Monks, night fathers, and day fathers

U 7.195-202: A DAYFATHER

He walked on through the caseroom, passing an old man, bowed, spectacled, aproned. Old Monks, the dayfather. [...] Nearing the end of his tether now. Sober serious man with a bit in the savingsbank I’d say. Wife a good cook and washer. Daughter working the machine in the parlour. Plain Jane, no damn nonsense.

The meaning of “dayfather” in a printing office is explained by Gifford as the “father of the chapel for the day staff”; of the name “Monks” he reports “apart from the context, identity and significance unknown”. Both of these comments merit further investigation.


The “father of the chapel” is “usually the oldest printer in the [printing-]house”, according to John McCreery’s The Press.1 Other sources regard the “father” as “the oldest freeman” in the printing house.2 But the dayfather is not the father of the chapel, as Gifford correctly states; he is the leading representative of the day staff.

Documentary evidence for the term dayfather has eluded researchers to date. It is printed as one word by Joyce, but readers might expect to find “day father” as the form in regular use. Although there is little doubt about the meaning of the term, it is hard to be accurate without secure references.

The status of the “day father” is discussed – though without using this expression – in the report of the UK Royal Commission on the Press in 1962:3

[Paragraph] 13436. Chairman: Who represents the father of the chapel on the day staff? – A deputy father of the chapel.

This suggests that the “day father” was secondary to the father of the chapel on the night staff, and there is further evidence for this in an early use of day father itself (alongside night father), in 1929:

Mr. W. Brand (night father) presided, and was supported by Mr. F. Crump (day father). Mr. Brand in presenting Mr. Wm. Spencer with a gold watch in token of the regard in which he is held, referred to the long connection with the Guardian office of Mr. Spencer.

Typographical Circular: the Official Organ of the Typographical Association (1929), p. 36

Joyce introduced the term dayfather at an early stage into his manuscript for Ulysses, as it is found in the Rosenbach draft of summer 1918. At present no evidence for the term as early as this has been found, though it clearly existed. But the technical press carries day father in 1922, again in the Typographical Circular:

In making the presentation, Mr. Wilkinson (day father) congratulated Mr. Munroe on his attainment.

Typographical Circular: the Official Organ of the Typographical Association (1922), p. 200

In the same year it appeared in a non-technical context, a news report in the Irish Independent:

Double Presentation. – The composing staff of the “Independent” Newspapers presents Messrs. Thos. and John Hopper, popular members of the companionship, with souvenirs of their recent marriages… Mr. W. Bell (day father) presided, and the gifts were handed to the recipients by Mr. J. E. Lyons.

Irish Independent (1922), 2 October p. 6

There is little doubt that the term was in use in Dublin print-rooms when Ulysses was being finalised, and probably for many years before.

Old Monks, the dayfather

Joyce refers to the “dayfather” in the Aeolus episode at the offices of the Freeman’s Journal/Evening Telegraph as “Old Monks”. Sometimes the name is taken as symbolic,4 but what evidence is there for a Monks in the composing-room of the Freeman’s Journal at the time of which Joyce writes (the closing years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth)?5

What information do we have from Ulysses about “Monks”? The adjective “old” suggestions that he is one of the more elderly members of staff, and this is reinforced by the narrator's comments and Bloom’s interior monologue: “an old man, bowed, spectacled, aproned” (U 7.196-7), and “Nearing the end of his tether now. Sober serious man with a bit in the savingsbank” (U 7.199-200). The fact that he is the “dayfather” makes him likely to have been a printer or compositor, and the context is the printing offices of the Freeman’s Journal. He is known to his colleague J. P. Nannetti, then a foreman at the Freeman’s Journal, a leading old-style trade-unionist, and later twice Mayor of Dublin, and an MP: Nannetti asks for him (“what’s his name) (U 7.182-6). Apparently he is married with a daughter: his wife is said to be “a good cook and washer” and his daughter “working the machine in the parlour” and a “Plain Jane, no damn nonsense” (U 7.200-2). Beyond this, evidence is scanty.

