Flynns: the next generation

Patrick Flynn of Thomas Street had at least thirteen children, and it is possible to assemble a certain amount of information on most of them. The chart below shows an outline of the information currently collected, but also shows where there are gaps in our knowledge where further work is needed.

Mary Flynn

The oldest of Patrick Flynn’s daughters was Mary Flynn, baptised at the nearby parish church of St Audoen on 6 August 1815.

On 18 November 1838 Mary married William Donohoe (also O’Donohoe) at St Catherine’s church, on Meath Street near Thomas Street. The O’Donohoe family is important for Dubliners because the elder daughter Maria, as is widely recognised, was a model for Maria, “the lonely spinster in ‘Clay’ who always sees everything as ‘nice’”.1 Peter Costello has more to say about Mary’s husband William O’Donohoe:2

[Joyce’s maternal grandfather, John Murray’s] second wife was Christina Margaret O’Neill, born Margaret Christina O’Donohoe, […] the younger sister of Maria O’Donohoe – the spinster Aunt Maria of ‘Clay’. Their father was William O’Donohoe, a hotel owner. His profession and manner of death may have suggested Virag Bloom’s ownership of the Queen’s Hotel and his peculiar suicide, remembered by his son Leopold in Ulysses.

I have not found evidence of O’Donohoe’s apparent suicide, but this is probably simply an oversight on my part. That he was a hotel-keeper is well-documented in the years around his marriage, but it does not seem to have been a profession to which he was particularly suited.

Days before William O’Donohoe’s marriage to Mary Flynn in November 1838, the newspapers carry adverts for his new “hotel and tavern”. His manager, William Hughes, introduces himself to the public:

Wm. Donohoe’s Commercial Hotel and Tavern, 45, Lower Bridge-street.

William Hughes (late Waiter at Home’s Hotel, Usher’s-quay), respectfully inform [sic] his Friends and the Public that he has commenced the Tavern Business in the above Concern, and hopes, from giving good entertainment, combined with attention and moderate charges, to merit a share of Public patronage. Nov. 7, 1838.

Freeman’s Journal (1838) 7 November

In 1838 and 1839 William O’Donohoe signs his name to pledges for the “O’Connell tribute”, as a parishioner of St Audoen.3 But by January 1840, he is an “insolvent debtor” and the hotel business has collapsed:

Insolvent Debtors. Petitions to be heard at No. 3, Lower Ormond-quay [...] W. Donohoe, Lower Bridge-street, tavern keeper.

Freeman’s Journal (1840) 4 January

The remarkable story is related in the Freeman’s Journal:4

[The prosecution counsel] stated that the opposing creditors had established the insolvent in a hotel in Bridge-street, which they furnished for him, as he had been previously for a long time in their employment. The return that he made for all their kindness was, that all the property and furniture which they had advanced to him was sold under an execution at the suit of the trustees of his marriage settlement.

The details of his marriage settlement with Joyce’s great aunt Mary Flynn are not discussed in the newspaper, though “a Mr Flynn” became a trustee when another trustee declined to act. O’Donohoe had been arrested under a Court of Conscience warrant, but the terms of his confinement expired, and “he was virtually at large at that moment if he wished to avail himself of it”.

In March, 1838, the insolvent took the house, No. 45, Lower Bridge-street, at a rent of 50l. a-year, without a fine, though the witness’s [William M’Cormack] father had previously paid 600l. fine and 80l. a-year for it; witness interfered with his father, who had a large quantity of furniture lying by, and prevailed on him to give some of it to the insolvent at a low valuation; and he also lent the insolvent 40l., for the purpose of getting the house painted, and placed in order; in return the insolvent never paid him more than 10l. in cash, and all his property and furniture was sold by his wife’s trustees.

Cross-examined by Mr. Creighton – The insolvent offered him 7s. 6d. in the pound, but his father would not allow him to accept it, as he felt he had been unjustly deprived of his furniture.

O’Donohoe’s original petition is dismissed and we assume he was not in a position to return to hotel management. He is not the O’Donohoe who runs the O’Donohoe Tavern at 76, Middle Abbey-Street from 1851 onwards.

In November 1840 he appears, with this wife Mary (Flynn) and perhaps a sister, on the list of relatives and acquaintances who paid their subscription to the Loyal National Repeal Association through Patrick Flynn of Thomas Street – his brother-in-law:

Loyal National Repeal Association [...] Per Mr. Patrick Flynn, 79, Thomas-street, the following twenty Repealers’ subscriptions: - Patrick Flynn, Mary Flynn, James J. Flynn, Patrick Flynn, jun.; Kate Flynn, Julia Flynn, Margaret Jane Flynn, Eleanor Lucinda Flynn, William O’Donohoe, Mary O’Donohoe, Margaret O’Donohoe, [etc.].

