Stopping by Woods next-door

U 4.148-50: He stood by the nextdoor girl at the counter. Would she buy it too, calling the items from a slip in her hand? […] His eyes rested on her vigorous hips. Woods his name is. Wonder what he does. Wife is oldish. New blood. No followers allowed. Strong pair of arms.

Leopold Bloom was preparing breakfast on Bloomsday morning and left Molly in bed while he ventured out to the butcher’s shop to get himself a pork kidney. He walked down Eccles Street and turned right into Dorset Street Upper, passing Larry O’Rourke’s bar at the corner and carrying on until he reached Dlugacz the butcher. He stood in the queue at the butcher’s behind “the nextdoor girl”, the servant girl at No 8 Eccles Street.1 He wondered idly about her and her employer, Mr Woods, with the “oldish” wife compared to the youth and vitality of the servant, before following her home and cooking Molly’s kidney in butter.

Don Gifford notes that Thom’s Directory for 1904:

lists a Mr. R. Woods at 8 Eccles Street, next door to Bloom’s house. He is listed again under "Nobility, Gentry, Merchants, and Traders" […], but his vocation is not identified.

Sam Slote’s annotations to Ulysses identify Woods’s occupation: “the 1901 census lists the household as Patrick Woods, carrier, his wife Rose and daughter Katie”.

As early as 1962, Robert Adams had astutely recognised a mismatch between text and reality:

[…] had Bloom opened his eyes, he would have seen that R. Woods was not a man at all. The "R" stood for "Rosanna", and in the Evening Telegraph of March 19, 1904, one might have read on p 3 of Rosanna Woods’s action against a man named Malone, who had first offered and then withdrawn his offer to buy her home. She was, however, determined to get rid of it; for J. F. Keogh announced in the Irish Independent of June 16, 1904, p. 4, that he would sell #8 Eccles Street “at public auction on the 22 of June next”.2

He sums up this section by saying: “Presumably none of this material suited Joyce’s purposes, so he simply left Bloom ignorant of it.” Even though there was no need for Bloom to speculate in Ulysses on the sale of his neighbour’s house, life at No 8 Eccles Street on 16 June 1904 was not as straightforward as Bloom imagined.

No 8 Eccles Street in Thom’s Directory and the national census of 1901

Thom’s Directory is adamant that “Mr. R. Woods” was the principal occupier of No 8 Eccles Street in 1904. In fact, Thom’s lists “Mr R. Woods” as the principal occupier of the house all the way from 1898, when he takes over from “O’Reilly, Mr James”, until 1931, after which the house is ingloriously described as “Tenements”.

Eccles Street (including Nos 7 and 8), leading down to Lower Dorset Street:

Ian Gunn (with permission)

Joyce added the passage about the Woods family very late, at the end of June 1921. Until then (when he presumably had access to Thom’s) he had been uncertain about the house-numbering in Eccles Street in 1904, perhaps thinking No 1 was in fact part of Dorset Street.

The 1911 Ireland Census shows that No 8 Eccles Street was then home to four households: the Woods household were the main occupants, living in four rooms, and three other households occupied one room each. The census states that Patrick Woods was a carrier, born in King’s County (now Co. Offaly), and that his wife Rose was born in Co. Meath. Neither Patrick nor Rose was able read or write, unlike their daughter Katie, born in Dublin. Their ages are given as (Patrick) 50, (Rose) 40, and (Katie) 21. A number of these facts are incorrect. Most significantly, as Robert Adams notes, there was no “Mr. R. Woods”: the owner of the house was Mrs Rosanna (“Rose”) Woods.

Patrick and Rosanna Woods: early life and marriage

Patrick Woods was baptised on 27 February 1837, the son of Lackey [= Loughlin] Woods and Helen Flattery, at Kilbeggan, Westmeath, just over the county border from Tullamore, King’s County, where other records state that Patrick was actually born. When he married Rose (also Rosanna) Gaynor at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on 1 August 1869 he described himself as a “boatman”, living on the Phibsborough Road in North Dublin (his father was a “drayman”).

