The man behind Mr Bartell d’Arcy

Around 1889, when the Blooms lived in Pleasants Street, Molly sang with ‘the tenor coming up just then’,1 Mr Bartell d’Arcy. She remembers him kissing her in exuberant enthusiasm on the choir stairs after she sang Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ in St. Francis Xavier's church in Upper Gardiner Street (U 16.1717). With her singer’s expertise she notes his ‘tinny voice’ and criticizes his (unintentionally?) risqué syllabification of ‘sweetheart’ as ‘sweettart’ in the song ‘Goodbye sweetheart, goodbye’. He also gave her a song, ‘Winds that blow from the south’,2 as her husband recalls, and according to Lenehan he sang in the presence of the Lord Mayor and other notables at a dinner at St. Kevin’s Reformatory with Benjamin Dollard and Molly Bloom.

Most readers of Ulysses will be familiar with Mr d’Arcy from ‘The Dead’, where the unfortunately hoarse but rather arrogant tenor is the revered guest at the Misses Morkan’s annual Christmas dinner at 15 Ushers Island. The Flynn sisters, including Ellen Callanan, and Mrs Callanan's daughter, Mary Ellen, a gifted pianist and organist, ran a successful Musical Academy there under their maiden name Flynn. They were the great aunts of Joyce’s mother. The Misses Flynn had performed regularly in concerts in Dublin since the early 1860s (at that time without Mary Ellen), and their Annual Concerts in the 80s usually enjoyed full houses and complimentary reviews. In this context it seems worth mentioning that the Misses Flynn and Miss Callanan had moved to 41 Aughrim Street at the time of the action of ‘The Dead’. An odd coincidence, to say the least, considering that Mr d’Arcy sings ‘The Lass of Aughrim’.

Although several critics like Don Gifford, John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello3 have been sceptical, Richard Ellmann’s suggestion that Barton M’Guckin was the model for Bartell d’Arcy has almost become gospel.4 But the leading tenor of the Carl Rosa Opera Company between 1878 and 1887 was clearly in a league above a gifted Dublin amateur. Apart from that, M’Guckin is mentioned by name in the ‘Sirens’ episode5 and, as the context suggests, his name is thrown in by Bloom, who couldn’t creditably have the real M’Guckin and Bartell d’Arcy in the same drawer.

The singer on whom Bartell d’Arcy was in fact modelled was ‘an eminent tenor’6 in Dublin’s flourishing amateur musical scene between 1871 and 1893, and it is surprising that he has been so utterly forgotten in his home city for more than a century.

Our man is easily identified once we look carefully, for example, at the list of singers in the Freeman’s Journal’s announcement of the Misses Flynn’s Annual Concert in the Antient Concert Rooms, Brunswick Street, for 17 May 1886. Unless the presence of Mr J. S. Joyce on the list of artistes distracts us, we are bound to notice with a feeling of déjà lu one Mr Bartle M‘Carthy.7

Bartholomew M‘Carthy was the leading tenor of the Pro-Cathedral choir at Marlborough Street. In early concert notes he is still listed as Bartholomew, but after 1879 he becomes Mr Bartle M‘Carthy.8 He was born in Liverpool in July 1840, the son of Bartholomew McCarthy, an ironmonger of 17 Portland Street, and his wife Mary (née Barry). A hatter by profession, who lived at 5 Thornville Avenue, Crumlin, he married Jane Francis Molloy, a teacher, of 45 Greenville Terrace on 4 August 1886. When their second son, Bartholomew, was born in September 1888 the family had moved to Dolphin Lodge, off Dolphin's Barn.

For close to twenty years Bartle M‘Carthy was almost a fixture at concerts involving the Misses Flynn. He sang with John Joyce on at least three occasions (19 November, 1883; 24 November, 1884 and 17 May 1886), with May Joyce at least once on 21 October 1884 at the funeral of E. M. Sullivan and, as stated in Ulysses, also with Mr (Christopher) Dollard, bass. Other minor characters of Ulysses whom he joined on the platform were Mr Glynn, the organist and conductor, Madame Marie Tallon (alias Mrs M‘Coy), Miss Dubedat and Walter Bapty. The Freeman's Journal of 2 November 1887 indicates that there were probably other connections as well:

The National Club. Inaugural Dinner [...] in the drawingroom of the club premises, Rutland square [...] Bartle M’Carthy, [...] F. Gallagher, Midland Tribune, [...] John Menton, solicitor.

There can be little doubt that this gathering included the real life alter egos of Bartell d'Arcy, Ignatius Gallaher and John Henry Menton.

