Moses Golden

U 6.266 — About the boatman? Mr Power asked.

Joyce criticism has a tendency to judaise the real people in Joyce’s life. Most famously, Richard Ellmann in the first edition of James Joyce presented Alfred Henry Hunter as ‘a dark-complexioned Dublin Jew’ (JJI 238), a misidentification that still circulates today despite a wealth of scholarship on the man’s Ulster Presbyterian origins.1 If some like Moses Dlugacz were born Jewish, and others acquired Jewishness in the course of their incorporation into Joyce’s writing, still others had Jewishness thrust upon them on the basis of likely sounding names. Those temporarily assimilated to Judaism in this fashion include Martha Fleischmann, Bella Cohen, Reuben J. Dodd and son and, unnamed in Ulysses, the man who pulled Dodd Jnr from the River Liffey: Moses Golden.

On his visits to Dublin in the mid-1950s, Ellmann discovered that the story of Dodd’s ignominious rescue was based on a real incident, one which Joyce relocated from 26 August 1911 to the 16 June 1904 setting of Ulysses. The historical ‘exciting Liffey scene’ was reported in the Dublin and national presses at the time.2 With his ready access to Irish newspapers on the Continent, Joyce could have easily encountered the story in Trieste. As relayed in ‘Hades’, however, the rescue culminates in Dodd Snr giving his son’s rescuer two shillings – ‘the funny part’, Bloom explains – which sets up Simon Dedalus for his dry rejoinder ‘One and eightpence too much’ (U 6.285, 291). This joke topping in the funeral carriage suggests Joyce was familiar with the miserly fallout of the rescue, as reported by Jim Larkin’s Irish Worker newspaper on 2 December 1911:

Half-a-Crown for Saving a Life.

On August the 26th of this year a solicitor named Reuben Jas. Dodd jumped into the Liffey close to the Butt Bridge. Whatever his motive – suicide or otherwise – we care not. After swimming around to cool himself he became exhausted; a life-buoy was thrown him, but he was unable to help himself. A docker who was passing at the time hearing the commotion asked “what’s up?” “Man drowning”, was the answer, and without a moment’s hesitation he jumped in and brought Dodd, solicitor, to the steps, where another docker and a carter lifted Dodd up the steps onto the quay wall. The inevitable policeman then appeared, and Dodd was taken to Jervis street Hospital, and from there to the house of detention. The father of this Dodd, solicitor, was walking up and down the quay whilst this episode was being enacted, and as a matter of fact had been talking to his son, Dodd, solicitor, previous to him deciding to test the recuperative benefits of Anna Liffey. Now, what of the man who rescued Dodd, eh? He is only a common docker named Moses Goldin [sic], who during the last few years saved some twenty lives. Golden has a wife and four children to keep. He has been suffering from pulmonary trouble for some time past, brought on by the exposure he submitted himself to in his successful efforts to rescue life. Dodd was taken to hospital on a motor car. Moses Goldin, who saved his life, walked home to his slum. His poor old mother, who minds his children whilst the other heroine – his wife – goes out to earn a few shillings in a sack factory, went out to a publican close by to borrow a shirt so that Golden might change his clothes. Owing to want of attention Golden had to go to hospital; whilst lying there his wife lost a day’s work and wages amounting to 1s., and went and saw Mr. Dodd, senior. After some delay he condescended to see her, and very kindly told Mrs. Goldin her husband should have minded his own business. After other fatherly advice he gave Mrs. Goldin 2s. 6d. to assist her. Goldin lay in hospital some weeks. He lost his health and wages and got 2s. 6d. for saving Dodd, solicitor. It wasn’t worth it; was it? Goldin himself did not get thank you [sic]. I don’t know if the policeman who came up after it was all over got a certificate and [was] recommended for promotion or not. We would like to ask what the local hon. sec. to the Royal Humane Society is doing; Goldin also asks. I hope the readers of this paper will ask. Some lives Goldin saved – J. M‘Allister and C. Rielly [sic?] – died after rescue. P. Ryan, W. Hanly, J. Gorman; these persons were all taken to Jervis street and Mercer’s Hospital; others rescued taken home; and last, but least, Dodd, solicitor, for which life Goldin’s wife got 2s. 6d.

Mr. Dodd thinks his son is worth half-a-crown. We wouldn’t give that amount for a whole family of Dodds.

