Edward Graham Cotter: another collector of rates?

D 1.44-51: Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me but I would not satisfy [...] ‘What I mean is,’ said old Cotter, ‘it's bad for children.’

Cotter’ is the fourth name from the writings of James Joyce that has been associated with the Office of the Collector-General of Rates during the time that his father John Stanislaus Joyce was employed there. John Wyse Jackson and Bernard McGinley point to three Cotters on which ‘Old Cotter’ of ‘The Sisters’ (Dubliners) might be based, and they continue to say:

The most likely model for Old Cotter [is] E. G. Cotter, with whom John Joyce had worked in the Collector General’s office.

James Joyce’s Dubliners: an Annotated Edition (1997), p. 2

On this basis, it seems worth seeing what can be discovered about Edward Graham Cotter.

‘Cotter’ is predominantly a Cork name, which is one reason why the Cork-born John Stanislaus Joyce might have struck up a friendship with Edward Graham Cotter. It is likely that Cotter was the son of Garrett William Cotter and Jeane Graves, born on 9 January 1834 at Skibbereen, County Cork. He married Margaret McCormick in Stranorlan, County Donegal in 1859, and his sons Edward Robert Cotter and Alexander Cotter are recorded as born at Raphoe, Donegal in 1864 and 1867 respectively.

By 1867 Edward Cotter was a science teacher, teaching Pure Mathematics at Raphoe. In subsequent years he split his teaching between the Raphoe National School, Strabane, and the Londonderry Gwyns Institute. He subsequent extended his teaching range to include Physical Geography, Acoustics, Light, and Heat, Animal Physiology, and Physical Geography. He stated that he was ‘self-taught’.1

His family expanded, and his son Henry Garrod Cotter was born at Raphoe on 13 May 1877.

But by 1880 the family was in Dublin, and Edward had changed his career, being appointed to the Collector-General of Rates. That October he was listed, along with the other collectors, attending the 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

A year after John Stanislaus Joyce joined the collectorship in 1883 Edward Cotter dared to offer a paper to the Local Government Reform Association on ‘Defects of the Collection of Rates with suggestions’. The subject may well have endeared him to John Joyce (Freeman’s Journal (1884), 16 February). Sadly, owing to ‘circumstances over which he had no control’ (unspecified) he was ‘prevented from reading the paper as promised and another member had to read a makeshift paper on the same topic'.

He continued with the general business of the collector’s job, being listed quite regularly in the newspapers for attending the various courts at which the collectors’ appearance was required throughout the 1880s, sometimes listed alongside John Stanislaus Joyce:

City of Dublin Jurors’ Lists [...] Amongst those present were: - Edward T. Kennedy, Esq., LL.D., Collector-General; C. Kernan, Esq., Clerk of the Peace; and the following Collectors of the Collector-General’s Office: - H. M‘Intyre, J. T. A Crofton, F. A. Buckley, K. G. Cotter [sic], John S. Joyce, G. Wilkinson, H. Dowman, William F. Wilkinson, and H. Dunlop.

Irish Times (1890) 15 November

James Joyce obviously mixed his own father’s career with those of some of the rate-collectors, as when he has old Cotter tell stories about the distillery (at which John Stanislaus Joyce – not Cotter – worked). Cotter’s final appearance as a rate-collector noted so far occurred in 1891. It is possible that he lost his post along with John Joyce and others in 1892.

Little else is yet known of him, other than that he moved to Kingstown and died in April 1901:

Cotter – April 26[?], at his residence, 9 Eglinton Park, Kingstown, Edward Graham Cotter, aged 66 years. ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.’

Irish Times (1901) 29 April, p. 1

John Simpson


1 18th Report of the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education - Annual Report for the Year (with appendices), Volumes 18-19 (U.K. Dept. of Science and Art) (1871) Appendix B (Payments to Science Teachers) p. 196.

See the other collectors:

James Crofton: a tradition of public service

William Weatherup: what the newspapers said

Robert Henchy: a choice of two collectors

Frederick Buckley: rifleman

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