By 1889 Bartell was seeking to expand his career outside Dublin. In October he was performing in George Cockle's The Castle of Como at the Opera Comique in London. The Dublin Sport reported on the performance:

The work is not a very great success, and the chief interest it has for Dubliners lies in the fact that the part of Colonel Damas (one of the characters) is sustained by Mr. Bartle M'Carthy, a gentleman who was for a great number of years one of the leading vocalists of the city. Possessed of an extremely tuneful tenor voice and refined style, he was an established favourite here in the concert halls. He makes his debut in the "Castle of Como", and his career on the operatic stage will be eagerly watched by his fellow-citizens.

Sport (1889) 12 October

The deplorably abortive high point of his career was a trip to America in January 1890 with the D’Oyly Carte Company: M‘Carthy was cast as Francesco, Venetian Gondolier, when D’Oyly Carte premiered Gilbert & Sullivan’s new opera The Gondoliers in the Park Theatre in New York on 7 January, 1890. The production was a complete disaster, ‘and when it was remounted at Palmer's Theatre in February, McCarthy had been relegated to the chorus where he remained for the balance of the run’.9 On his return the public was informed that he had resumed his former position as principal tenor in the Pro-Cathedral,10 and he gave a concert on 16 June. On 31 January 1893 he became an honorary member of the City of Dublin Working Men’s Club, and on 20 July the Irish Times announced:

Mr. Bartle M‘Carthy. This well-known Irish artiste has arranged to sing at the Irish Village at the World’s Fair in Chicago, the engagement lasting during the months of August and September. Mr M‘Carthy will sail for the United States within a few days.

A 'Testimonial' by friends, among them Mr Glynn, in the Irish Times of 29 June 1893 inviting subscriptions reveals the true reason for this journey. Due to the decline of the Irish hat manufacturing industry he felt forced to emigrate to America and accept a position in his trade there that required "leaving Ireland almost immediately". Various references to his singing in the Irish Village in Chicago in August and September show that he indeed managed to do so.

But, as the English Census for 1901 shows, the M‘Carthys returned to Europe after little more than two years. In 1901 the family lives at 2 Edward Street, Denton, Lancashire, a centre of the English hat manufacturing industry. In 1911 the family of eight children resided at Hooley Hill, Lancashire. M‘Carthy died on 6 March 1926 at 44 Kenyon Street at Ashton-under-Lyne at the age of 85. There is no evidence as yet that he pursued his singing career after 1893.

Among the songs and arias he sang in public relevant to Ulysses were Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’, ‘M’appari’ from Flotow’s Martha, ‘Love and War’ and, perhaps too predictably, as one commentator insinuates, the song Molly remembers him for:

Mr Bartle M‘Carthy sang 'Good bye, sweetheart', a song which he is never tired of singing, and which, to judge by the applause which his efforts evoke, his audience are never tired of hearing from him.11

Harald Beck


1 Ulysses, 8.181.

2 Bloom's remark is misleading. The song's title is "Whisper, and I shall hear", words by G. Hubi Newcombe, composer Henry Pontet Picolomini.

3 Don Gifford, Ulysses Annotated. John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley, James Joyce's 'Dubliners': An Illustrated Edition. Peter Costello, James Joyce: The Years of Growth.

4 There is no evidence that the Post Office candidate Ellmann suggests in the second edition of his biography ever sang in public.

5 'Most beautiful tenor air ever written, Richie said: Sonnambula. He heard Joe Maas sing that one night. Ah, what M‘Guckin! Yes. In his way. choirboy style. Maas was the boy.' (U 11.610-12).

6 Freeman's Journal, Tuesday, 26 December 1882.

7 It is not hard to imagine John Stanislaus Joyce's disgruntlement at reading the next day of 'Mr Bartle M‘Carthy, an established favourite with concert-goers' and 'brilliantly executed pianoforte solos by Miss Callanan', but not a word about himself.

8 If a budding young soprano named Susan d'Arcy from the Royal Irish Academy of Music who sang a duet with Mr M‘ Carthy at a Grand Evening Promenade Concert in 1878, and was praised as a 'promising young vocalist' inspired Joyce's pseudonym is anyone's guess.


10 Freeman’s Journal, Monday, 16 June 1890, "Mr. Bartle M‘Carthy's Concert".

11 Freeman's Journal, Monday, 22 March 1886, "Coffee Palace Popular Concert".

First published September 2011; additions August 2012. Correct date of birth provided by Clare Collins from the Liverpool birth certificate added December 2014.

More background detail on Bartell d'Arcy

Search by keyword (within this site): America Emigration Opera World's Fair Music Real name Tenor

The author is grateful to Gay Oliver of Tameside History Forum, who helped to find living relatives of Bartle M‘Carthy.

The singer's great granddaughter, Mrs Clare Collins, generously provided helpful information and these photographs of her great-grandfather.

The photographer, Sargeant Searle (1854-1910), is not recorded in Market Place, Hyde before 1901, but Bartle M'Carthy does not look like a man of sixty here. Carte-de-visite photocards were sometimes made from older photos. The original photograph may have been taken for his engagements in America, if not earlier.