John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello neatly summarize what we know about Fred Buckley, another of the rate-collectors from John Stanislaus Joyce’s day:
We start with a handful of facts: his name was Frederick A. Buckley; he was a raconteur; he fought in the Crimean War; and he could handle a weapon. Maybe some of these facts can be confirmed from the available sources.
Early life in County Wicklow and New York
Frederick Arthur Buckley was born on 12 June 1847, the youngest child of Benjamin and Hannah Buckley, at the Powerscourt estate south-west of Dublin, where Benjamin was a Land Steward to Lord Powerscourt and subsequently (by the time of Frederick’s birth) a farmer. Frederick was at least the seventh surviving child of a large family.
Frederick’s brother Robert William (b. 1836) was in Dublin in the late 1850s studying for his BA at Trinity College. He was set for a career in the (Protestant) church.1 More significantly in the short term, Frederick’s brother Edward (b. 1837) was establishing himself as a druggist in Brooklyn, New York. The lure of New York drew two more of Frederick’s brothers, Benjamin Ingram (b. 1841) and Charles Kennedy (b. 1845).
Charles Kennedy Buckley took a job as a clerk in Van Brunt Wyckoff’s drug store on Third Avenue when he first arrived in New York around 1860, before enlisting as a private in the 13th Regiment, New York State Militia, and serving for three months in the Union Army during the Virginia campaign. Later he worked as a druggist for his brother Edward before launching out very successfully into the lumber trade in Brooklyn. By 1870 (United States census) Benjamin was also working as a druggist in Brooklyn, presumably for his elder brother Edward.
If we assume that Frederick followed in the footsteps of his brother Charles Kennedy, two years his senior, then he will have attended Santry (Boarding) School, in Santry, north Dublin, until around 1861. In 1862 Frederick’s father sold up at Powerscourt/Enniskerry for Dublin.
It is maybe at this time that Frederick set off for New York: in the 1870 United States census he was living in Brooklyn with his brother Benjamin, as a clerk in a lumber yard (presumably that of his brother Charles). Edward and Charles were set to remain for the long term as US citizens. Benjamin and Frederick, however, returned to Ireland – possibly as early as 1871. Benjamin died in October 1876, and that December Frederick obtained a post as rate-collector at the Collector-General of Rates’ office in Dublin.
Fighting in the Crimea?
As the Crimean War lasted from 1853 until 1856 we can confidently say that Fred Buckley was not available to fight in it, as he was born in 1847 and would have been eight when the war ended.
Employment with the Collector-General of Rates
Looking ahead to 1885, we can see that Frederick Buckley fitted the profile of a typical rate-collector: he is listed as a Freemason and a Protestant, along with many others in his office:
Like other rate-collectors, he was often (as we will see later) the natural choice for secretary of any club or society he joined. And like many other collectors, he was politically Conservative, and seemed to lead a jollier life than the bare recitation of his posts might suggest.
We have met most of the rate-collectors at the Commission of Inquiry into the running of the Collector-General of Rates’ office in 1878. The extensive piblication of the results of this inquiry contained the verbatim and lengthy examination of Frederick Arthur Buckley:2
He was married in 1879, to Amy Dudley (his brother Robert – who assisted at the wedding – had married her sister Ann):
and in December of that year the couple had their first child, Amy.
Once he had joined up with the Collector-General he was seen out conducting the rate-collectors’ regular duties:
In 1884, a couple of years after John Stanislaus Joyce joined the office of the Collector-General, Fred Buckley and his family were living at 29 Clarinda Park, East in Kingstown. The following year they had moved a few miles south to 11 Claremont Villas, Glenageary. Work carried on at the Collector-General’s:
Fred is busy working for the Collector-General in 1891, but we do not see further references to him after John Stanislaus Joyce and others (presumably including Fred) left the Collector-General’s employ in 1893.
There is some evidence of Fred’s ability to hold an audience. His brother Robert, the curate and also Organizing Secretary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Ireland, would from time to time give lectures as well as sermons. In March 1883 he was giving just such a talk at the Town Hall in Naas, south-west of Dublin on the road to Portlaoise, as a fund-raiser for the Young Men’s Christian Association. Robert had been a curate in the area before, so it was well-known to him. His subject was ‘Off for a Month’, and described his recent walking holiday in Switzerland. His talk was followed by two readings by his younger brother Fred, and the newspaper account gives us a glimpse of a rather different Fred:
Handling a weapon?
Curiously enough, it turns out that Fred Buckley was something of a marksman. Fred became a member of the Dalkey Rifle Club in the 1880s and competed successfully in a number of competitions. His results are recorded from May 1887. In September 1888 we read:
In 1891 he was shooting off a handicap of seven:
Life after the Collector-General
In 1893 Fred Buckley was cited in the papers under his Protestant colours:
At around this time he became a Conservative Township Commissioner for Kingstown, and regularly attended meetings of the Board:
He was Chairman of the Kingstown Free Public Library. Sporting prowess and community service doubtless underlie his position as secretary of his local hockey club in 1895:
The Commissioners sent a loyal address to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and Fred was present for the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 1900 – at which Kingstown Township Commissioners presented the first loyal welcome. By 1901 he had moved to Blackrock (1 Idrone Terrace) with his wife, two sons, and two daughters, where he kept up his Protestant and Unionist interests. His wife Amy died in 1933, and Fred himself finally died, at the age of 90, in Dublin in 1937.
The suggestion recorded by Jackson and Costello at the head of this piece is that Frederick Buckley is the Buckley behind the ‘Buckley shot the Russian General’ story in Finnegans Wake (338.03-55.07). The original of this story has not been found, and may well not – of course – be a ‘real’ story at all. Any of the features could have been built on a completely different archetype, or upon nothing at all.
What we can be sure of is that Fred Buckley of the Collector-General of Rates office could tell a good story and could shoot accurately. He cannot have fought in the Crimean War, but maybe he could have elaborated a Civil War story he heard in America. His brother Charles, as we have seen, spent three months with the New York State Militia.
The story in Finnegans Wake revolves around the Irish soldier Buckley, who holds back from shooting a Russian General ‘at stool’ during the Crimean War in deference to the general’s uniform, but then sees the general wiping himself clean with earth and, disgusted, fires to kill.
A story of the sort which might have been elaborated into this anecdote occurs in Volume 7 of The Rebellion Record, a documentary account of events in the American Civil War edited by Frank Moore (1864). Captain John K. Buckley, of C company, the First Maryland Cavalry, led a charge on a rebel position in 1863, took the hill, and then his troops were repulsed:
This isn’t the anecdote, but it shows how stories of this type were circulating in an environment where Fred Buckley may have been inclined to remember them and re-use them later.
See the other collectors: James Crofton: a tradition of public service
William Weatherup: what the newspapers said
Robert Henchy: a choice of two collectors
Edward Graham Cotter: another collector of rates?
1 Robert Buckley’s Metrical Translations was published by Longman in 1869, to mixed reviews.
2 Report to His Grace the Duke of Marlborough, K.G., Lord Lieutenant-General and General Governor of Ireland, of Commissioners of Inquiry into the collection of rates in the city of Dublin, with minutes of evidence (1878), p. 82 ff.