Fullback for the Bective Rangers

U 15.765-6: MARTHA: (sobbing behind her veil). Breach of promise. My real name is Peggy Griffin. He wrote to me that he was miserable. I’ll tell my brother, the Bective rugger fullback, on you, heartless flirt.

This is just a possible lead – and the start of a line of research - but it’s instructive to see what can be done with the records that are readily available online today.

If we are looking for a real-life Peggy Griffin, then we convert the pet-name ‘Peggy’ to its standard form, and search for ‘Margaret Griffin’. As this is a common name, we concentrate attention at first on her brother. Joyce first wrote "my brother the footballer", and then changed this later to "Bective rugger fullback", so the association with the Bective side may be secondary.

Bective Rangers were (and still are) one of the major Dublin sides, playing the other principal local sides usually twice a season. The team sheets were posted in the newspapers. There were no Griffins playing at fullback or in the threequarter line for the Bective Rangers during the period in question - the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

However, the Methodist Griffin family of Rathmines were stalwarts of Old Wesley RFC (based on old boys from Wesley College), one of the teams that Bective Rangers played regularly, and several of the Griffins played at fullback. William Hollingsworth Griffin held the position in the Old Wesley first XV at the end of the nineteenth century, and his son William seems to have taken over towards the start of the twentieth:

Monkstown v. Old Wesley. Victory of Monkstown... This left the final line of defence weak, for young Griffin, plucky and all as he is, has not the weight necessary... Old Wesley – W. Griffin, back; F. Nicholson, E. Booth, W. Hinton, George Robertson; S. H. Hinton, S. Caldwell; George Hamlet, George Robinson, R. J. Crawford, A. F. Monohan, J. G. M’Connell, G. Beckett, Pearson, O. White.

Irish Times (1900) 10 December

George Hamlet from Rathmines, now aged 19, won his first cap for the national team in the following year. Charles Griffin played for the 2nd XV in 1902 and subsequently for the Firsts. In 1903 George Booth Griffin (in whom we shall soon be interested) was playing for Old Wesley 3rds, at fullback, and by at least 1907 he was fullback for Old Wesley First XV.

The Old Wesley team was, at the time, well stocked with Griffins at fullback.

We need a fullback Griffin who had a sister Margaret, and the honour falls to George Booth Griffin. In 1901 he was 14 and his sister Margaret Winifred was 7, Dublin-born and living with their family at 169 Palmerston Road, Rathmines. At the time of the 1911 census the family was living at 42 Palmerston Road. George Booth Griffin continued at fullback for Old Wesley until at least the outbreak of war.

It would seem, then, from the census and from newspaper reports that a ‘Peggy Griffin’, whose brother was a ‘rugger fullback’ – meeting Joyce’s requirements – was in evidence in the first decade of the 1900s. Joyce says that ‘Peggy Griffin’ is the real name of Martha (Clifford), the ‘smart lady typist’ with whom Leopold Bloom was allegedly involved. As Peggy was born in late 1893, it would be foolhardy to attempt any further identification with Martha Clifford – though we might note that her exclamation (“I’ll tell my brother..on you”) does not imply any great maturity.

John Simpson

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