Francis Irwin, TCD, in the fusty world of Garrett Deasy
U 16.157-9: — There’ll be a job tomorrow or next day, Stephen told him, in a boys’ school at Dalkey for a gentleman usher. Mr Garrett Deasy. Try it. You may mention my name.
Vivien Igoe’s Real People of Joyce’s Ulysses (2016) offers a very useful summary of what we know about Irwin, reminding us that although he attended Trinity College, Dublin, "there is no record of his graduation" and (from the Irish census) that he lived with his old, widowed sister Anna (also Anne) Jane Knox Gore, at 4 Derrynane Terrace, in Dalkey (p. 78).
Irwin contributed much to the character of schoolmaster Garrett Deasy, but not everything. Another significant influence was Henry Blackwood Price, who persuaded Joyce in 1912 to promote a cure for foot-and-mouth disease to the newspapers (the request Garrett Deasy makes of Stephen Dedalus). But this article looks specifically at the establishment and ethos of Clifton School, Dalkey, and at the life of Francis Irwin, as far as it can be determined from available surviving records, and corrects some of the misapprehensions apparent in current accounts of the school and of Irwin’s life, as well as investigating how Joyce might fit into this story.3
The early life of Francis Irwin
Francis Irwin (also Irvine) was born around 1860 in County Fermanagh or, according to some accounts, in Clogher, County Tyrone, now Northern Ireland, the son of Andrew Irvine, a "gentleman" and member of the Royal Irish Constabulary.4 His sister Anna Jane was born several years earlier, around 1852, in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh.
Little is known about Irwin’s early life. He was presumably present at the marriage of his sister Anna Jane (spinster, aged 25) on 22 August 1876 at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire), County Dublin to George Edward Knox Gore. Gore was then a bachelor and Captain in the Royal Navy, aged 55, and the son of James Knox Gore, former MP for New Ross, County Wexford. The couple lived at the Knox Gore home of Gore Lodge, Glenegeary, Kingstown, County Dublin, near to Dalkey and KIlliney.
We catch up with Irwin again a few years later in the 1881 England census, unmarried and aged 21, lodging with fellow schoolmaster George Tyler of Oxford at 43 Grove Road, Upper Holloway, Islington in London.5 It is most likely that both taught at nearby Tollington Park School, Islington – which had strong Irish connections, taking many students over the years as trainee teachers. Tyler’s sister married a Dubliner and he later became Assistant Head at Tollington Park School.
After what we might assume to be a year’s residence in London as a trainee teacher, Irwin returned to Dublin to enrol in January 1882 (still aged 21) as a student at Trinity College. As a "pensioner" he did not receive a grant (unlike a sizar or a scholar), but relied on his own funding, probably living in digs around the city. The entrance register for the College gives his religion as "I[rish] C[hurch]" and his previous education as "I. C. Training" [perhaps "Intermediate Certificate Training", or teacher-training]. His tutor is recorded as the mathematician "Mr Cathcart".6
Irwin’s career at Trinity College was not distinguished. Unlike other students in his year, he is not listed as taking examinations in his first term (Hilary, 1882), though he is listed as under the supervision of George Cathcart. In the summer term he scored four out of ten for his viva voce Euclid exam (but 2 in the following Christmas-term exam), only one in the Trigonometry paper (0.5 at Christmas) and a creditable six in Algebra (4), four in Classics (2 and 3), four in his Greek viva (2) and three (3) in the Latin viva, with four each (6, 2) in his English and Latin Catechism. With marks tumbling in the Christmas-term exams, and with no evidence from the records that he ever attended lectures, his time at Trinity was limited. He did return, as a Senior Freshman, in 1883, but a brief note in the register reads "Off June 83", at which point his active association with the College appears to have ended.7 The next record of Francis Irwin occurs around the time of the 1901 Ireland census. But before then, we should investigate the establishment of the Clifton School, of which he was in due course to become headmaster.
The establishment of Clifton School
Clifton House, the original location of Clifton School, approached from Coliemore Road, Dalkey, running north/south towards the right of the map (Ordnance Survey Ireland (revised 1908). (Reproduced from a map in Trinity College Library, Dublin, with the permission of the Board of Trinity College.)
"T. P. W." were the initials of Thomas Preston Walsh, the founder headmaster of Clifton School in Dalkey, though at the time living and offering tuition in nearby Killiney. The new school apparently had impressive credentials, teaching ambitious subjects for a wide range of examinations. Walsh was eager to market the solidity and competence of his teaching staff, led by himself, an "Oxford Honorman".
