Rifleman Buckley

John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello neatly summarize what we know about Fred Buckley, another of the rate-collectors from John Stanislaus Joyce’s day:

Of the other collectors little more is known beyond what has survived through John Stanislaus’s stories […] Mr Frederick A. Buckley, a raconteur whose off-colour story of how he shot a Russian general in the Crimea (while the officer squatted at stool) appealed to two generations of Joyces and duly made its way into the Wake.

John Stanilaus Joyce (1997) ch. 11, p. 115

We start with a handful of facts: his name was Frederick A. Buckley; he was a raconteur; he fought in the Crimean War; and he could handle a weapon. Maybe some of these facts can be confirmed from the available sources.

Early life in County Wicklow and New York

Frederick Arthur Buckley was born on 12 June 1847, the youngest child of Benjamin and Hannah Buckley, at the Powerscourt estate south-west of Dublin, where Benjamin was a Land Steward to Lord Powerscourt and subsequently (by the time of Frederick’s birth) a farmer. Frederick was at least the seventh surviving child of a large family.

Frederick’s brother Robert William (b. 1836) was in Dublin in the late 1850s studying for his BA at Trinity College. He was set for a career in the (Protestant) church.1 More significantly in the short term, Frederick’s brother Edward (b. 1837) was establishing himself as a druggist in Brooklyn, New York. The lure of New York drew two more of Frederick’s brothers, Benjamin Ingram (b. 1841) and Charles Kennedy (b. 1845).

Charles Kennedy Buckley took a job as a clerk in Van Brunt Wyckoff’s drug store on Third Avenue when he first arrived in New York around 1860, before enlisting as a private in the 13th Regiment, New York State Militia, and serving for three months in the Union Army during the Virginia campaign. Later he worked as a druggist for his brother Edward before launching out very successfully into the lumber trade in Brooklyn. By 1870 (United States census) Benjamin was also working as a druggist in Brooklyn, presumably for his elder brother Edward.

If we assume that Frederick followed in the footsteps of his brother Charles Kennedy, two years his senior, then he will have attended Santry (Boarding) School, in Santry, north Dublin, until around 1861. In 1862 Frederick’s father sold up at Powerscourt/Enniskerry for Dublin.

Enniskerry, County Wicklow. Most Attractive and Unreserved Sale by Auction of Sheep, Lambs, Rams, In-Calf Cows, Springer do. Store Heifers, Calves, Horses, Carts, Straw, &c. &c. The Subscriber is favoured with instructors from Benjamin Buckley, Esq., of Parknasillique, Enniskerry, who is leaving that part of the country.

Freeman’s Journal (1862) 8 April, p. 1

It is maybe at this time that Frederick set off for New York: in the 1870 United States census he was living in Brooklyn with his brother Benjamin, as a clerk in a lumber yard (presumably that of his brother Charles). Edward and Charles were set to remain for the long term as US citizens. Benjamin and Frederick, however, returned to Ireland – possibly as early as 1871. Benjamin died in October 1876, and that December Frederick obtained a post as rate-collector at the Collector-General of Rates’ office in Dublin.

Fighting in the Crimea?

As the Crimean War lasted from 1853 until 1856 we can confidently say that Fred Buckley was not available to fight in it, as he was born in 1847 and would have been eight when the war ended.

Employment with the Collector-General of Rates

Looking ahead to 1885, we can see that Frederick Buckley fitted the profile of a typical rate-collector: he is listed as a Freemason and a Protestant, along with many others in his office:

Mr. Gray has given notice that on Tuesday, the 10th instant, he will ask the President of the Local Government board will he inquire whether the preparation of the voters’ list under the new Franchise Act will be entrusted in Dublin to the acting Collector-General and the collectors of rates, and whether the staff is thus constituted: - Dr. Kennedy, acting Collector-General, Freemason and Protestant; collectors – F. Buckley, Freemason and Protestant; H. Hughes, Protestant; W. Weatherup, Freemason and Protestant; E. G. Cotter, Protestant; J. F. Crofton [sic], Freemasonand Protestant; H. Wilkinson, Protestant; R. Henchy, Protestant; H. Dowman, Protestant; H. M‘Intyre, Roman Catholic.

