Pat Claffey and the Dublin convents

U 8.153-4: Molly tasting it, her veil up. Sister? Pat Claffey, the pawnbroker’s daughter. It was a nun they say invented barbed wire.

Don Gifford posits a Claffey daughter, perhaps Patricia, and Bloom thought she was a nun:

 Pat Claffey, the pawnbroker’s daughter - Patricia (?), the daughter of Mrs. M. Claffey, pawnbroker, 65-66 Amiens Street, became a nun (at least so Bloom thinks).

Sam Slote, however, reads the syntax correctly and sees that Joyce refers to the daughter of “Pat[rick] Claffey, the pawnbroker”:

Pat Claffey, the pawnbroker’s daughter Pat Claffey had been a pawnbroker at 65 Amiens Street, with a residence at St Mary’s, Merrion Avenue, in Blackrock (Thom’s 1880, pp. 1338, 1618). The 1904 Thom’s lists a Mrs M. Claffey (presumably his widow) as a pawnbroker at 65–66 Amiens Street (p. 1412). There is no record in the 1901 census of a daughter.

It is possible to untangle this. Patrick Claffey was a successful businessman operating as a pawnbroker in Dublin in the mid to late nineteenth century. He was married to Margaret Grehan, and the couple lived first at 30 Nicholas Street in central Dublin, in Donnybrook, and then out at St Mary’s, Blackrock, on the coast south of Dublin on the way to Dalkey. Patrick’s offices were at 30 Nicholas Street and also at 65 Amiens Street.

They had a number of children, including three who became Dominican nuns: Lizzie (from 1883 in religion Sister Mary Bonaventura),1 Margaret (from 1886 Sister Mary Hyacinth),2 and Annie (from about 1888 Sister Mary Patricia). All three girls received their initial training in Bavaria (in the case of Annie, and probably of the others too, at Loretto Abbey, Burghausen, Upper Bavaria) before returning to Dublin.

In terms of Bloom’s acquaintance, we should probably not identify the pawnbroker’s daughter as Annie Claffey, who sadly died of influenza in Bavaria in 1890, at the age of twenty-one.3

Lizzie (b. c1860) entered the Dominican Convent of Mount Sion at Blackrock in 1883, and is still listed there in the Ireland census of 1901:

Elizabeth Claffey, member of com[muni]ty, Roman Catholic, can read and write, 40, F[emale], Member of Religious Community (Teacher), Not married, [place of birth] Dublin

Margaret (b. 14 December 1862) entered the same convent in 1886, but by the time of the 1901 (and 1911) census she has moved closer to Bloom, at the Dominican Convent at 18 Eccles Street:

 Margaret Claffey, Religious, Roman Catholic, Read & Write, 38, F[emale], Nun, not married, [place of birth] Dublin, [speaks] Irish & English

Margaret is therefore more likely to be the daughter of Patrick Claffey whose path had crossed with Bloom.

Patrick Claffey himself died in December 1896 and was accorded a magnificent funeral:

 […] the cortege following the hearse and mourning coaches comprised more than 60 carriages, containing sorrowing friends of the deceased gentlemen. Many others joined the mourners at the cemetery.4

The Freeman’s Journal printed a long and distinguished list of mourners, including Mrs Claffey, Sister Bonaventura Claffey, and Sister Hyacinth Claffey. Mrs Margaret Claffey remained in business as a pawnbroker in Dublin for several years after her husband’s death (see the 1901 Ireland census).


John Simpson

Marc A. Mamigonian provides the following further information and illustration (30 May 2013) from a similar unpublished note on Pat Claffey:

It is likely that Joyce knew or at least knew about one or other of the Claffey daughters who were nuns through his sister Margaret Alice Joyce, aka “Poppie”, later Sister Mary Gertrude. Margaret Alice was born in 1884, and she “went to school at St Catherine’s Dominican Convent at Sion Hill (after the family moved to Blackrock in 1890) and later at the Dominican School at 18-19 Eccles Street”.5

Freeman’s Journal (1893), 15 August p. 1


1 Freeman’s Journal (1883), 11 June.

2 Freeman’s Journal (1886), 16 April.

3 Freeman’s Journal (1890), 25 March.

4 Freeman’s Journal (1896), 28 December.

5 Margaret Alice Joyce (James Joyce Centre Dublin)

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