Walsh, born in 1857 and the son of Thomas Prendergast Walsh, had graduated from the University of Oxford with a second-class degree in Indian Languages in 1892 (he was "Non-Collegiate", or not affiliated to a particular college). His father was a soldier (Bombay Grenadiers) and servant of the East India Company, and son Thomas had been born at sea in the Indian Ocean, a fact he highlighted in his 1901 census entry by remarking "Wasn’t born in any Country", after which a tired census official had confirmed "All Right". Young Thomas Walsh had apparently entered military service in India, serving as a Lieutenant and contemplating commanding a company or joining the Staff Corps, before transferring to university.8
The drive leading to Clifton House, 64 Coliemore Road, Dalkey
Clifton school moves from Coliemore Road to Summerfield Lodge in Dalkey Avenue
Once Clifton School was established, Thomas Preston Walsh grasped the opportunity to expand into new premises. Accommodation became available at Summerfield House, 63 Dalkey Avenue, Dalkey, an imposing residence just uphill from the centre of Dalkey, which had once been the home of the poet Denis Florence McCarthy. When it had been previously advertised for lease in 1881, the Dublin Weekly Nation carried a detailed advertisement describing the house, side residence, and grounds, which can usefully be read with the later school in mind (the full text of the advertisement may be found as an Appendix to this article). According to Thom’s Directory of 1896, Walsh leased both Summerfield House and the associated Summerfield Lodge, bringing the name of the school with him from Coliemore Road.
The location of Summerfield Lodge within the grounds of Summerfield House is uncertain: the house is sometimes just called "Summerfield". The Lodge is not marked as a separate structure on contemporaneous maps, and so may well have been a sub-division of the main house. The distinction between Summerfield House and Summerfield Lodge predates Walsh’s arrival, as Thom’s Directory notes two households, one in "Summerfield" and a second in "Summerfield Lodge", in the early 1890s.
With such promising features, it is difficult to see how the school might not be a roaring success at its new location.
Clifton School under Preston Walsh
But the redoubtable Preston Walsh was apparently unwell and struggling. Thom’s Directory shows that although he occupied Summerfield House and Summerfield Lodge in 1896, he is not listed as the principal occupant of either in succeeding years. From 1897 until 1900, the main house was occupied by William Ross, Esq., and the Lodge by Wilfred H. Blissard, B.A. Cantab. It seems that the school no longer occupied Summerfield House, as originally advertised in the newspapers, but only the Lodge. The advertisements make no further mention of a "Principal" of the school, but sometimes of a Master, and the implication may be that Walsh gave way to Blissard around 1897, before the arrival or promotion of Irwin.
Walsh’s time was limited. In the 1901 Ireland census, he still lived in Dalkey, but seemed no longer involved with the school. Instead, he lodged at Swansea Terrace, aged 44 and an "Oxon. Undergraduate", without reference to any teaching duties. He married in 1902, but died at 2 Cassandra Villas, Bray, on 19 January 1903.
Francis Irwin at Clifton School
Irwin shares some similarities with Deasy, but the strongest point of contact is that they were both headmasters of the school where Joyce/Stephen were temporarily employed.
It is not known when Francis Irwin joined Clifton School, but Thom’s Directory shows "Irwin, Francis, T.C.D." as the principal occupant of Summerfield Lodge from 1900. Wilfred Blissard had left to join his sister Ida’s "Young Gentleman’s School" in Apsley Road, Clifton, Bristol as a "schoolmaster".9 Next year, the 1901 Ireland census locates Irwin at the same address, living with his widowed sister Anna Jane Knox Gore and a family servant. Irwin is aged 39, his religion "Church of Ireland", his place of birth "Co Fermanagh"; he is not married, but describes himself as a "Mathematical and Classical Tutor". His sister is aged 49, of the same religion and birth-place, and is described as a "Lady".
By this stage, Irwin appears to have taken over the headship of Clifton School, either from Walsh or Blissard. The situation and ethos of the school is similar to that roughed out in Ulysses, but it is mysterious that Irwin still purports to be a graduate of Trinity College, when this would have been relatively easy for any mistrustful parent or disgruntled schoolboy to disprove. But to admit that he was not a graduate would have been to upset the narrative of the school that had been presented relentlessly to prospective parents by Walsh in the past.
During their discussion, "Major McKenzie" told Irwin that on the way to Dalkey his purse had disappeared, and he asked Irwin for £2, which Irwin paid "as he did not wish to lose business". He was not repaid, and it transpired that this was only one of several similar scams that John Ivy had perpetrated across Dublin, posing variously as "Major McKenzie", "Colonel Hamilton", "Colonel Harris", and "Colonel Wesley". Irwin noted, in the newspaper reports, that his school did not take boarders, which suggests a further curtailment of his aspirations.
Ellmann had told this story earlier, in the Kenyon Review of 1954:
The real Mr. Deasy was Francis Irwin, who had the Clifton School at Dalkey. This school "was closed at the end of the term in 1904, because the owner of the buildings and grounds was unwilling to put up with his chronic drunkenness. Joyce has entirely suppressed this aspect of Irwin’s character".
