Joyce’s Ormond Hotel

U 11.64-5: Bronze by gold, Miss Douce’s head by Miss Kennedy’s head, over the crossblind of the Ormond bar heard the viceregal hoofs go by, ringing steel.

The Ormond Hotel on Upper Ormond Quay is the setting for the Sirens episode in Ulysses. The hotel underwent many changes in the first half of the twentieth century: originally it was located simply at No 8 Upper Ormond Quay, but as a result of a series of extensions it came eventually to command a striking façade spreading from No 7 along to No 11 Upper Ormond Quay inclusive.

There are two principal misconceptions about the setting under which readers of Ulysses may labour. One is that the Ormond hotel presented in the Sirens episode describes the establishment as it existed at No 8 Upper Ormond Quay in 1904; the other is that the derelict premises still standing today at Nos 7 to 11 Upper Ormond Quay at least contain remnants of the hotel Joyce had in mind. Both assumptions are false.

The following article examines the history of the buildings as far as they are significant for the description of the hotel given in Ulysses. In addition, it seeks to reconstruct the relevant features of the interior of the hotel that Joyce mentions.

Upper Ormond Quay from the early 18th century

John Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin shows that the buildings along the quay located between Capel and Arran Street (including No 8, the original hotel building) date back to the first half of the eighteenth century. While they were not yet extending backwards to Little Strand Street, as becomes the case in the 19th century, the layout of the buildings on the quay front, with Nos 6 to 1 set slightly further back from the roadside frontage, remained unchanged. (Number 8, though not yet the Ormond Hotel, lies directly above the letter Y of “quay”.)

A hundred years later, Henry Shaw’s Dublin Pictorial Guide & Directory, with its historically valuable street façades, shows the relevant section of Upper Ormond Quay as it was in 1850, drawn by the illustrator J. T. Ashenhurst (the street numbers may be seen at the foot of the drawing, with No 8 to the left of Flood’s tailoring establishment):

The most noticeable change to the street frontage since Rocque was brought about by the construction of E. P. Gribbon's Presbyterian church in 1846-7 (demolished in 1969 after a fire), but this did not alter the numbering of the buildings further along the quay. We should note that No 8 had two doors, one to the right into the hallway and another one in the middle.1

Cutting from a postcard from around 1900 in possession of the author

A short article on the Ormond Hotel in The Industries of Dublin of 1887, affirms the historicity the Ormond hotel:2

This fine old house which can boast over a hundred years of uninterrupted success and public favour, was well known and frequented by the wits and gallants who made Dublin famous in the latter part of last century […] Founded somewhat earlier than the year 1788, about ten or eleven years before the great rebellion, the old house might gossip with its modern customers about those stirring times […]

But a list of the many owners of No 8 in Thom’s Directory between 1846 and 1933 casts some doubt on the “uninterrupted success” of the establishment. More importantly, it shows how the hotel developed from occupying just No 8 to becoming what architectural historian Christine Casey calls “the largest presence on the quay”,3 comprising Nos 7–11.

1846 Luke & Henry Corr - grocers and wine merchants

1859 James Redmond - tea, wine and spirit merchant [plus 8 solicitors]

1860 Vacant

1861 Miss M. Reilly, proprietor - Ormond Hotel and Tavern

1863 John Cooke, proprietor - Ormond Hotel and Restaurante [!]

1866 John Cooke - London dining room and hotel

1867 Meleady & Kenny - hotel keepers and wine and spirit merchants

1870 James Kenny

1881 Vacant

1884 Thomas O’Neill - wine and spirit merchant

1885 Vacant

1886 Thomas Horan - wine and spirit merchant

1889 James McHugh, Ormond hotel - wine and spirit merchant

1900 Mrs de Massey, Ormond hotel - wine and spirit merchant

1905 No 9 (formerly Liddledale, auctioneers and valuators): vacant

1906 Mrs de Massey, Ormond hotel - Nos 8 and 9

1923 P. J. O’Malley, Ormond hotel4 - Nos 8 and 9

1933 P. J. O’Malley, New Ormond Hotel - Nos 8, 9, 10, 11

1971 [No proprietor given] Ormond Hotel - Nos 7 – 11

The interior of the hotel in 1893

Apart from the references to the buildings and its interior given in the Sirens episode of Ulysses, the most valuable source of information for determining the layout of the Ormond Hotel in Joyce’s lifetime are the two surviving Goad fire insurance maps of central Dublin, dated 1893 and 1926. The firm of Charles E. Goad produced detailed plans for many major cities in Britain and Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These plans specify structural aspects of the construction of the buildings covered.