From G. W. Bacon & Co's Plan of Dublin and Suburbs (c1898), showing Eccles Street, the Mater Hospital,

Lower Dorset Street, Phibsborough Road in northern Dublin: Ian Gunn (with permission)

Patrick’s wife, Rose Woods (née Gaynor), was baptised ten years later, on 12 December 1847, at Kells, Co. Meath, the daughter of Lawrence Gaynor and Catherine Keary. At the time of her marriage in 1869 she was a servant, living at Gardiner’s Court in Dublin (her father was a labourer).

From their baptismal dates it is clear that their ages as declared in the 1901 census are inaccurate: Patrick was at least 63 and Rose at least 53 (not 50 and 40 respectively). Although Joyce was unlikely to have known the couple personally, his description of Rosanna Woods in 1904 as “oldish” was not inaccurate, though she was younger than her husband.

In the early years of their marriage the couple lived in Phibsborough, an area of Dublin near the Mater hospital and Eccles Street. In the late 1870s they moved to Dispensary Lane, no longer in existence but then a street between Eccles Place and Synott Place, from where several of their eight children were baptised. In 1886 Patrick Woods advertised the loss of a mare that he kept in a field at Phibsborough, perhaps related to his trade as a carrier:

Mare, chestnut, stolen or strayed from a field at Phibsborough, little lame in hind foot; if found in possession of any person after this notice will be prosecuted. Address Patrick Woods, 15 Dispensary lane, off Dorset street.

Freeman’s Journal (1886), 14 August p. 1

The only known photograph of Patrick and Rosanna Woods (reproduced below) dates from around 1880, and is in the possession of their great-grandson Paul Duffy:

Patrick and Rosanna Woods c1880

by kind permission of Paul Duffy

Perhaps the business was prospering in the 1880s. In 1896 the house at 15 Dispensary Lane was available to let:

Small House to Let, with shop, good yard, sheds, and gate entrance, 15 Dispensary lane, Lower Dorset street.

Freeman’s Journal (1896), 24 December

Moving to Eccles Street

Whether from the proceeds (or security) of the Dispensary Lane house, it was Rosanna Woods – and not her husband - who, on 18 February 1897, became the beneficial owner of No 8 Eccles Street. Two years earlier, in 1895, the Hibernian Bank Ltd of 27 College Green, Dublin had provided a mortgage for James O’Reilly to buy the property for £750. Presumably he had defaulted on the loan, and in early 1897 the Bank put No 8 Eccles Street and other premises up for auction: “the said Rosanna Woods [of 17 Hardwick Street, Dublin] was declared the highest bidder at the sum or price of Three hundred and ninety Pounds”. The deed describes the property as:

All that and those that plot of ground upon which the dwelling house now known as Number 8 Eccles Street in the Parish of Saint George and County of the City of Dublin with the Stable coach house and premises at the rere thereof now stand being portion of all that plot of ground comprised in the thereinbefore recited Indenture of the sixth March one Thousand seven hundred and sixty nine and Fee farm Grant of sixteenth March One thousand eight hundred and sixty three and therein more fully described […]3

Deeds of No 8 Eccles Street, 1897 (extract): by kind permission of Paul Duffy

Robert Adams drew attention to the fact that Rosanna Woods wanted to sell the house around 1904, had put it up for sale, and was in dispute with a potential purchaser (Evening Telegraph, 19 March). The house was actually advertised for sale by auction by McArthur & Co of 79 Talbot Street, Dublin six months earlier, in October 1903:4

No Head Rent For Ever


Excellent House, 3 storeys over basement, producing £1 12s. 6d. weekly; new drainage, large garden at rear. There is a cottage at Eccles place in the rear, sublet at 7s., making a gross rental of £1 19s. 6d. weekly, the only deductions from which are rates and taxes. The premises are held in fee-simple.

Sale Friday Fortnight, 30th October

Irish Times (1903) 10 October p.12

However, before the date of the auction of the house an agreement was reached to sell it “by private treaty”, and it was withdrawn from sale (Irish Times 1903, 24 October p. 13). This was the dispute Adams found reported in the Evening Telegraph. The Irish Times had also covered the case on 19 March 1903:

High Court of Justice [...]