The only likely model for Monks is Edward Monks, recorded by the 1901 Ireland census as a “Printer – Compositor” aged 50, married, with two sons and two daughters living with him, along with his mother-in-law and a boarder, at No 13 Margaret Place, off Bath Avenue, near Sandymount in Dublin. Except for Edward Monks’s son Edward Patrick, only two other Dublin Monkses (John and Francis) are involved in the printing industry according to 1901 census, and they are less likely contenders. The 1911 census records that his his daughter Catherine worked as a “typist” (NB Joyce’s “working the machine in the parlour” – perhaps for a typewriting machine rather than a sewing machine; OED documents this usage from 1891).

Edward Monks was born in 1850 in Dublin City (he was baptised on 4 August in Rathmines), the son of Thomas and Margaret Monks. He was married to Catherine (“Kate”) O’Brien, also of the City of Dublin, at the Pro-Cathedral on 10 November 1873. Edward and Kate lived at No 5 Langrishe Place, north of the river, when their first son, Michael, was born the following year (Michael became a Dominican priest and died in 1907 at the Presbytery in Trinidad). Soon the family moved nearby to No 35 North Summer Street, where their other two sons Edward Patrick and John Francis and their first daughter, Catherine, were born. Then they moved to east Dublin, south of the river, to No 13 Margaret Place, where Mary (“May”) Angela was born in 1887 and where the family stayed for over twenty years.

At this stage of his career Edward Monks was rarely noticed by the Dublin newspapers. But on 30 July 1887 he was present at the annual dinner of the Freeman’s Journal“companionship” of printers at the Powerscourt Arms Hotel, Enniskerry. At usual there was much singing, and after toasts to the “Typographical Society” and “The Chapel” he and several colleagues indulged in numerous “vocal selections”. Soon after, on 31 March 1888 he was one of the many Freeman’s Journal staff who, along with J. P. Nannetti and Patrick Meade (both also represented in the Aeolus passage) and many of the other models for characters in Ulysses, attended the funeral of their proprietor Edward Dwyer Gray:6

Immediately following the hearse came the members of the Freeman’s Journal Chapel, numbering over one hundred, and bearing a large number of beautiful wreaths.

In 1893 Monks and Nannetti are recorded as attending another funeral, that of Christopher Eurell, for many years treasurer of the Dublin Typographical Provident Society, a powerful Dublin printers’ union and benevolent society.7 The funeral was attended, amongst others, by:

[…] his old colleagues on the Freeman staff, the Press Club, the Mail Chapel, the Executive Committee, on behalf of the D T P S, and others.

The Dublin Typographical Provident Society, or the DTPS, offers a strong link between J. P. Nannetti and Edward Monks, which tends to support the identification of Edward Monks with Joyce’s “Old Monks”. It would not be surprising that Nannetti and Monks were both members of the union, which had over 900 members in the 1890s, but both played an active role.8 Before the founding of the Dublin Trades Council Nannetti had been Secretary of the DTPS, and he was also apparently "Father of the Chapel" at the Freeman in 1880.9 In 1893 he was still an active member of the Provident Society. He is listed as a regional correspondent consulted by the British Parliament when it prepared its Memorandum on the progress of the work of the Labour Department, Board of Trade.10 When Nannetti was elected Major of Dublin in 1906, “Old Monks” (or “Edward Monks, senr.”, as he is regularly referred to in the newspapers) was by now a Trustee of the DTPS. The Society’s support for Nannetti was recorded in the press:11

Dublin's New Mayor. At a meeting of the Dublin Corporation on Tuesday, Mr. Nannetti, M.P. (who is a printer on the staff of the "Evening Telegraph") was elected to the Mayoral chair for the ensuing year.


Mr. Nannetti received the following telegram after the election: - "'Freeman' and 'Evening Telegraph' chapels congratulate Lord Mayor Nannetti. – Sythes, Father."

At a meeting of the executive of the Dublin Typographical Provident Society, held on Tuesday night, the following resolution was unanimously adopted: - "That we, the executive of the D.T.P.S., tender to our esteemed fellow-worker, Councillor J. P. Nannetti, M.P., our hearty congratulations on his election as Lord Mayor of Dublin."

Edward Monks was known as “Edward Monks, senior” to distinguish him from his son Edward Patrick, also a printer/compositor. His son John Francis was by now working for the Dublin Corporation, where he was later to rise to the position of City Treasurer.

