Mrs Mack at No 85
U 15.1281-8: (Zoe Higgins, a young whore in a sapphire slip, closed with three bronze buckles, a slim black velvet fillet round her throat, nods, trips down the steps and accosts him.)
ZOE: Are you looking for someone? He’s inside with his friend.
BLOOM: Is this Mrs. Mack’s?
ZOE: No, eightyone. Mrs Cohen’s. You might go farther and fare worse.
Popular opinon of Mrs Mack
Richard Ellmann helps to put Mrs Mack in context:
Mrs. Mack kept two houses, No. 85 and No. 90, and was so well known that the whole area was sometimes called "Macktown". [Note] The medical students had a bawdy song that began:
O there goes Mrs. Mack;
She keeps a house of imprudence,
She keeps an old back parlor
For us poxy medical students.
James Joyce (1982) 367-8
Although she is generally referred to as ‘Mrs Mack’, Thom’s Directory lists her name as ‘Mrs Annie Mack’. Gogarty, always more ebullient than Joyce, offers a further enlightening description:
Her face was brick-red. Seen sideways, her straight forehead and nose were outraged by the line of her chin, which was undershot and outthrust, with an extra projection on it, like the under-jaw of an old pike […] Avarice was written by Nature’s hieroglyphic on the face of Mrs. Mack. I thought of the grasping ways of her and her like [...] Mrs. Mack [had] a laugh like someone guffawing in hell.
O. St J. Gogarty Tumbling in the Hay (1939), ch. 22, p 251
Mrs Mack’s addresses
When we first meet Annie Mack in the Dublin newspapers she is not living at No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street, but at No 20 - on the other side of the road, further down towards Lower Gardiner Street:1
Police Intelligence – Yesterday. Northern Division [...] Breaches of the Liquor Laws [...] Mrs. Anne Mack of 20 Lower Mecklenburgh-street, was fined 40s, on two offences, keeping a large supply of liquor on her premises for sale.
Freeman’s Journal (1879) 18 June
When Madams were prosecuted, it was often for apparently secondary activities such as selling porter or other drink (often at a very late hour).
The following year (1880) Thom’s Directory finds her (still as ‘Anne’ – not ‘Annie’ - Mack) at the same address: 20 Lower Mecklenburgh Street, running a ‘lodging house’. And in 1881 comes further evidence of her lifestyle and that of the area:
Police Intelligence – Yesterday...Southern Division... Extensive Robbery of Wine [31 cases of champagne] [...] Catharine Tynan, aged 70, widow; Ellen Connor, aged 30, married, both living at 4 East Essex-street, and Anne Quirk, aged 52, widow, of 19 Lower Mecklenburgh-street, were charged with having knowingly received the property [...] They joined the three men, and the five went to 20 Lower Mecklenburgh-street, residence of Mrs. Mack. The females went in, and having returned the champagne was brought to them into an adjoining house, No. 19, residence of Mrs. Quirk.
Freeman’s Journal (1881) 28 January
She was clearly incorrigible, and further charges followed in 1882:
Northern Division […] Anne Mack, 20 Lower Mecklenburgh-street, was summoned for having on three different occasions kept liquor for sale without a licence. Fined in all £6.
Freeman’s Journal (1882) 26 April
Thom’s Directory shows that Annie Mack lived at No 20 Lower Mecklenburgh Street from at least 1880 until around 1885:
We might assume that she moved her business from No 20 to No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street around 1886/7, but the situation is not quite as simple as this. If we take another look at Thom’s Directory we find Annie Mack putting down roots elsewhere in the Nighttown/Monto district, overlapping with her tenure at No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street:
In 1887 we have her both at No 39 Lower North Cumberland Street and at No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street. The Freeman’s Journal sights her in Mecklenburgh Street on 26 July:
Police Intelligence – Yesterday. Northern Division. (Before Mr. Keys, Q.C.) A young woman of respectable appearance, named Maggie Arnott, residing in Mecklenburgh street, was charged by a well-dressed man of the ‘masher’ class, who gave his name as Ninian Wildridge Woods, MRCS, England [..] with having stolen a watch and chain value £7 10s, his property [...]
[Letter] I [...] have caused to be arrested and charged with felony one Maggie Arnott alias Maggie Noble, for stealing or causing to be taken from my person [...] a watch and chain [...] At Finglas defendant had a basket, and he told him that there were eggs in it, which he was bringing to Mrs Mack in Mecklenburgh-street.
Here she is mentioned alongside Mrs Arnott, who was by then living next-door to her at No 83 Lower Mecklenburgh Street.
The 1901 Ireland census shows an “Eliza Mack” as the Head of the Household at No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street. We need to return to that later.
At this time Annie Mack’s property portfolio is expanding. In 1981 Frederick O’Dwyer observed that:
Mrs Annie Mack […] operated eight houses on the street. These were the 'flash' houses, and were the setting for 'night-town' in James Joyce's Ulysses.
Lost Dublin, p. 69
Somehow things are going on below the level of the directories and newspapers.
Who was Mrs Mack?