Freeman’s Journal (1840) 31 October

Around 1841 his daughter Maria (of “Clay”) is born, and some five years later William and Mary have another daughter, Christine Margaret (whose second husband was, curiously, Joyce’s widowed maternal grandfather John Murray). Beyond that, there are several possible sightings of William O’Donohoe in the Dublin records in the following decades, but nothing that can be stated categorically to be him. We do not currently know when Mary O’Donohoe née Flynn died.

Peter Costello describes their daughter Maria’s end:5

This year [1899] the Joyces may have been among the party who celebrated the evening in John Murray’s home in nearby Drumcondra. Among the other guests was little Maria O’Donohoe, who in June had been diagnosed as having an inoperable internal tumour. On 8th December 1899 she had died in the hospice at Harold’s Cross, where she had gone from the Flynn’s home at 15 Usher’s Island.

The Freeman’s Journal carries her death notice, with a last reference back to her father:

O’Donohoe – December 8, 1899, at the Hospice for the Dying, Harold’s Cross, Maria, last surviving daughter of the late Wm O’Donohoe, of this city, deeply regretted. RIP. Funeral from the Hospice at 9.30 this (Monday) morning for Glasnevin.

Freeman’s Journal (1899) 11 December

Bridget, Catherine, Judith, and Lucy Flynn

These five children of Patrick Flynn of Thomas Street and his wife Mary Fitzsimons were all born in the early to mid 1820s. We have already met Bridget and (presumably) Catherine in the court case described above, when they were tricked into giving warm clothes to a young Dublin acquaintance. Catherine is the “Kate” of Patrick Flynn’s Repeal subscribers in 1840, though the absence of Bridget and Judith from the list suggests they may not have survived; Lucy does not seem to be mentioned elsewhere, unless she is the Eleanor Lucinda Flynn of the 1840 subscribers. James Joseph is also listed in the Repeal Association notice:

Loyal National Repeal Association [...] Per Mr. Patrick Flynn, 79, Thomas-street, the following twenty Repealers’ subscriptions: - Patrick Flynn, Mary Flynn, James J. Flynn, Patrick Flynn, jun.; Kate Flynn, Julia Flynn, Margaret Jane Flynn, Eleanor Lucinda Flynn, [etc.].

Freeman’s Journal (1840) 31 October

None of the three girls seem to participate in the musical interludes involving the “Misses Flynn” from the mid 1850s onwards.

James Joseph Flynn

James Joseph Flynn is also listed as a subscriber to the precursor to the Loyal National Repeal Association, called the Precursor Society:

Precursor Society [...] The following list of members, with the subscriptions of 1s. each from Catherine’s parish: - [...] Patrick Flynn, James Joseph Flynn, Pat Flynn, jun.

Freeman’s Journal (1838) 24 September

By the late 1840s he is living in Great Britain Street (now Parnell Street), again attached to the nationalist cause:

The State Prisoners – Additional Signatures to the Memorial [...] Additional Signatures [...] James Flynn, Great Britain street.

1849 Freeman’s Journal (1849) 31 May

and Thom’s Directory for 1849 (p. 504) places him at No 211 Great Britain Street, as a starch and blue manufacturer.

Sadly this is one of the final references to him in the sources, as he died towards the end of 1852, at the age of 26:

At his residence, Great Britain street, aged 26 years, James Joseph Flynn, eldest son of Mr. Patrick Flynn, Thomas-street. Esteemed through life for his social and amiable qualities, his early demise is deeply lamented by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Freeman’s Journal (1852) 2 November

Apart from his first name and the fact that he lived in Great Britain Street, there is nothing beyond his relationship with the Misses Flynn to link James Joseph with the “Rev. James Flynn”, brother of the Eliza and Nannie Flynn (see below), whose fictional death is recorded in 1895 in Joyce’s Dubliners story “The Sisters”.

John Simpson


1 John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello John Stanislaus Joyce (1997; 1998 reprint) ch. 14 p. 157.

2 Peter Costello James Joyce: the years of growth 1882-1915 (1992; 1994 reprint) Pt. I ch. 1 p. 31.

3 Freeman’s Journal (1838) 26 November; Freeman’s Journal (1839) 6 December.

4 Freeman’s Journal (1840) 27 January.

5 Peter Costello James Joyce: the years of growth 1882-1915 (1992; 1994 reprint) Pt. 4 ch. 10 p. 163.

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