Wheelmen don’t eat quiche
U 10.651-3: Bang of the lastlap bell spurred the halfmile wheelmen to their sprint. J. A. Jackson, W. E. Wylie, A. Munro and H. T. Gahan, their stretched necks wagging, negotiated the curve by the College Library.
Don Gifford and Sam Slote both cite the results of the two heats of the Dublin University Bicycle Club’s half-mile bicycle handicap on Bloomsday as Joyce’s source for the names Jackson, Wylie, Munro, and Gahan. All four cyclists are indeed mentioned there:
But further down the results column of the Evening Telegraph it is clear that Joyce has ordered the cyclists after the result of the half-mile final (not the heats).
These were seasoned college cyclists. The same three won the same event in the same time in 1905 too:
In investigating the manuscript history of this passage, Ronan Crowley must be right in regarding Joyce’s listing (including Gahan) as a conflation of the results of the heats and the final, and even perhaps of other races at different distances in which these riders competed that day.3 But we should recognise that Joyce preserves the order in which the first three crossed the finishing line in the half-mile race.
Crowley tentatively (but correctly) provides the cyclists’ names, from the Dublin University Calendar for 1903-4:4
It is arguable that we do not need further biographical details of four cyclists whom Joyce apparently mentioned in passing in Ulysses. But firstly it does seem quite possible that some or all of them belonged to Joyce’s or, more likely, Gogarty’s, wide network of college acquaintances; and secondly, the Trinity “Bicycle Sports” events in which they competed were an important aspect of life in Dublin on the afternoon of Bloomsday, and any additional information we can glean about this can be said to enhance our appreciation of that afternoon. So are these competitors any more than simply student cyclists?
1) William Evelyn Wylie: energetic cyclist and senior judge
William Wylie is the most significant of these four wheelmen for Joyce, and not only because Gerty MacDowell fantasizes about marriage with his brother Reggie:
Wylie was known to Gogarty:
and his subsequent career as a leading judge brought him into public prominence, even before the publication of Ulysses in 1922.
William Wylie was born in 1881, the son of the Presbyterian clergyman Robert Beatty Wylie and his wife Marion. Though born in south Dublin, William was from an Ulster family, and at the time of the 1901 census was living with his parents and his sister Ida at No 3 Waterford Terrace, Coleraine.
William attended the Coleraine Academical Institution before enrolling in the Law School at Trinity College, where he was an outstanding student. Several months before his success in the Bloomsday bicycle race he was awarded the “Term Prize for Essay” by the Law School.6 He won prizes throughout his academic career.
As he went into the half-mile race at the “Bicycle Sports” on that afternoon on 16 June 1904 he must have had high hopes of winning. Just a week before, in the Dublin University Athletic Union “College Races”, he had triumphed in the opening bicycle event, the one-mile open handicap – helped by a favourable handicapper who gave him a considerable advantage at the start over the crack rider Gahan, riding off scratch (i.e. no advantage):
That day the competitors performed before a large crowd, led by the eccentric Endymion (James Henry Farrell),8 whom we encounter on several occasions a week later in Ulysses:
Did Endymion make an appearance at the Bicycle Sports on 16 June? It would presumably be expected of him, and his course during the action of Wandering Rocks certainly takes him on a journey which could have included the Sports that afternoon. On Bloomsday Wylie won his heat in the half-mile, beating Alexander Munro into second place, but he slipped to second place himself in the faster final. He had an exhausting afternoon. With a favourable handicap he made it home third in the two-mile race but was unplaced later in the one-mile. Again with a generous handicap he posted second to Gahan in the five-mile race.9
He raced again successfully for the University club in 1905, but his legal studies were his main preoccupation. Later that year he was called to the Bar at the King’s Inns in Dublin and took silk as King’s Counsel in 1914. In 1916 he found himself prosecutor for the British in the Easter Rising trials. The Dictionary of Irish Biography takes up the tale:
By the time that Ulysses was published in 1922 William Wylie was a high-profile judge, having been appointed Bencher in 1918 and Supreme Court Judge and Judicial Commissioner of the Irish Land Commission in 1920. For further detail about Wylie’s legal career, see Robert D. Marshall’s article in the Dictionary of Irish Biography, as well as his "Lieut. WE Wylie KC: the soldiering lawyer of 1916" (in Felix M. Larkin and Norma Dawson (ed.) Lawyers, the Law and History (Four Courts Press: 2013)). Marshall confirms what the census shows: that William did not, in real life, have a brother Reggy. Additional information on Wylie’s involvement with Irish politics around the time of the Rising may be found in León Ó Broin’s W.E. Wylie and the Irish Revolution 1916-1921 (Gill and Macmillan: 1989).