From Goad’s 1893 plan of Dublin City

Goad’s 1893 plan shows that No 8 Upper Ormond Quay was at that time a P[ublic] H[ouse]. No 9 was used as Off[ice]s, and this remained the state of affairs until late 1904, when Littledale’s auctioneers closed its doors and the building became vacant.5

Although Goad plans generally show neither external doors or windows, nor the full complexity of interior partition walls over several floors, yet we can clearly identify the Ormond bar at No 8, with its baylike back wall and the one-storey saloon behind it.6 The saloon was illuminated by a skylight of up to 50 square feet indicated by the upside-down V-sign on the Goad plan. In Ulysses the panes of the skylight are turned by Ben Dollard’s booming bass into “quivery loveshivery roofpanes” (11.531). The door indicated to the right of the bar and saloon defines the hallway leading to the back and upper floors of the hotel.

(left) The Ormond restaurant in 1915 (right) The Ormond Hotel after 1906

The hotel expands to incorporate No 9 Upper Ormond Quay

James McHugh sold the hotel to Mrs Nora de Massey in 1899. The house deeds state that the frontage of No 8 was just 18 feet wide. The micro-topography of the Sirens episode requires that this should contain a hallway, a bar and an adjoining restaurant with a separate entrance. But there was clearly not space for this in 1904. It only became possible after the expansion of the hotel in 1906.

The 1907 Ordnance Survey map already shows the extended premises of 1906 (courtesy of Ian Gunn)

In October 1905, the hotel’s new owner, Mrs de Massey, planned to buy No 9 Upper Ormond Quay (formerly Littledale’s, the auctioneers) and requested a licence extension “to take in the house next door”. She also proposed to have a restaurant there, on the ground floor.7 Having acquired No 9, she did indeed turn its ground floor into a restaurant and kitchen, while the bar and saloon remained at No 8.8 Messrs Dockrell, whose wallpaper helped furnish the Bloom’s place in Lombard Street West, were soon “executing repairs to the Ormond Hotel”, as the Irish Times announced on 21 May. The restaurant was called “The Buffet”, as evidenced by the 1915 photograph above and earlier advertisements in newspapers.

The premises had not noticeably changed when they were offered for sale in 1919:9

[…] on groundfloor, a well-appointed spirit bar, two luncheon and dining-rooms, smoke room [the saloon], kitchen, scullery, pantries, larder, etc. The upper portion consists of commercial room, coffee room and 28 bedrooms.

Cork Examiner (1919), 7 May

An enlargement from the 1926 Goad map, the only later one extant, shows this arrangement of rooms.

Mrs de Massey’s Ormond Hotel remained structurally unchanged until she sold it to Patrick J. O’Malley in 1923. O’Malley too retained the same floor plan until he was able to expand the hotel even further, in 1932, when he acquired Nos 10 and 11 Upper Ormond Quay, and turned all four houses into the New Ormond Hotel.

The 1926 Goad therefore provides reliable evidence of the ground plan of which Joyce was familiar.10 It shows the arrangement required to make the fictional Ormond correspond to post-1906 reality and to the layout required for an accurate appreciation of positioning and movement of characters in the Sirens episode of Ulysses: the bar with the saloon in No 8 and two connected dining rooms next-door in No 9. Only the wide opening in the party wall between the two buildings is obviously of a post-1912 date.

Joyce at the Ormond Hotel in 1912

As a letter to his brother Stanislaus of 21 August 1912 proves, Joyce had first-hand knowledge of these new premises from at least one evening spent there the previous evening in the company of his father and his friend the lawyer George Lidwell, who was involved in Joyce’s fight for the publication of Dubliners.

I went to see Lidwell last night at the Ormond Hotel. I found him in the company of several others telling stories […] Pappie then told his story

The fact that the fictional alter egos of George Lidwell and Joyce’s father figure prominently among the characters in the Sirens episode lends extra credence to the assumption that Ulysses describes the Ormond Hotel he became familiar with in late August 1912.

The new ground plan as demonstrated in the text of Ulysses

Once we have established the post-1906 Ormond Hotel at Nos 8 and 9 Upper Ormond Quay as the model for the setting of the Sirens episode, a close reading of the chapter and the associated genetic material available allows us to develop a reasonably precise idea of the micro-topography of the external action.