Irish Worker, 2 December 1911, p. 1

The Irish Worker provided a grainy image of the rescuer (right), which microfilm and digital scanning technologies have left more indistinct still. The preference for ‘Goldin’ over ‘Golden’ in the front-page article – the ratio is 3:1 in favour of ‘Goldin’ – prompted Ellmann to normalise the spelling of the rescuer’s surname in the footnotes to the biography (see JJI 38–39) and, in the process, created Moses Goldin, maybe Jew. While Golden was actually a Roman Catholic, the variants in the Irish Worker chime with the many different forms his name takes in church and civil records from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Across baptism and marriage registries, census returns, workhouse and prison records (of which more later), the family name appears variously as ‘Golden’, ‘Golding’, and ‘Goulding’. Like his father before him, Golden was functionally illiterate: he signed the North Dublin marriage registry with an ‘X’ when he married Anne Cottle on 1 August 1903. The generational ping-pong between different versions of the family name may therefore reflect nothing more than the preferences of successive district registrars and law clerks. The official sources are, however, silent on ‘Goldin’. Beyond the orthographical variants, Golden also went by a number of aliases in the early 1900s, including James Reynolds, ‘Rogey’ or ‘Moggie’ Reynolds, and Moses Gordon.

Moses Golden, in a grainy photograph from the Irish Worker

Beyond mechanical errors, the Irish Worker is as partial to the working man as it is prejudiced against the professional (‘Dodd, solicitor’), with Golden coming across as the proverbial golden boy. While the accounts of his heroism are at least partially true – newspaper databases supply the details of three, possibly four, Liffey rescues that Golden made between 1902 and 1906 – he features in the papers just as regularly for his criminal exploits. Working back from the ages given in census returns, prison records, and on his death record suggests a birth year between 1878 and 1882, but there is an 1880 baptism record for one ‘Moyses Golding’, son of Mathew and Margaret Golding (née Smith) of 11 Poolbeg Street, which may correspond to the future Liffey swimmer. In the 1901 census ‘Moses Golden’ is described as a nineteen-year-old general labourer, living at home with his parents, Mathew and Margaret Golden (née Jones), as well as a brother and sister. Within five months of the census, Golden was behind bars, serving a stretch of three months in Mountjoy Gaol for the aggravated assault of Annie Cottle – his future wife. (Golden had also done time in 1899.) In March 1902 he was imprisoned in Mountjoy for a third time, on this occasion for the assault of a woman named Anne Carberry. By the year’s end, he had picked up a conviction for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

A jailbird and violent crim, Golden was evidently an unsavoury character. And, yet, it was around this time that he first made a splash in the papers for his more virtuous career of rescuer from drowning. The Weekly Irish Times reports ‘a rather exciting incident’ that took place on 6 July 1902, when

a man named James Redmond accidentally fell into the Liffey. Moses Golding, labourer, 41 Poolbeg street, saw the man in the water, and pluckily jumped in to his rescue. Fortunately he succeeded in holding him up until a boat was procured, in which Redmond was placed and rowed to the Northern side of the quays, little the worse from the immersion.

Weekly Irish Times, 12 July 1902, p. 7

The Freeman’s Journal for 6 August that same year reports the recovery from the Liffey of two people, a young man named Patrick Reilly and his would-be rescuer, T. Stoney, both of whom were rescued by ‘a man known as “Rogey” Reynolds’ – presumably Golden.3 He was back in the news a year later as Moses Golding for the ‘gallant rescue from drowning’ of a child who had fallen into the Liffey on the north quays. A letter to the editor of the Irish Independent claimed that the child’s was ‘the fifteenth life’ Golden had saved from drowning in the Liffey and notified a ‘generous public’ that a subscription list had been opened in Golden’s name.4 The letter was signed ‘John Reynolds’, a name close enough to Golden’s known aliases as to undermine the philanthropic spirit of the appeal. And, in July 1906, Golden was once more jumping into the Liffey, this time to rescue the nine-year-old Thomas Clinton.5

These daring rescues of children from drowning shadow a series of tragedies in Golden’s private life. In the spring of 1903, he and Cottle had a son, but the boy died three months later. The 1911 census records that, of five live births in nine years, a single child (a five-month-old boy) was then living, which gives the lie to the Irish Worker’s claim of ‘a wife and four children to keep’.6 The census was taken on the night of 2 April 1911; at the time Golden was in the South Dublin Union workhouse after having served five years’ penal servitude for robbery – a crime he committed less than two weeks after rescuing the Clinton boy.7 Golden was discharged from the workhouse on 19 May and, three months later, was leaping into the Liffey to rescue ‘Dodd, solicitor’.

For all its hand-wringing, the Irish Worker’s account of what happened next may contain elements of truth. The newspaper has Golden hospitalised for ‘some weeks’ on account of a pulmonary condition (the same tuberculosis that was to kill him a few years later), and workhouse records have him on the books with phthisis from 1 September to 26 October. For the remainder of his life, he was in and out of the workhouse, and he died at Harold’s Cross Hospice on 4 July 1915. The death registry for South Dublin Union gives his name as ‘Moses Golden’, which the registrar corrected to ‘Goulding’ on the basis of information supplied by the wife of the deceased.