When Wylie died in Dublin aged 83 in 1964 the Irish Times rehearsed his distinguished sporting and judicial career, and added an extensive commentary on his involvement with the Royal Dublin Society:
Wylie’s mention in Ulysses serves as yet another notice that many of the so-called minor characters in the novel had histories or futures which made them out of the ordinary.
2) James Alfred Jackson: cyclist and barrister
It would be reasonable to assume that all four cyclists were thrown together entirely by chance in the result of the half-mile race on Bloomsday. But that would be incorrect, for James Alfred Jackson won the final by five lengths from his old schoolfriend William Wylie.
James Jackson was born in 1877/8 in County Antrim, the son of Thomas Stewart Jackson, a schoolteacher. In 1901 James lived with his widowed father and two older sisters at No 3 Farrenseer, Drumcroon, Londonderry and, like William Wylie, attended the Coleraine Academical Institution. He went up to Trinity College in Dublin to read Law in the same group as Oliver Gogarty’s brother Henry.
In 1903, the year before his Ulysses ride, he was excelling on his bicycle in the College Races:
Both he and Alexander Munro were unplaced in the five-mile handicap, which was won by Walter Gahan. In the following week, at the annual Dublin University Cycle and Harrier Club races, Jackson triumphed in the half-mile race, beating Walter Gahan into third place, came third in the five-mile race, and was unplaced in the one-mile.11
In the following year, he and William Wylie found themselves linked in the Hilary Term Law School results three months before they were linked in the Bloomsday cycle race:12
In the “College Races” of 1904, a week before the Trinity “Bicycle Sports”, James Jackson was squeezed into second place in the one-mile, behind his friend William Wylie.13 But in the “Bicycle Sports” a week later, referred to by Joyce, James Jackson won the half-mile handicap, came third in the one-mile open handicap, and was unplaced in the longer two-mile and five-mile races.14
Aficionados of cycling will be pleased to hear that James Jackson returned to the saddle again in 1905, triumphing over Wylie and Gahan in the five-mile handicap at the College Races,15 and the following week repeating his previous win in the half-mile competition in the “Bicycle Sports”, riding home victorious in the Interclub race, and taking second place in the two-mile and five-mile races.16 In 1906 he retained the one-mile crown and came second in the two-mile race.17 Looking back over his life in 1957 the Irish Independent noted that:
With his studies behind him, James Jackson progressed in the legal profession. In the 1911 Ireland census he described himself as a “Legal Clerk in the Land Commission”, and lived at No 7 Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. On 10 June 1913 the Irish Times announced that he had been called to the Bar:
He remained with the Irish Land Commission for many years after being called to the Bar, and he also acted, as the Irish Independent noted in his obituary:
James Alfred Jackson, barrister-at-law, died in hospital in Coleraine in October 1957, at the age of 79. He had known William Wylie since his childhood, and must have been amused to see his student victory over his old schoolmate recorded in the pages of Ulysses.
3) Alexander Robert Stewart Munro: cycling clergyman
Alexander Munro was probably the weakest of the four cyclists listed by Joyce, but on Bloomsday 1904 he held on to third place in the final of the half-mile handicap to hold off the strong challenge of Walter Gahan.
Munro was born on 30 October 1879, at Ballisadare, County Sligo and was educated at Primrose Grange School in Sligo and at Dundalk Academy.20 He taught Elementary English for a while in Dundalk before moving to Dublin to pursue his B.A. in Arts.