Before the heroes arrive, the Ormond’s sirenlike barmaids Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy watch the Viceregal cavalcade moving eastward past the hotel, about to turn right over Grattan Bridge. We are told that they are behind the bar, as might be expected. Noticing that one of the gentlemen in the cortège is looking at them makes Miss Douce dart to the rearmost corner of the window to catch him staring back. She could do this only if the bar counter was to the left as one entered the Ormond bar. This position is also confirmed by a sentence in the first draft of the episode:

The boots came across from the hall and laid his tray on the counter.

- There’s your teas, he said.

Miss Kennedy came down the bar and conveyed the tray down to an upturned lemonade crate.

This is useful information in two respects: First, it shows that the boy came across from the hallway running along the right-hand side of No 8 (see Goad), and second, this entrance from the hall would have been roughly opposite the end of the bar, and the interior door to the restaurant as evidenced by this passage:

Bald Pat in the doorway [of the restaurant] met tealess gold returning. Bothered, he wanted Power and cider. Bronze by the window, watched, bronze from afar. (11. 453-5)

Numbers 1 (T. Daly) to 8 (first line of windows of Ormond Hotel) Upper Ormond Quay. Courtesy of Aida Yared

Having spotted his wife’s lover from Teresa Daly’s shop at 1 Upper Ormond Quay on an outsider car riding over Grattan Bridge towards the Ormond Hotel, Bloom decides - out of curiosity - to follow him. Minutes later he passes the entrances and bar windows of No 8, where Boylan’s outsider carriage is waiting, although Bloom is aware that he might be seen from inside (“See me he might.” 11.342). Bloom proceeds along the quay, but spotting Cowley further down at the Sheriff’s office (No 30) he determines to avoid meeting him and, seeing Richie Goulding coming towards him, realises that this is his chance to do so. He hears that Goulding wants to have lunch at the Ormond. As this gives Bloom an opportunity to find out what Boylan is doing at the Ormond near the hour of tryst, he decides to join Richie and follows him the few yards back to the Ormond’s dining-room at No 9. Here he can overhear what is going on in the bar and see when Boylan leaves, without being spotted himself:

Diningroom. Sit tight there. See, not be seen. (11.357-8)


Aimless he chose with agitated aim […] a table near the door. (11.391-2)

It is only later in the episode that it becomes clear that this is the door that connects the restaurant with the bar in No 8:

Bloom signed to Pat […] to set ajar the door of the bar. (11.669-70)

Bloom and Goulding are not too late for lunch. The Sirens episode starts about 15.4011 and luncheons were served in the Buffet till 4 p.m.12

Joyce has smuggled yet another intriguing detail into the narrative of the episode when the reader is informed of Boylan’s departure:

Bloom heard a jing, a little sound. He's off. Light sob of breath Bloom sighed on the silent bluehued flowers. Jingling. He's gone. Jingle. Hear. (11.457-8)

As we find out later Bloom must have sat at his dining-room table in a way that would have easily made it possible for him to see the horse and outsider with Boylan on it through the window of No 9 - but he can only hear it. In other words, Boylan’s car was waiting outside No 8, and as the jarvey turned it sharply round to go back up the quay towards Sackville Street Bloom can only hear the jingling of the harness bells.

The singing takes place in the saloon behind the bar, with its little stage and piano, freshly tuned for a smoking concert, and a Homerically fitting seascape.

Down stage he strode some paces, grave, tall in affliction, his long arms outheld. Hoarsely the apple of his throat hoarsed softly. Softly he sang to a dusty seascape there: A Last Farewell. A headland, a ship, a sail upon the billows. Farewell. A lovely girl, her veil awave upon the wind upon the headland, wind around her.

The saloon is obviously not far from the door connecting the dining-room with the bar, as Bloom muses:

Still hear it [i.e. the singing in the saloon] better here than in the bar though farther.


A note for Sirens that Joyce made around 1920 provides an explanation:

hear it better here than in the bar, though farther, trams outside.

NLI MS 36,639/5B

The reference here is to the trams outside on Ormond quay, which ran to Phoenix Park and (convenient for the hotel) Kingsbridge Station.

The first draft of the episode (NLI 36,639/7A;7B, p. 7) tells us that Miss Kennedy has to go out by the end of the bar to answer a diner’s bell in the restaurant.

We understand further details from the text about the position of the bar counter and Bloom’s route on the way out. Bloom is still listening but about to leave, as he tells Goulding. Through the half-open door he can see the end of the bar counter and observe the barmaid intently listening to Dollard’s rendition of “The Croppy Boy”:

To the end of the bar […] she bore lightly the spiked and winding seahorn that he, George Lidwell, solicitor, might hear. (11.923-4)

[…] Bloom through the bardoor saw a shell held to their ears.