Freeman’s Journal (1885) 4 March

Like other rate-collectors, he was often (as we will see later) the natural choice for secretary of any club or society he joined. And like many other collectors, he was politically Conservative, and seemed to lead a jollier life than the bare recitation of his posts might suggest.

We have met most of the rate-collectors at the Commission of Inquiry into the running of the Collector-General of Rates’ office in 1878. The extensive piblication of the results of this inquiry contained the verbatim and lengthy examination of Frederick Arthur Buckley:2

Mr. Frederick Arthur Buckley examined.

1861. Chairman. – When was it you became a collector in the Collector-General of Rates’ office? – I was appointed in December, 1876 […]

1863. Were you in any other occupation prior to that time that gave you any knowledge of the business? – No […]

Mr. Moylan [the Collector-General]. – I may state that Mr. Buckley is a most efficient officer. He has reduced the arrears tremendously. [Etc.]

He was married in 1879, to Amy Dudley (his brother Robert – who assisted at the wedding – had married her sister Ann):

Buckley and Dudley – February 20th, at the Mariner’s Church, Kingstown, by the Rev. Sheldon Dudley, A.B., Incumbent of Tintern, brother of the bride, assisted by the Rev. R. W. Buckley, D.D., brother of the bridegroom, Frederick Arthur Buckley, to Amy, daughter of the late Samuel S. Dudley, Esq., of Tenderry and Mount Dudley, Roscrea, County Tipperary.

Irish Times (1879) 22 February, p. 1

and in December of that year the couple had their first child, Amy.

Once he had joined up with the Collector-General he was seen out conducting the rate-collectors’ regular duties:

City Jurors’ Revision Court... The collectorship staff of the Collector-General’s office attended viz Messrs Henchy, Weatherup, M‘Intyre, Crofton, Hunt, Dowman, Buckley, Hughes, Cotter, Morrison, and Wilkinson.

Freeman’s Journal (1880) 18 October

In 1884, a couple of years after John Stanislaus Joyce joined the office of the Collector-General, Fred Buckley and his family were living at 29 Clarinda Park, East in Kingstown. The following year they had moved a few miles south to 11 Claremont Villas, Glenageary. Work carried on at the Collector-General’s:

North Dublin Union [... ] A letter was read from Mr Perry, Acting Collector-General, asking for £114 to recompense the four city collectors – Messrs Cotter, Buckley, Wetherup, and Hughes – for their extra work under the last Franchise Act [...] Ultimately it was decided to pay half the amount.

Irish Times (1886) 18 February, p. 3

Fred is busy working for the Collector-General in 1891, but we do not see further references to him after John Stanislaus Joyce and others (presumably including Fred) left the Collector-General’s employ in 1893.

Revision of the City Jurors’ Lists...The revision of the above lists, which contain 5,952 names. There were present – Edward T Kennedy, LL D, Collector-General; C Kernan, solicitor, CP; Messrs H M‘Intyre, J T [sic] Crofton, F A Buckley, H Dowman, Edward G Cotter, J T Joyce [sic], W F Wilkinson, G Wilkinson, and R Dunlop, collectors.

Freeman’s Journal (1891) 16 October


There is some evidence of Fred’s ability to hold an audience. His brother Robert, the curate and also Organizing Secretary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Ireland, would from time to time give lectures as well as sermons. In March 1883 he was giving just such a talk at the Town Hall in Naas, south-west of Dublin on the road to Portlaoise, as a fund-raiser for the Young Men’s Christian Association. Robert had been a curate in the area before, so it was well-known to him. His subject was ‘Off for a Month’, and described his recent walking holiday in Switzerland. His talk was followed by two readings by his younger brother Fred, and the newspaper account gives us a glimpse of a rather different Fred:

Mr. Fred. Buckley gave a couple of humorous readings, which from the inimitable style of the reader and the subject of the readings themselves convulsed the audience with laughter from beginning to end.

Kildare Observer (1883) 10 March, p. 3

Handling a weapon?

Curiously enough, it turns out that Fred Buckley was something of a marksman. Fred became a member of the Dalkey Rifle Club in the 1880s and competed successfully in a number of competitions. His results are recorded from May 1887. In September 1888 we read:

Rifle Shooting. Dalkey Rifle Club. On the handicap FA Buckley was 1st, W E Bradshaw, 2nd; [etc.].