Yesterday, in Chancery Division, before the Master of the Rolls, the hearing of the case of Woods v. Malone was resumed. The plaintiff, Rosanna Woods, who resides at Eccles street, Dublin, sought to obtain a decree compelling the defendant, Pierce Malone, who lives at 20 North Strand, Dublin, to specifically perform an agreement to purchase the house No. 8 Eccles street, and cottage at rear, for the sum of £690, free of all incumbrances. The defendant pleaded that the agreement was waived by reason of what were alleged to be misrepresentations by the vendor as to the condition of the premises.

Mr. O’Connor, K.C., and Mr. James Henry (instructed by Mr. Roger Greene) appeared for the plaintiff.

The agreement lapsed and the house was not sold. Rosanna Woods emerges as a forceful character who engaged a King’s Counsel to fight her case, and who hoped to see a tidy profit from the sale of the property for £690 (which she had bought six or seven years earlier for £390). The sale also raises the question: why did Rosanna Woods want to sell the property which was, according to her advertisement at least, providing a steady income?

Living in Eccles Street

Although Patrick, Rosanna, and one of their daughters were living at No 8 Eccles Street at the time of the national census in 1901, Rosanna Woods and her husband separated in 1902, and Rosanna then lived at the house on her own or with her daughter (Mary) Kate (who married and moved to her own house nearby in 1905).5

From Joyce’s perspective this is of interest because the picture Bloom paints of Woods, his “oldish wife”, and servant girl in 1904 does not square with reality, as Patrick was no longer living at No 8 Eccles Street on Bloomsday.

The causes of the split are hinted at in the registers of Mountjoy Prison in north Dublin. The admission register for 18 August 1905 shows that Patrick Woods was sentenced to six weeks for debt, having neglected “to pay [his] wife maintenance”. His address is given at 7 Rutland Lane, whereas his wife is “Roseanne 8 Eccles St”.6

Patrick Woods’s problems continued, and a year later, on 8 June 1906, he was sentenced to a further six weeks’ imprisonment in Mountjoy Prison for debt (alternatively, a fine of four pounds ten shillings), for “Failing to comply with [a] Court order to maintain his Wife &c”. By now he was 66, and still living at 7 Rutland Lane. He was released on 19 July, but re-arrested on a similar charge a week later, this time given the same prison sentence (or a fine of five guineas).

Although the house at No 8 Eccles Street remained in the Woods family until the early 1930s, Rosanna herself clearly had financial problems in the first decade of the century, and seems to have been unable to sell the property, or perhaps to have borrowed all that she could against it.

Eccles Street c1950, with Nos 8 and 7 the second and third doors down

Their problems increased. In 1908 Rosanna was admitted to the Dublin Workhouse twice (“8 Eccles Street”, “wife of furniture carrier”). On the second occasion she “Came in Street Cab; by Way of Loan”); as a “Cab case”, she was under the instruction of a doctor, suggesting some illness or incapacity. Patrick Woods himself (now in his 70s) was also admitted as an inmate for short periods between 1909 and 1913, giving his address variously as 8 Eccles Street, 41 Upper Dorset Street (where his daughter Mary lived), and 160 Church Street respectively). Reference to a doctor’s report in the records suggests he too was unwell.

Eccles Street in 1963, with No 8 the first house on the left-hand side

(by kind permission of Michael Hancher)

“Glass-breaking in Dublin”

On 17 January 1911 the Irish Times reported two separate incidents of “glass-breaking” in Dublin, one involving Rosanna Woods:

Yesterday, in the Northern Divisional Police Court, before Mr. Mahony, two women, Rosanna Woods and Elizabeth McConnell, were sent to prison for two months each on charges of glass-breaking in the city. Woods was charged with breaking a pane of glass in the publichouse of Mr. Laurence O’Rourke, publican, Dorset street, and McConnell was charged with breaking a pane of glass in the publichouse of Mr. Thomas Duff, No. 56 Bolton Street. (p. 3)

Rosanna Woods was imprisoned for “mal[icious] damage” to Larry O’Rourke’s bar (a place with which Bloom is quite familiar in Ulysses), and for drunkenness: for the first charge she received two months’ imprisonment with hard labour and on the second a concurrent seven days’ sentence (or a ten-shilling fine). She was discharged on 15 March, and two weeks later the 1911 Ireland census shows her living alone at No 8 Eccles Street (with no lodgers or co-tenants).