Clifton School did not close in 1904, while it was at Summerfield House in Dalkey Avenue, but moved its premises to the less-suitable location of Anna Knox Gore’s new home in Vico Road.
The allegations continued, and Irwin issued a counter-summons, denying the witness’s evidence, but the judge dismissed both summonses, saying that if anyone had cause to issue a summons it was Mr O’Grady himself, and not Messrs. Powell or Irwin.
By 1908 Thom’s Directory no longer records "Mrs. Knox Gore" as the occupier of Cintra on Vico Road, and according to the 1911 Ireland census Francis Irwin ("Head of Family", "Church of Ireland", aged 52 and born in "Co Tyrone", single, and a "tutor") lived with his widowed sister Anna Jane Knox Gore (now a member of the "Plymouth Brethren", living on private means) at No 4 Derrynane Terrace, Convent Road, Dalkey. Anna Jane Knox Gore died in the house in Derrynane Terrace on 18 May 1915, in the presence of her brother, but no further certain record has currently been discovered of Francis Irwin.12
4 Derrynane Terrace, Convent Road, Dalkey
Joyce and Clifton School, Dalkey
Gordon Bowker states that Joyce took a part-time teaching job at the small private school in Dalkey at the recommendation of George Dempsey, his former English master.13 It seems likely that Joyce was employed at the school for several weeks: the experience was remembered vividly through Stephen’s eyes throughout the second episode of Ulysses.
Robert Nicholson reminds us that the links between Joyce and Clifton School are based on secondary evidence.14 Joyce does not discuss the experience in his letters, as far as we know. But this secondary evidence raises a niggling problem of chronology, as Joyce is supposed to have taught at Clifton School at Summerfield Lodge under Irwin in early to mid 1904 (during the hockey season), and yet the newspaper evidence indicates that Clifton School had moved from Dalkey Avenue to Cintra on Vico Road in late 1903 or early 1904.
What are we to make of this? Contemporaneous and second-hand evidence supports the likelihood that Joyce taught in Dalkey in 1904. Herbert Gorman says so explicitly, as cited earlier, and Joyce read the proofs of his biography. Gogarty states, in connection with his stay at the Martello tower at Sandycove near Dalkey in 1904, that "Joyce had a job at an adjoining school", and so Gogarty’s subsequent account located the year as 1904.15 Joyce is known to have visited his former teacher, George Dempsey, at his home in Rathmines, on 15 October 1903, and if this is when the possibility of seeking a teaching job arose, then 1904 would again seem likely.16
And yet the description of Clifton School, where Stephen taught, in Ulysses is undoubtedly Summerfield Lodge, rather than Cintra, the school’s subsequent site on Vico Road. Clifford Ferguson, identified by Ellmann as the model for the Clifton schoolboy Armstrong, lived on Vico Road, which Stephen dismissed as populated by "welloff people", in a way that suggests that Armstrong did not live on the same road as the school. The advertisement noting the move to Cintra in January 1904 read that "Business will (D.V.) be Resumed at Cintra, Vico Road, Dalkey, January 15th": the "D.V." [= "God willing"] suggests some uncertainty. If we accept that Joyce was writing from first-hand knowledge of the school, then the likelihood is that Irwin was forced to postpone his move to Cintra until later in 1904, and that he and the school remained at Summerfield Lodge for the short time Joyce taught there.
Advertisement for Summerfield House in the Dublin Weekly Nation of 3 September 1881, p. 16:
Which must be admitted to be one of the most beautifully laid-out and admirably appointed establishments in the most select district of the rapidly rising Township of Dalkey.
The former proprietor, Denis Florence M‘Carthy, M.R.I.A., Poet Laureate of Ireland, and the late lamented proprietor, Thomas Keogh, Esq., each in their turn having spared no expense in bringing the entire property interiorly and exteriorly to the advanced state of improvement which only requires to be viewed to be desired by parties requiring a place which for beauty of design and completion in all respects hardly has an equal for its extent in Ireland.
The grounds especially have been decorated and planted with every ornamentation that artistic thought could devise or money procure.
The original house was enlarged, and new houses were erected by former and late proprietors, and it now forms two complete dwelling-houses, each replete with all accessories that modern improvement could suggest or comfort desire, as well as being commodious in every respect, and the side residence could be let off so as to leave the incoming owner rent-free in the front house.
The side residence contains drawing and reception-rooms, four principal bed-rooms, kitchen, with a range, &c., servants apartments, pantries, and china closets, bath-room, with yard, scullery, w. c., &c.