As always, we must ask how much of this Joyce knew. The answer, presumably, is very little, but the discussion in the funeral carriage suggests he had more than the bare fact of the August rescue to go on. It may be that a copy of the Irish Worker front page made its way to Trieste – perhaps on account of the Joyce family antipathy to the Dodds. On the other hand, Joyce was back in Ireland from mid-July to early September 1912, and it is not inconceivable that the half-a-crown story was doing the rounds on the anniversary of Dodd Jnr’s rescue. Gordon Bowker may be right about Joyce’s ultimate source – ‘No doubt he got this story and all the latest gossip from John [Joyce]’8 – but there is an echo of the Irish Worker’s inflation of the size of the Golden family in ‘Cyclops’ when the Canada swindle case comes up for discussion:

— Poor old sir Frederick, says Alf, you can cod him up to the two eyes.

— Heart as big as a lion, says Ned. Tell him a tale of woe about arrears of rent and a sick wife and a squad of kids and, faith, he’ll dissolve in tears on the bench.

— Ay, says Alf. Reuben J was bloody lucky he didn’t clap him in the dock the other day for suing poor little Gumley that’s minding stones, for the corporation there near Butt bridge. And he starts taking off the old recorder letting on to cry:

— A most scandalous thing! This poor hardworking man! How many children? Ten, did you say?

— Yes, your worship. And my wife has the typhoid.

— And the wife with typhoid fever! Scandalous!

(U 12.1096–1107)

It is tempting, too, to connect the account of the rescue given in ‘Hades’ with Golden’s more dramatic exploits: the saving from drowning of children. After all, Reuben J. Dodd Jnr was thirty-two in 1911 when Golden fished him out of the Liffey. He would have been twenty-five in June 1904, being three years Joyce’s senior, but in Ulysses is referred to as ‘the young chiseller’ (U 6.279). This rejuvenation likely owes more to aesthetic considerations than Golden’s heroics, as a younger Dodd provides a neat foil to Rudy in the episode. Golden also interacted with some other real people mentioned in Ulysses. In 1905 he beat a charge of aggravated assault in a case before Frederick Falkiner with Seymour Bushe prosecuting. It fell to the barrister to explain to the jury that ‘Moggie Reynolds is the pet name of Moses Goulding’.9

Did Joyce think Golden was Jewish? The diluted version of Alfred H. Hunter as only ‘rumored to be Jewish’ in the 1982 Ellmann biography (JJII 162) leaves plenty of scope for Joyce to have thought that the original of Bloom was a Jew. As critics learned more about the real people referenced in the novel and it became known that the historical Dodds were Roman Catholic, R. M. Adams discerned an irony buried in ‘Hades’ ‘where the real-life situation is exactly reversed in the telling – Dodd’s meanness attributed to his Jewishness, the rescuer’s heroism ascribed implicitly to his Irish generosity’.10 (Robert Boyle had argued as early as 1965, however, that the fictionalised Dodds retain their Catholic faith in Ulysses.)11 Without any direct experience of Golden – no shared Belvedere College schooldays there – Joyce may have assumed that the Irish Worker’s hero was Jewish. We know, for example, that in Switzerland in 1917, as he read the story of Isaac Marshall’s suicide by hanging, Joyce assumed or decided that the deceased man was Jewish; specifics of Marshall and the manner of his death appear on a page of notes headed ‘Jews’ in the Subject Notebook for Ulysses.12 Mere newspaper-cutting acquaintance with Golden may have suggested to Joyce the irony of a Jewish saviour for ‘Hades’, however submerged that detail would become in the episode.

The Irish Worker has Golden as ‘only a common docker’ when official records of the day are unanimous in describing him as a labourer or general labourer. (While Golden’s physical description includes several anchor tattoos, Irish census fillers, at least, distinguished general from quay or dock labourers.) That the unnamed rescuer is described in ‘Hades’ as a boatman points towards Joyce’s motivation in using this trivial historical incident in Ulysses – beyond its value for scoring points off the Dodds – and explains why the episode should diverge from the facts as reported in the newspapers. For, the 1911 anachronism aside, the Moses Golden of ‘Hades’ noticeably keeps his feet dry. Martin Cunningham explains how the fictional rescue took place: ‘A boatman got a pole and fished him out by the slack of the breeches and he was landed up to the father on the quay more dead than alive’ (U 6.282–84). As Robert H. Bell first suggested, the boatman is thus an appearance of Charon, the mythical ferryman who transports the dead across the Styx to Hades in exchange for payment – an identification strengthened by Cunningham’s idiomatic description of Dodd Jnr as ‘more dead than alive’.13 As the counterpart to Charon, the boatman is not alone, however. For Weldon Thornton, it is the ‘man stood on his dropping barge’ (U 6.439–40) who recalls the mythical figure most immediately; for Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman in the first edition of their Ulysses notes, James M’Cann at U 6.447 fulfils the role; Adams plumps for the undertaker (‘Corny Kelleher can only be Charon’); and Fritz Senn notes a resemblance between the ‘dullgarbed old man’ (U 6.229) selling bootlaces and the physical description of Charon in the Aeneid.14 (While at most in his early thirties in 1911, Golden was evidently something of a hard chaw himself.) But whether ‘Hades’ has one or five psychopomps, the larger point is that by including the ferryman in the episode Joyce has supplemented Homeric with Virgilian correspondences. As Thornton noted in 1968, the presence of Charon is only the most explicit of ‘several situational correspondences’ between ‘Hades’ and Aeneas’s descent into the underworld.15 Here, then, is the Latin text of Aeneid VI from the Perseus Digital Library and Seamus Heaney’s recent translation:

Portitor has horrendus aquas et flumina servat

terribili squalore Charon, cui plurima mento

canities inculta iacet; stant lumina flamma,

sordidus ex umeris nodo dependet amictus. (Aeneid VI. 298–301)

And beside these flowing streams and flooded wastes

A ferryman keeps watch, surly, filthy and bedraggled

Charon. His chin is bearded with unclean white shag;

The eyes stand in his head and glow; a grimy cloak

Flaps out from a knot tied at the shoulder.16

Ronan Crowley

John Simpson

Ronan Crowley’s research presented here has been funded by the European Research Council, grant no. 818366.


1 For a recent example of Hunter as Dublin Jew, see Dan Chiasson, ‘“Ulysses” and the Moral Right to Pleasure’, New Yorker, 16 June 2014.

2 See, for example, ‘Exciting Liffey Scene’, Sunday Independent, 27 August 1911, p. 6; ‘Scene in the Liffey’, Freeman’s Journal, 28 August 1911, p. 2; ‘Exciting Liffey Scene’, Irish Examiner, 28 August 1911, p. 5; ‘An Exciting Liffey Rescue’, Irish Independent, 28 August 1911, p. 6. The Sunday Independent, the Examiner, and the Independent give the rescuer as Moses Golden of 18 Moss street. The Freeman has Moses Goulding.

3 ‘Daring Rescue from Drowning’, Freeman’s Journal, 6 August 1902, p. 2.

4 ‘Gallant Rescue from Drowning’, Irish Independent, 10 October 1903, p. 6.

5 ‘A Liffey Rescue’, Evening Herald, 17 July 1906, p. 3.

6 ‘Half-a-Crown for Saving a Life’, Irish Worker, 2 December 1911, p. 1.

7 ‘Thugs Sentenced’, Sunday Independent, 5 August 1906, p. 5. ‘Ann Golding’, as she signed herself in the 1911 census, was then living on Moss street with her son and her brother.

8 Gordon Bowker, James Joyce: A Biography (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011), 201.

9 ‘Fight on Eden Quay’, Freeman’s Journal, 10 October 1905, p. 4.

10 R. M. Adams, ‘Hades’, James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’: Critical Essays. Ed. Clive Hart and David Hayman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 97n.

11 Robert Boyle, ‘A Note on Reuben J. Dodd as ‘a dirty Jew’”, James Joyce Quarterly, 3.1 (Fall 1965), 64–66.

12 See Harald Beck, ‘Death in Ennis’, James Joyce Online Notes, 9 (September 1915). Joyce’s likely source was ‘Pithy Provincial News’, Irish Independent, 2 October 1917, p. 3.

13 Robert H. Bell, ‘“Preparatory to Anything Else”: Introduction to Joyce’s “Hades”’, Journal of Modern Literature, 24.3/4 (Summer 2001), 410.

14 Weldon Thornton, Allusions in ‘Ulysses’: An Annotated List (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 95–96; Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, Notes for Joyce: An Annotation of James Joyce's ‘Ulysses’ (New York: Dutton, 1974), 89; Adams, ‘Hades’, 95; Fritz Senn annotations to Joyce, Hades: Ein Kapitel aus dem ‘Ulysses’ Englisch–Deutsch, trans. Hans Wollschläger (Mainz: Dieterich, 1992), p. 179. Quoted in Bell, ‘Introduction to Joyce’s “Hades”’, 403.

15 Thornton, Allusions in ‘Ulysses’, 96.

16 A Latin text of the Aeneid based on J. B. Greenough’s 1900 edition is available on the Perseus Digital Library. Virgil, Aeneid, Book VI, trans. Seamus Heaney (London: Faber and Faber, 2016), 18.