Last years

Patrick Woods gave numerous addresses to the Workhouse authorities in his final years, but he cites “8 Eccles Street” enough times to make it likely that he either returned there from time to time while Rosanna was still alive, or at least regarded it as his family home. He was admitted to the Dublin Workhouse for the last time on 16 August 1915 (giving his address as 8 Eccles Street). He was not discharged before his death on 4 November, by which time he had been moved for his last three weeks to the north Dublin Infirmary Hospital, in North Brunswick Street. He died at the age of 75 of heart disease and bronchitis. His death was registered not by a family member, but another inmate of the hospital.

Two months later, his widow Rosanna Woods died of bronchitis and pneumonia, on 24 January 1916. Both husband and wife were buried in Glasnevin cemetery.7


Bloom’s reference to the Woods household in Ulysses is fleeting and entered the text of the novel in the final year of its gestation. As Joyce only introduced the Woods reference when he was in Paris in June 1921, with access to Thom's Directory for 1904, he is unlikely to have known anything about them beyond their name and what he might have picked up from his friend John Francis Byrne, whom he visited several times (on one occasion staying overnight) at No 7 Eccles Street in 1909. He was either ignorant of, or overlooked, the fact that Patrick Woods was not living at No 8 Eccles Street on Bloomsday 1904. The story of the Woods family is a striking reminder that the real lives of characters can be much sadder and more difficult than may be suggested by the memorable footnotes they leave in literature.

John Simpson

See also Ian Gunn’s article “The demise of Ithaca”, on the history No 7 Eccles Street, the home of Leopold Bloom (on the JJON website).

I am grateful throughout this paper to Paul Duffy, who has shared with me the results of his thorough and extensive research into the family of his great-grandparents, Patrick and Rosanna Woods of 8 Eccles Street, Dublin, and to Vincent Deane, for confirming a number of references.


1 See No followers allowed for the history of the expression associated with the Woods’s servant girl.

2 Robert Martin Adams Surface and Symbol (1962), ch. 6 (section: “Bloom’s Bloopers”) p. 168.

3 Joyce’s friend John Byrne mentions the stable lane behind the garden (Byrne lived with his elderly cousins at Bloom’s house, No 7 Eccles Street, from 1909-11) (Silent Years, 1953, p. 155). Stephen Dedalus uses the lane, leading to Eccles Lane, to leave the house: "the double reverberation of retreating feet on the heavenborn earth, the double vibration of a jew's harp in the resonant lane" (17.1242-44).

4 Bloom sees various estate-agents’ boards along Eccles Street, including one for MacArthur’s: "Number eighty still unlet. Why is that? Valuation is only twentyeight. Towers, Battersby, North, MacArthur: parlour windows plastered with bills" (4.235-7).

5 Paul Duffy: private correspondence.

6 Further information from the prison register describes Patrick Woods as aged 65, a labourer, with grey hair, blue eyes, and a “fr[esh] complexion; he was born in Tullamore, King’s County; “3rd. finger left hand crooked” and “small scar left temple”; “degree of education” nil. His alternative sentence was a fine of three pounds, but he seems to have served his sentence and been released on 28 September 1905. The prison and workhouse records are accessible (by subscription) at Institutional records show that Patrick Woods was 5’ 6½” in height, and his wife 5’ 1”.

7 After the death of Rosanna Woods the house passed to her eldest son Michael. He and his family lived in the old coach house at the rear (No 8 Eccles Place), apparently renting out No 8 Eccles Street. When Michael Woods died in 1941 the property passed to his widow Mary Kate. By 1986 most of the northern side of Eccles Street and Eccles Place was demolished, and the Mater private hospital was constructed in their place. The last Woods family member to live at No 8 Eccles Place was Mary Kate Woods’s youngest daughter Mary (d. 2013). (Information: Paul Duffy).

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