Then here’s a health to Mulligan’s aunt

U 1.43: Will you come if I can get the aunt to fork out twenty quid?

U 1.88-9: − The aunt thinks you killed your mother, he said. That’s why she won’t let me have anything to do with you.

U 1.139-40: The aunt always keeps plainlooking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation.

There can be little doubt even among the ranks of the biographical fallacy police that Mulligan’s family in Ulysses, with mother, two sons (Malachi and his brother), plus the mysterious aunt largely mirrors the Gogarty household at the time: Mother Margaret Gogarty (née Oliver), Oliver St. John and Henry (Harry) Hamil Gogarty.1

Gogarty’s aunt has not been clearly identified so far, but it is possible to do so.

Both of Oliver Gogarty’s parents had sisters, but Henry Gogarty’s sister Eliza married James Billane (a sub-constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary) in 1867 and immediately emigrated (on the SS City of Dublin) to New York - where they had a daughter, Maria – and so cannot be the relevant aunt.

Margaret Oliver of Galway, who married Dr Henry Gogarty on 14 January 1875, however, had four sisters: Sarah, Julia, Ann(ie), and Delia. Two of them (Sarah and Delia) joined religious orders permanently. In fact the family was publicly acclaimed to be pious:

Profession at the Dominican Convent, Taylor's-hill, Galway. 'Miss Delia Oliver is the fifth daughter of Mr. Oliver, and is the third young lady of that pious family who has entered a religious life - one being a Sister of Charity and the other being a nun of the Presentation order.' [Reprinted from Vindicator]

Freeman’s Journal (1864), 26 April

Julia married John Charles Macniffe, a solicitor from Enniskillen, in January 1877 and petitioned for divorce in 1888 on the grounds of repeated adultery, and drink.

It is, however, the other sister, Annie, who we can recognise as Mulligan’s aunt. After John Oliver’s death in 1885 she became administratrix of her father’s will, and it seems as if Macniffe may have expected that some of the money under the will was due to him. So even before the divorce proceedings Macniffe started libel and slander actions against Dr Henry Gogarty and his wife, who would have been outraged about the whole scandalous affair. Annie Oliver was also involved in a number of law suits over property in Galway.

Born in Galway on 4 October 1849 to John Oliver and Bedilia (also known as Bridget) Owens, she must have moved to Dublin around 1888. The Freeman's Journal of 24 October 1888 reports under the headline "At Home At The Mansion House" the presence of Dr Gogarty, Mrs. Gogarty and Miss Oliver among the guests.

It was his sister-in-law Annie who was the informant when Dr Henry Gogarty died prematurely from “congestion of the liver” on 7 March 1891, and her address is given as 5 Rutland Square.2 Mrs Gogarty’s sister was obviously very much present in the household and shared the responsibilities of bringing up the three boys (Oliver, Henry, and Richard) and their sister (Mary Florence). If she did indeed choose servants, she must have virtually run the household of her sister.

Mrs Margaret Gogarty with sons Oliver and Henry (Harry)

The papers show that Mrs Gogarty and Miss Oliver participated together in charitable work at various bazaars over the years. Gogarty also mentions her snobbery:

But when a fellow has an aunt who knows all about the Royal Family and half the Almanac de Gotha by heart. And, when we have turkey, goose or gunnard for dinner calls the stuffing 'the concealment', what is a fellow to do?

Oliver St. John Gogarty, Tumbling in the Hay (1939), p. 116

In his autobiography It Isn’t this Time of Year At All of 1954 (p. 47) he mentions that his cycling pursuits were frowned upon by the aunt:

'God has blessed you with a robust body. Youth must find an outlet for its energy. If you can spare the time from your studies, you might join the Ward Union Hunt.'

In the 1901 census we find Annie Oliver at a boarding house for females at 10 Gardiner Street. But as her sister suffered from chronic bronchitis and emphysema during the last three years of her life Annie may well have stayed with her in the house at Rutland Square again later and have looked after her. Gogarty’s mother eventually died on 29 December 1906, aged 54, just a few months after her son had married Martha Duane of Moyard, Connemara on 1 August.

Her nephew would not have had much use for the dreaded aunt any longer and she seems to have moved to 38 Rathmines Road, where she stayed with Mr and Mrs William Joseph Howard. Mary Anne Howard was born in Galway and was probably a close relative, as her husband, a bank agent, was granted probate for both Margaret's and Annie's wills. Annie Henry Oliver, Catholic, spinster, died of heart failure on 21 April 1909 at the Private Hospital, 58 Stephen’s Green at the age of 59. The informant was Neenie Gogarty of 15 Ely Place, Gogarty’s wife Martha. The burial took place at Glasnevin two days later.3

Harald Beck

See also: The afflicted mother - two letters, by Terence Killeen

The editors are very grateful to Guy St. John Williams for contributing this hitherto-unpublished picture of his great-grandmother and her older sons.


1 Gogarty’s youngest brother Richard and his sister Mayflo are not mentioned in Ulysses.

2 Special thanks are due to Guy St. John Williams, Oliver St. John Gogarty’s grandson, for generously allowing me to read the typescript of his unpublished book The Real Buck Mulligan. I owe the information about Annie Oliver being the informant of her brother-in-law’s death to his research.

3 I’m grateful to Vivien Igoe and Conor Dodd (Glasnevin Cemetery) for this information.

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