his father’s paper, bringing the Powells further into the social and professional world of Joyce’s Ulysses.73 The Joyce family moved to 30 Emorville Avenue, off South Circular Road, in the early 1880s, so were part of this neighbourhood for a period.74 By the time of Malachi Powell’s return in 1887, the family had moved to a newly built house (No. 12) on Stamer Street, off South Circular Road, and would remain here for the next nine years.75 Extraordinarily, Powell did not relinquish his honorary rank during his posthumous retirement in Dublin, being listed in the trade directories of the time as ‘Major Powell’, a respectable sounding member of the military establishment.
It was likely some time during the 1880s and 90s that Major Powell, having seen a new window of opportunity in his daughter’s marriage into the Gallaher family, became a military correspondent on the Freeman’s Journal, a position he filled ‘for many years’, according to his later obituary in 1917.76 The street was quickly expanding through the mid-to-late 1880s and Powell’s youngest daughter, Agnes, and her husband, Robert Russell – also a Freeman’s journalist, and a cousin of the Gallahers of South Circular Road, took a home for themselves at No. 16 following their marriage.77 According to Gifford, this was the same road Molly and Leopold Bloom lived in the period 1897-8.78
Joyce’s interest in Powell extended to his family, particularly his daughters, who were reputedly good-looking and musically accomplished.79 His letter from Paris, dated 14 Oct 1921, to his aunt Josephine (Murray), shows a very specific interest in these women:
Daniel Ferrer has revealed that in an early draft of Ulysses Molly Bloom appears as ‘Marie Powell’,81 which suggests that Major Powell was not chosen as the model for Major Tweedy in isolation but rather for his relationship with his daughters - one of whom was named Mary or Maria.82 She married James Clinch in 189183 and by 1911 was living at 29 Leinster Road West in Rathmines with seven children aged between 3 and 18.84 She appears in Ulysses on the Appian Way, a part of Dublin familiar to both the Joyces and Powells. Leopold Bloom, in a stream of consciousness, remembers almost approaching her as a prostitute - until he suddenly realised who she was and retreated:
Joyce also gave another of Powell’s daughters, Louisa, a small role in Ulysses under her married name, Mrs Joe Gallaher. A third sister may also have appeared in the book – though hitherto unacknowledged. Joyce’s aunt, in her reply to his query about the Powells, likely reminded him of the eldest daughter, Letitia Hayes.85 She married Dr John Joseph Hayes in 1880 and like her sisters was widowed young.86 In 1901 she lived at 182 Kenilworth Road, Rathmines, close to other members of her family. She may be a good candidate for Molly’s maligned adviser in the passage below, in which her sister and sister-in-law also appear:
In the same episode, Bloom describes Mrs Breen as ‘Josie Powell that was, the prettiest deb in Dublin’, reflecting her role as his first love. She is also Molly Bloom’s best friend.87 Ellmann describes her as a ‘Powell by marriage’.88 Charley Powell, whom Joyce enquired after in his letter of 1921, and who was a second son of Major Powell, was married to Mary Josephine Gallagher (or possibly ‘Josie Powell’ after marriage, for short).89 However, in Ulysses Joyce makes Powell her maiden name (she later becomes Josie Breen). Charley Powell was living with his sister, Letitia Hayes (see above), immediately prior to his marriage to Mary Josephine Gallagher (Josie Powell/Mrs Breen).90 Having married not long after the 1901 census was taken, Charley and Mary Josephine lived next door to her parents on Richmond Street North, where her father, William Gallagher lived, and where the Joyce family also resided for several months in 1896 (and where James Joyce briefly went to school).91 William Gallagher also makes a brief appearance in Ulysses:
Gifford in his Annotated Ulysses describes him as ‘Purveyor, grocer, and cola and corn merchant’.92 His son-in-law’s sphere of employment was substantially different. Charley had worked for the school attendance committee on Fleet Street in the early years of their marriage.93 By 1911, he and his wife had moved to Cork Hill in the inner city and were childless. Living with them was their four-year-old nephew, Francis Higginbotham, one of three sons belonging to Josephine’s sister, wife of the architect, John Higginbotham.94 In 1913 Charley and Mary Josephine had a son of their own, named Malachi after Charley’s father, Major Powell.95 Then aged 44, Charley was an unemployed clerk and Mary Josephine (aged 33) the housekeeper at City Hall, where she was still working some twenty-six years later in 1937.96 They would remain in Cork Hill until 1945.97 Mary Josephine Powell died on 26 December 1967.98
By the time that Joyce was making his enquires about the Powell sisters they were no longer the young women he remembered from his youth. The Major and his wife had remained residents of Stamer Street until 1896,99 after which their exact whereabouts are unknown for a period. Neither appears in the 1901 census suggesting they left the country. Mrs Powell is recorded, aged 76, in 1911 at 44 Grosvenor Road in the area of Rathmines/Rathgar, where she was again living with two of her (now widowed) daughters,100 Letitia (Mrs Hayes) and Louisa (Mrs Gallaher). While Ellmann’s notion that Mrs Powell was ‘a woman of property’ is hard to sustain given her father’s occupation as ‘male servant’ and later ‘gardener’ in Kent, her subsistence on dividends nevertheless shows she had some independent means later in life when living apart from her husband.101