The latter has the conservatory attached, containing a choice selection of the most approved plants, and the three sides thereof look out on the pleasure grounds, which, for extent and variety are rare to be found in connection with any ordinary residence.
The walled-in garden, about one acre, is thickly planted, and bearing most luxuriant crops of fruit, peach, cherry, pear, apple, gooseberry, and currant trees, all trained into the form most approved by model gardeners. There is a very superior ornamental tea house.
The pleasure grounds, lawn tennis, and croquet divisions are each and all beautifully planted with shrubs and trees in variety.
There is a large field at rere, with cowhouse. The stable yard has gateway entrance, large aviary or fowl house, pigeon box, coach-house, with hay-loft over, three-horse stable, harness-room, two loose box stalls, patent iron piggery, tool-house, &c.
The gate-house or lodge has three apartments, yard, large water cistern, &c.
There are four entrances from the avenue, and a complete separation of the two residences could readily be made.
TO BE SOLD BY PUBLIC AUCTION,
The Interest in the Lease of all that and those the plots of ground numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4, on the map or terchant [for "the chart"?] thereto annexed, No. 1 containing half an Irish acre; Nos. 2 and 3 a quarter of an Irish acre; and No. 4 about the same quantity as No. 1.
The House, Offices, and Premises
With the gate-lodge, greenhouse, garden, and other improvements thereunto belonging; coach-house, cowhouse, and other buildings thereon.
No. 1 held for 31 years from 1st May, 1864, and Nos. 2, 3, and 4 held for a similar term of 31 years, provided the estate and interest therein of Denis Florence M‘Carthy and his representatives should so long continue, subject to the yearly rent of £100 [sic].
Sale to commence with the Interest in the Lease at One o’Clock. Waggonette, car, and horse at half-past One. Furniture at Two. Paintings and Drawingroom appointments at Three o’Clock. Residue of Furniture on following day.
Auctioneer’s commission to be paid by buyers.
Applications for conditions of Sale, cards to view, &c., to be made to
THOMAS FRANCIS O’CONNELL, Esq., Solicitor
1 The term "Gentleman Usher" is normally applied to high-ranking officials in government administration; in Dublin, the expression was most closely associated with an official at the Viceregal Court. The OED defines "usher" (sense 4a) as "an assistant to a schoolmaster or head-teacher; an under-master, assistant-master". "Gentleman usher" is perhaps used ironically in Ulysses.
2 Herbert Gorman, James Joyce: a definitive biography (London, 1949), ch. 4 p. 114. This information is not included in Gorman’s James Joyce: his first forty years (New York: 1924).
3 I have made use of earlier, unpublished research on Irwin’s life in Dalkey by Harald Beck, Eamonn Finn, Ian Gunn, and Robert Nicholson, and others, though any conclusions drawn are my own.
4 The 1881 UK census and the 1901 Ireland census both give County Fermanagh as his place of birth, whereas the 1882 entrance register for TCD and the 1911 Ireland census give County Tyrone. The TCD register notes that his place of birth was "Clogher".
5 National Census of England and Wales: reference RG11/277/55/42.
6 Trinity College, Dublin Entrance Book ff. 55r/v (page 112 of 560) TCD MUN V 23/7 (https://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/home/index.php?DRIS_ID=MUN-V-23-7_001). George Lambert Cathcart MA was a distinguished TCD mathematician, perhaps best known for his translation into English of Axel Harnack’s An Introduction to the Study of the Elements of the Differential and Integral Calculus (London and Edinburgh, 1891).
7 MUN V 29/6 Terms and Examinations: Trinity College, Class of 1881-2; MUN V 43/5 Records of Examinations for Honors and Prizes in Mathematics and Mathematical Physics; MUN V 29/6 Terms and Examinations Returns 1882; MUN V 30/41L; MUN v 30/42 Terms and Examinations Returns 1883; MUN V 31/12; MUN v 30/42 Terms and Examinations Returns 1883; MUN V 43/5 Records of Examinations for Honors and Prizes in Mathematics and Mathematical Physics; and the Dublin University Calendar (Dublin, University Press) (passim).
8 Freeman’s Journal (1881), 19 April.
9 National Census for England and Wales (1901): RG13/2367/141/10.
10 Irish Times (1904), 20 December p. 2. The incident was also reported on the same day in the Irish Daily Independent.
11 Dublin Daily Express (1906), 28 September.
12 Northern Whig (1915), 26 May.
13 Gordon Bowker, James Joyce: a Biography (London: 2011), p. 116. See also Peter Costello James Joyce: the Years of Growth 1882-1915 (1994), pp. 222-3.
14 Robert Nicholson Ulysses Guide (2015), p. 27.
15 Oliver St. John Gogarty, It isn’t this time of Year at all (1954), p. 69.
16 Roger Norburn, A James Joyce Chronology (2004), p. 17.