At Trinity he joined the University Cycle Club and competed unsuccessfully in the “College Races” in early June 1903, despite generous handicaps.21 The following week he competed in the annual Cycle and Harriers Club meet, but was listed as “also competed” in all events except the Novices’ One-Mile race. There were no handicaps in this race, and he came second, twenty yards behind the winner, and twenty yards, in turn, ahead of the third-placed man.22
But in the following year, 1904, Alexander Munro was better trained, more confident, or both. In the “College Races” he came third to Wylie and Jackson in the one-mile open,23 and in the following week he took third place in the half-mile final behind the lawyers Wylie and Jackson (thereby earning a place in Ulysses), and was otherwise unplaced.24
Munro’s cycling at Trinity continued throughout his university career. In 1905 he repeated his third place behind Wylie and Jackson in the half-mile at the “Bicycle Sports”, but without further success that day. In the same event the following year he and Jackson “fell” in the final lap of the half-mile, perhaps colliding. Munro’s only place was third in the two-mile handicap.25
With the 1906 cycling season over, Alexander Munro concentrated on other things. He took his B.A. in Arts on 18 April 1907,26 and on 21 June married Edith Kildahl, from another Church of Ireland family, and daughter of the late Robert Kildahl, formerly manager of the Cornmarket branch of the Royal Bank in Dublin.27 By now Alexander had been appointed to the church of Layde in County Antrim, where he stayed until 1909, moving to Conwal, Co. Donegal (1909-12), and Glencolumbskille in Donegal till 1918. In 1911 he is living with his wife Edith, two sons and a daughter at No 12 Church Hill, Donegal. He finally removed to Inver, also in Donegal, where he remained for many years as priest from 1918 until his death on 13 July 1959.
4) Walter Henry Townsend Gahan: the sporting parson
Walter Henry Townsend Gahan was probably the best sportsman of the four of them. He came from Magherabeg in County Donegal, where he was born on 3 January 1881, the youngest son of Civil Engineer Frederick Gahan and his wife Katherine Townsend. At the time of the 1901 census Frederick, Katherine, and their son Walter were living at No 199 Kenilworth Square, Rathmines, in south Dublin, and Walter was a student in the School of Divinity at Trinity College.
He was cycling for the College by 1902 where, in the one-mile handicap at the College Sports of 1902, he “came out on the straight and won by three lengths”, and then finished second in the three-mile race.28 Gahan was also a strong tennis-player, competing unsuccessfully in the Grosvenor Club tournament in late June 1902 and in numerous other tournaments over the years. The acme of his tennis career seems to have occurred in July 1908, when he lost to Jack Miley in the first round of the Men’s Single of the Irish Championships.29
Gahan’s student cycling and tennis success continued through 1903.30 On Bloomsday 1904 he had considerable success, and not even the handicapping system could neutralize his natural talents. He was unplaced in the all-important half-mile handicap, having come second to James Jackson in his heat; but he raced a furious last lap in the five-mile handicap, winning easily, and then did the same in the two-mile, with William Wylie coming third, following this with victory in the one-mile race by ten lengths.31 For Joyce he was probably no more than a name, as he omits Gahan’s first initial, referring to him as “H. T. Gahan”.
In July 1906, having completed his studies, the Reverend Walter Gahan of Tyrrell’s Pass, Westmeath married Florence Rose Gresson.32 He was curate of Clonfadforan in County Westmeath from 1905 until 1908, when he removed to Castle Ennis (1908-9) and then to St John’s, Kilkenny (1909-12). For many years he was Rector of Gorey in County Wexford (1912-25), before sailing with his wife to carry out the Church’s work in Natal as Vicar of Tugela Rivers (1925-9) and of Isipingo.33 His final posting was as Vicar of Pinetown, Kwazulu-Natal (1944-57). He died on 5 June 1963, just three months after his wife. Both are buried there in the St John’s Anglican Cemetery.34
Evening Telegraph (1904), 16 June 3/9 [combined meeting of
Dublin University Bicycle and Harrier Clubs]. The Freeman’s Journal of the following day adds the result of the
five-mile handicap, won at a romp by Gahan.
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