The situation becomes clearer if we take a look at records held at the Registry of Deeds in Dublin. These documents are copies of the original deeds for the sale, lease, and mortgage of property.
Annie Mack’s earliest address given above was 20 Lower Mecklenburgh Street. It is noticeable that in 1874, several years before Thom’s Directory and the newspapers place her there, the house was transferred on a forty-year lease by Patrick Gilmour to an Annie McEachern. ‘Mack’ is a common surname in Dublin for a number of reasons. One is that it was often chosen as a shortened form by people with a longer surname starting with Mc-. There is a possibility (a long shot at this point) that Annie McEachern becomes Annie Mack.
(yellow = Thom’s Directory; brown = legal document)
According to sale particulars from nine years earlier this might be a suitable purchase for a sumptuous brothel:
Every portion of the House is in the most thorough state of repair, and nicely painted and decorated, and comprises two parlours, two drawingrooms, several bedrooms, a good basement storey, and a small yard, &c. [The lease includes] the entire excellent Household Furniture, comprising a capital square London-made piano, mahogany, loo, card, dinner, breakfast and work tables; a prime spring stuffed sofa in haircloth; carved and gilt chimney and pier glasses; chimney ornaments, a nice lot of framed and glazed engravings; Brussels and Kidderminster carpets and hearth rugs; a capital speaking parrot and cage; [etc.].
Freeman’s Journal (1865), 23 May
The next instalment of this saga is rather more incredible. We have seen that Annie Mack apparently moved around 1886 from 20 Lower Mecklenburgh Street to Nos 39 and/or 40 Lower North Cumberland Street. The chart below shows a timeline in which Annie McEachern, who clearly owns No 40, assigns the house on a long lease to Ada Weatherup (who seems to be living there), with a Lizzie Arnold (also living at that address) as a witness to the deed.2 This appears to be an arrangement of convenience between Annie McEachen and Ada Weatherup, as by 1888 ‘Annie Mack’ is the residential occupier in Thom’s Directory. Furthermore, Ada Weatherup née Leslie is the (estranged) wife of William A. Weatherup, son of William Weatherup, one of Joyce’s father’s fellow rate collectors.
At this time Annie McEachern is living in Lower North Cumberland Street. The evidence is building that she is one and the same as Annie Mack, or that she is at least using the name ‘Annie Mack’ to front certain of her businesses.
Ada Weatherup died in late 1887 (her husband had in fact immediately remarried after her death in 1887). The lease she held on No 40 Lower North Cumberland Street reverted to her Administratrix, who turns out to have been the same Annie McEachern. Annie McEachern then assigns the house to Lizzie Arnold (the previous witness who also lived at the property).3 Lizzie Arnold was the wife of Leamington Arnold, in 1883 a Private in the 18th Royal Irish regiment. She becomes involved in other property deals with the Madams.
Annie McEachern seems to be winding up her property affairs in Dublin in 1889/90. ‘Mrs Annie Mack’ continues to be listed at this address by Thom’s Directory for another couple of years, but Annie McEachern is now ‘of Donoon [Dunoon] in Scotland, Widow’, and is apparently no longer so extensively involved in affairs in Dublin.
(yellow = Thom’s Directory; brown = legal document)
Annie McEachern and Annie Mack have ‘both’ been involved in property dealings at 20 Lower Mecklenburgh Street and 40 Lower North Cumberland Street. In Ulysses Mrs Mack runs her brothel from No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street. Can we see any evidence of Annie McEachern operating in the background here?
The answer, as we might expect by now, is “yes”. In 1886 Annie McEachern, ‘widow’, of North Cumberland Street, acquires No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street from Myles Bartley, a minor. They confirm the agreement in the following year when Myles reaches his majority.4 Annie Mack starts living there (or at least being listed as residential owner) straightaway, in 1888. But things change in 1889 – in a manner comparable to events at No 40 Lower North Cumberland Street. Annie McEachern sells out to Lizzie Arnold – who is taking over quite an empire. Annie McEachern is now ‘of Glasgow in Scotland’, and takes a payment of the substantial sum of £1,000 from Lizzie Arnold for a long lease on No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street and also on Nos 23 and 24 Lower Mecklenburgh Street.5 ‘Annie Mack’ remains the name listed by Thom’s Directory at the address, but one suspects that this is now just a brand name for the brothel, and that the original Annie McEachern/Annie Mack is no longer in evidence.
Support for this theory lies in the 1901 census entry for the property. ‘Annie Mack’ is not listed as the residential occupier, but rather an ‘Eliza Mack’, a 50-year-old widow from Cork. We have seen that the property came into the hands of Lizzie Arnold. She was Eliza Arnold, and it looks very likely that ‘Eliza Mack’ is ‘Eliza Arnold’ using the brand name of the establishment. Eliza Arnold herself may have come from Cork. Eventually, in 1905, Lizzie Arnold makes the property over to Charles Meehan, who already owned the property next-door, and whose wife was another Madam.
(yellow = Thom’s Directory; brown = legal document; grey = census)
At present we have the following trajectory of events:
Annie McEachern (Annie Mack) acquires 20 Lower Mecklenburgh Street. In the mid-1880s she acquires 40 Lower North Cumberland Street and 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street, and each address is known as a brothel. Annie Mack is soon listed by Thom’s Directory as the residential occupier of each of these properties.