Soon after Nannetti was elected Mayor of Dublin, Nannetti and Monks were present at another event relating to their joint attachment to the Dublin Typographical Provident Society. This was the funeral of the Society’s former treasurer Hugh Grant.12 Monks continued his work for the DTPS and in 1917 he was also elected chairman of the Dublin Typographical Approved Society, of which he was also a trustee.13 In 1923, on the occasion of his golden wedding, he was presented by the Provident Society with “a silver Celtic writing set”:14

Many tributes were paid to Mr. Monks’s services, and in his reply the jubilarian gave an interesting history of the society for the past 50 years.

Monks’s final claim to fame came to public notice when he died, on 31 July 1941, around the time of his ninety-first birthday. The Irish Times headlined his obituary “Death of Boyhood Friend of G.B.S.” The paper wrote that:15

He worked as a compositor in the Freeman’s Journal, and was later employed on the staffs of several Dublin printing firms, including Messrs. Dollard. He was a trustee of the Dublin Typographical Society, a position from which he retired only a few years ago.

The Irish Times explains the connection with Shaw:

With Mr. Monks passes a Dublin link with Mr. George Bernard Shaw: for they were playmates together nearly eighty years ago in Synge street.

When Shaw was celebrating his seventy-fourth birthday, Monks wrote to him to congratulate him and to remind him of their childhood friendship:16

Did Mr. Shaw remember him? And did he recall an occasion in Synge Street when Shaw — then six years old — playing with a group of children became enraged at a little girl who insisted on joining in their play? Sonny, exasperated, turned on her, threatening dire consequences if she persisted. Off ran the terrified child to return with noble knight Edward who reminded Shaw that he was twice his age so he'd better mind his manners! Did Mr. Shaw remember? Yes, Mr. Shaw remembered:

Nor did he forget the lessons taught him by the man whom he regarded […] with "unbounded admiration amounting to reverence".

Harald Beck

John Simpson


1 John McCreery, The Press: a poem, published as a specimen of typography (1803), Pt. 1, p. 15.

2 T. C. Hansard, Typographia (1825), p. 303.

3 1961-62 Cmnd. 1812-2 Royal Commission on the Press. Minutes of oral evidence. Vol. III. Witnesses: National Union of Printing, Bookbinding and Paper Workers, Scannews (London) Ltd., the Right Honourable Lord Beaverbrook, Mr. N. Kaldor and Mr. R. R. Neild: 26 February 1962 p. 5.

4 Sam Slote (ed.) “Annotations” in James Joyce, Ulysses (Richmond: Alma Classics, 2012), p. 608: “perhaps the name is a joke since he is the ‘dayfather’”.

5 Joyce’s father was familiar with Freeman pressmen and printers in the late nineteenth century, and clearly passed stories on to his son. As well as earlier contact, after his return from a visit to his wife's relatives in Galway Joyce paid several visits between 28 August and 8 September 1909 to the Freeman/Evening Telegraph offices posing as a journalist, as evidenced by Piaras Béaslaí's memoir of the occasion. See also Richard Ellmann, James Joyce (1965), pp. 297-8.

6 Freeman’s Journal (1887) 1 August, and Freeman's Journal (1888), 2 April. The Freeman's Journal also records that Monks attended the funeral of former Freeman newspaperman Joe Gallaher, brother of Frederick ("Ignatius") Gallaher, in 1893 (Freeman's Journal, 23 October), as a representative of the Freeman's Journal and Evening Herald staff.

7 Freeman’s Journal (1893), 23 October.

8 Arthur Marsh and John B. Smedhurst, Historical Directory of Trade Unions (2006), vol. 5 pt. 1 p. 83 “Irish Print Union”.

9 Pádraig Yeates, Lockout: Dublin 1913 (2013), ch 1; Freeman's Journal (1880), 30 August.

10 Copy of memorandum on the progress of the work of the Labour Department, Board of Trade (1893-4), (194) p. 7.

11 Connaught Telegraph (1906), 27 January.

12 Freeman’s Journal (1906), 20 March.

13 Freeman’s Journal (1918), 2 December.

14 Sunday Independent (1923) 2 December.

15 Irish Times (1941), 1 August, p. 1.

16 B. C. Rosset Shaw of Dublin: the Formative Years (1964), p .100-1.

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