Freeman’s Journal (1888) 17 September

In 1891 he was shooting off a handicap of seven:

Dalkey Rifle Club [...] Mr Joynt, the scratch man, had won, beating Mr Buckley, who has been second on three previous occasions, by two points.

Freeman’s Journal (1891) 28 September

Life after the Collector-General

In 1893 Fred Buckley was cited in the papers under his Protestant colours:

Association for the Relief of Distressed Protestants […] 11 Claremont Villas, Glenageary, Kingstown, May 1st, 1893 […] I have much pleasure in enclosing to you, as Hon. Secretary of the Association for the Relief of Distressed Protestants, my cheque for £10, as a donation in aid of the Jubilee Fund in connection with that association […] Frederick A. Buckley.

Irish Times (1893) 23 May

At around this time he became a Conservative Township Commissioner for Kingstown, and regularly attended meetings of the Board:

Kingstown Township Board […] The adjourned meeting of the Kingstown Board of Commissioners was held yesterday morning in the boardroom […] The following Commissioners were also present – […] Frederick A. Buckley, [etc.].’

Irish Times (1896) 16 September , p. 7

He was Chairman of the Kingstown Free Public Library. Sporting prowess and community service doubtless underlie his position as secretary of his local hockey club in 1895:

Hockey. Arkendale Hockey Club, Glenageary […] Frederick A. Buckley, hon. secretary and treasurer [… ]The honorary secretary and treasurer will be glad to receive all subscriptions and communications in connection with the club at his residence, 4 Elton Park, Sandycove.

Irish Times (1895) 14 September, p. 7

The Commissioners sent a loyal address to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and Fred was present for the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 1900 – at which Kingstown Township Commissioners presented the first loyal welcome. By 1901 he had moved to Blackrock (1 Idrone Terrace) with his wife, two sons, and two daughters, where he kept up his Protestant and Unionist interests. His wife Amy died in 1933, and Fred himself finally died, at the age of 90, in Dublin in 1937.

Finnegans Wake

The suggestion recorded by Jackson and Costello at the head of this piece is that Frederick Buckley is the Buckley behind the ‘Buckley shot the Russian General’ story in Finnegans Wake (338.03-55.07). The original of this story has not been found, and may well not – of course – be a ‘real’ story at all. Any of the features could have been built on a completely different archetype, or upon nothing at all.

What we can be sure of is that Fred Buckley of the Collector-General of Rates office could tell a good story and could shoot accurately. He cannot have fought in the Crimean War, but maybe he could have elaborated a Civil War story he heard in America. His brother Charles, as we have seen, spent three months with the New York State Militia.

The story in Finnegans Wake revolves around the Irish soldier Buckley, who holds back from shooting a Russian General ‘at stool’ during the Crimean War in deference to the general’s uniform, but then sees the general wiping himself clean with earth and, disgusted, fires to kill.

A story of the sort which might have been elaborated into this anecdote occurs in Volume 7 of The Rebellion Record, a documentary account of events in the American Civil War edited by Frank Moore (1864). Captain John K. Buckley, of C company, the First Maryland Cavalry, led a charge on a rebel position in 1863, took the hill, and then his troops were repulsed:

While they were falling back Sergeant Hisehew, whose horse had been wounded, was captured. A rebel officer raised his pistol to shoot him, when, seeing his gray [i.e. apparently ‘confederate’] trowsers he said: ‘Oh! You are all right, give them –--.’ ‘Indeed I will,’ said the Sergeant, and he charged with the officer, and kept on charging until he reached our lines. (p. 26)

This isn’t the anecdote, but it shows how stories of this type were circulating in an environment where Fred Buckley may have been inclined to remember them and re-use them later.

John Simpson


1 Robert Buckley’s Metrical Translations was published by Longman in 1869, to mixed reviews.

2 Report to His Grace the Duke of Marlborough, K.G., Lord Lieutenant-General and General Governor of Ireland, of Commissioners of Inquiry into the collection of rates in the city of Dublin, with minutes of evidence (1878), p. 82 ff.

See the other collectors:

James Crofton: a tradition of public service

William Weatherup: what the newspapers said

Robert Henchy: a choice of two collectors

Edward Graham Cotter: another collector of rates?

Search by keyword (within this site): Dublin Corporation Rates Shooting America Freemasonry Conservative Queens Trade