By 1889/1890 Annie may be winding up her affairs in Dublin and retiring to Scotland. There are no definite sightings of her in Dublin in the newspapers and other records consulted after 1888.
If we assume that Annie McEachern and Annie Mack are one and the same person (and the timeline and circumstantial evidence shows that this is extremely likely), what other properties can we add to her portfolio? The Registry of Deeds offers eight more houses:
In 1886 she acquired Nos 1-4 Lower North Cumberland Street and Nos 35-37 Upper Mecklenburgh Street from Robert Ottley; she also had control of No 38 Upper Mecklenburgh Street in 1888.
The picture that emerges may well coincide with Gogarty’s view of a ‘grasping’ and avaricious Madam. But she was more than that. She was fined from time to time for the sale of liquor but does not seem to have been arrested for soliciting. That was not her game. We must be very careful to distinguish the brothel-keepers on most occasions from the prostitutes who used their rooms. In general the brothel-keepers were in the business for profit alone. Annie McEachern was a businesswoman who concerned herself with property deals and with collecting money through the various houses she ran. When she had acquired a substantial fortune, she retired to her native Scotland.
Annie McEachern: a coda
Because of the number of names she went by, Annie McEachern is difficult to track down even in the Scottish records. We can work back from her death notice, which appeared in the Scotsman for 11 October 1907:
Leslie. – At Vermont, Dunoon, on the 9th inst., Mrs. Annie Alexander, widow of George Leslie, merchant, Edinburgh, and Ronald M‘Eachern, merchant, Glasgow.
She died at the age of 78, which puts her year of birth – as Annie Alexander - around 1830. She married an Edinburgh merchant George Leslie, by whom she presumably had a daughter Ada (Leslie) who became the wife of William A. Weatherup. George Leslie died, and on 26 September 1868 she re-married, to Ronald M‘Eachern (also McEachren) in Dunoon. We do not yet know at what stage she came to Ireland; she was a widow at least by 1886 and probably in 1879, when we first catch sight of her in Dublin.
We have seen that she was Ada Weatherup’s administratrix, and the familial reasons for this are now apparent. At her death in 1907 she left behind two official documents which add to our knowledge of her dealings in Ireland.
The first consists of an inventory of her properties and other belongings registered on 6 March 1908 at the Dunoon Sheriff’s Court (SC51/32/61) by her executor, Robert Ferguson, house factor of Dunoon. She owned property in Hill Street, Dunoon (in Argyll and Bute on the Firth of Clyde opposite the sea approach to Glasgow), including her house, Vermont. She also owned, by this stage in her life, “heritable property at 18 Upper Stephen Street, Dublin […] let on a verbal weekly letting to Mrs Quirke […] Rents collected by Mrs Annie Arnold”. This was a house and shop. We found her living next-door to an Annie Quirke in Lower Mecklenburgh Street in 1881, and Annie Arnold is likely to be Lizzie Arnold’s daughter (see below).
The second document lists various settlements drawn up by Annie McEachern as her powers began to fail (Dunoon Sheriff’s Court Wills: SC51/34/3, also registered 6 March 1908). This shows that in 1906 Annie McEachern bequeathed her Dublin property in Stephen Street, as well as her clothing and jewellery, to “Mrs Elizabeth Arnold Widow 41 Whitworth Road Drumcondra Dublin”. For whatever reason her relationship with Lizzie Arnold changed, and under a codicil of 28 June 1907 she alters her bequest to Lizzie Arnold to £300 with her clothing and jewellery; and then again on 12 September 1907, less than a month before her death, she signs another codicil revoking her gift of clothing and jewellery to Lizzie Arnold and converting the gift of £300 to £300 “payable only out of the proceeds of my heritable property in Dublin”. She leaves her parrot to her housekeeper Jane Hay, along with a consideration.
As we have seen, Annie McEachern dealt, like a businesswoman, with others in the same or related businesses as her, notably with Lizzie Arnold – who also had close business links – as we shall see – and with other Madams in the area. She may have been a hard woman to deal with, but perhaps she achieved her aims. As we shall see, she can be distinguished from the more street-wise Meg Arnott and likened more closely to the (apparently) equally business-like Mrs Ellen Cohen.
This is the second of six related articles: Continued at:
4) Mrs Arnold at No 40 Lower Cumberland Street and elsewhere
5) Bella Cohen at No 82 (not 81)
Previous articles in the series:
1 On possible factors influencing Mrs Mack’s move from No 20 to No 85 Lower Mecklenburgh Street see also Joseph V. O’Brien, Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress, 1899-1916 (1982), p 190.
2 Dublin Registry of Deeds reference: Dublin City 1885-49-141.
3 Dublin Registry of Deeds reference: Dublin City 1890-38-108.
4 Dublin Registry of Deeds references: Dublin City 1886-27-5 and 1887-5-89.
5 Dublin Registry of Deeds reference: Dublin City 1889-27-153
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