Her daughter Louisa, Mrs Joe Gallaher, who had earlier lived directly opposite the Joyces in 23 Castlewood Avenue, had been elected to the post of ‘shop hours inspector’ from amongst thirteen candidates.102 As such, she was responsible for using new legislation to protect workers from exploitation by their employers. In 1894 she prosecuted the first case under the Shop Hours Act of 1892, having discovered evidence of a sixteen-year-old girl working in a sweet shop on Thomas Street from eight in the morning until ten at night seven days a week. In 1900 we find her prosecuting several different shopkeepers for failing to provide seating for their shop assistants.103 It was work that brought her into contact with the legal profession, which may explain Molly Bloom’s touchy reference to her at the races:104
The elder sister, Letitia (Mrs Hayes) (53), does not appear to have had any occupation at the time of the 1911 census. Also residing with them were Letitia’s unmarried son, John, a thirty-year-old medical student, and her unmarried daughter, Kathleen, aged 27 and unoccupied. Louisa (Mrs. Gallaher) (49) also had children living in the house, Gerald (22) (Ger Gallaher), an electrical engineer, and Brendan (29), a bank clerk. According to Ellmann, Brendan was a boyhood friend of Joyce’s, while his younger brother, Gerald, appears in Ulysses as ‘one of the two little boys to whom Father Conmee speaks in the wandering rocks episode’:105
Gerald Gallaher was married in 1926 by his first cousin Fr. Francis Russell, son of Agnes Powell.106 Another of the family mentioned by Joyce in his letter was the Powell girls’ brother, Gus, who lived here with his mother and sisters until his early death in 1907.107 Joyce also states ‘I never heard of a 3rd brother, only Gus and Charley’ but amongst the mourners at Gus’s funeral was listed their brother ‘the Rev. A Powell’ [sic].108 Strangely, neither of his parents is listed amongst the mourners, though the Clinches, Russells, and Gallahers were all present. As noted above, the Major and his wife may have been out of the country for a period, as they are not listed in the 1901 census.
The plight of the other sisters enquired after by Joyce was also varied. Mrs Russell was a widow; her husband, a one-time journalist with the Freeman’s Journal, died suddenly in 1913 and left her impoverished after a disastrous investment.109 Mrs Clinch lived with her husband, James, a Railway Accountant Secretary and had six children aged between 3 and 18.110 Major Powell’s whereabouts in the years immediately prior to his death are unclear, but he was perhaps in an institution of some kind, as he does not appear in the 1901 or 1911 census. His wife had predeceased him in 1916 at the age of 81 and was buried in Tallaght, where her son had entered the Dominican order.111
The funeral procession of Major Malachi Powell
(Irish Life - 17 September 1917)
On his death at the age of 90 on 21 September 1917, the Major was remembered as one of the last surviving Crimean War veterans.112 He received a full military funeral ‘largely attended by the general public’ and his obituary recorded that he had ‘distinguished himself, obtaining many medals, amongst them the Turkish Medal and Clasp.’113 The funeral took place at the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar, and a photograph of the funeral entourage, as it passed along the Rathgar Road, was published in the press.114 He was interred with his son-in-law, Robert Russell, in Glasnevin, though his name never appeared on the gravestone.115 His grandson, Arthur Russell, whose death in a plane crash in 1934 was mourned in a commemorative poem by his friend, Oliver St John Gogarty, was interred in the same grave.116 Although Major Powell was reunited with his wife for a period in Dublin after his return from Australia, their separate burials suggest some unresolved differences. Nevertheless, within the Powell family he retained an authoritative presence, and was long after remembered as ‘The Governor’ by his descendants.117
Although there is no evidence that Powell had ever showed his face in Australia again after settling in Dublin, his eldest son, Jordan, would pass through Adelaide in 1924 when taking up his position as Pro-Provincial of the Dominican Order in Australia. He was described in the press on his arrival as being ‘as well known in Ireland as in Europe’, suggesting his arrival was something of a talking point amongst Catholics there.118 He would spend five years in the Melbourne parish of East Camberwell, some distance from Adelaide, but it would seem surprising if he didn’t learn of his father’s trickery at some point during his Australian sojourn, and of the family he left behind.
My thanks to Professor Frank Powell, who kindly provided much useful information on the Powell family; to my aunt Hilda Byrne, and father, John Tierney, for memories of their grandmother, Agnes Powell; to David Brown in Australia for his information on the major’s family there; to the Household Cavalry Archive and also to Barney White-Spunner for his advice on the 1st Life Guards; to Vivien Igoe who has also been researching the Powell family. Also, to Dr Frank Shovlin and Dr Niall Carson at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, who kindly read through a draft of the article and suggested some improvements.
1 Richard Ellmann, Letters of
James Joyce (New York: Viking Press, 1966), p. 77.
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