[…] See her from here though. Popped corks, splashes of beerfroth, stacks of empties.

[…] By rose, by satiny bosom, by fondling hand, by slops, by empties, by popped corks, greeting in going […] bronze and faint gold in deepseashadow, went Bloom.

It is an interesting question why Bloom chooses to leave through the bar, although this is not the direction to the Post Office lower down the Quay at No 34 where he intends to post the letter he has written to Martha in the Ormond restaurant. Perhaps he is trying to mislead Richie Goulding, whom he describes as “cute as a rat”? Does he want to greet the alluring barmaids and go past the dangerous Sirens unharmed, like his Homeric hero? He doesn’t even use the normal entrance to the bar but the goes out through the hallway of the hotel where the boots is listening to the patriotic song:

Scaring eavesdropping boots […] Bloom in the Ormond hallway

Or is it just another of Bloom’s sly habits? Following on from St. Andrew’s Church in episode 5 and the Freeman’s building in episode 7, the Ormond Hotel is the third building on 16 June that Bloom leaves through an exit different from the entrance he chose.

The following sketch shows the main locations and Bloom’s way in and out of the Ormond as well as his position while watching the barmaid at the end of the bar.

Graphic realisation: Sophie Schumann

While it is obvious that the arrangement of tables is arbitrary (luncheon was also served in the bar!), the facts as they are evident in Ulysses are strictly followed in principle. The piano for example can be seen through the open door of the saloon by Simon Dedalus while standing at the bar. What its exact position was supposed to be is not significant for an understanding of the action.

The bar-room door may be further down, depending on the length of the counter. I have chosen the length given in the auction advertisement of 1879. All that is relevant is that Bloom can look into the bar from the dining-room from a certain angle.

The Ormond today

Today the Ormond Hotel stands derelict. Does this structure contain at least the substance of the old buildings? How much nostalgic reverence should we accord the modern building?

When Frank Budgen visited Dublin in 1933 he noticed:

The bar of the Ormond Hotel, where the actors of the drama enter and through which they leave, exists as it did in 1904, but the rest of the space – saloon in which Simon Dedalus sang and dining-room in which Bloom and Richie Goulding listened and ate – has disappeared in the rebuilding and reorganising of the Ormond as the New Ormond Hotel.

Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of 'Ulysses' (Oxford: 1972), p. 137

Budgen actually stayed at the New Ormond Hotel, presumably as one of its first customers, during his visit to Dublin. But, as (unfortunately, undated) letters to Paul Léon and Joyce (at least one of them on New Ormond Hotel stationery) document, he did not get it quite right.13 Bloom as the main “actor” would not have ventured to enter the bar where Boylan, conquering hero intent on cuckolding him, was briefly holding court. And though the splendid old mahogany bar counter may have survived for a few more years, the whole of No 8 (and No 9) had been pulled down and rebuilt. As the Bord Pleanála [Planning Office] inspector’s report of 2015 in the Monteco case states:14

No 8 and 9 Ormond Quay Upper is a concrete encased steelframed structure with precast concrete floors and masonry internal walls. There is a common party wall between it and No 10 and 11.

Inspector’s Report, Pl29N.243103, p. 11

The old brick buildings of the Ormond Hotel were completely torn down, and the structure rebuilt with modern building materials. At the request of An Bord Pleanála, the plaster was removed at regular intervals along the front of the buildings, and it is evident that only No 10, and No 11 to its left, still have their old brick walls. See photograph beneath. In other words, the New Ormond’s interior of 1933 bore no resemblance whatsoever to Joyce’s Ormond, just as the La Scala or Capitol Cinema in Princess Street bore no resemblance to the Freeman’s building destroyed by the shells of the Helga in 1916.

The editor of the Irish Independent, speaking at the annual staff dinner in the New Ormond Hotel on New Year’s Eve, 1933, clearly appreciated the situation fully when he stated:

[The new Ormond] now reconstructed beyond recognition.

Irish Independent (1933), 2 January

The New Ormond Hotel in October 2015. The numbers indicate the original buildings (Only number 11 was three windows wide). Photograph courtesy of Eamonn Finn

All that the New Ormond Hotel had in common with Joyce’s Ormond was the location. Mr O’Malley’s builders, instructed by well-known architect Patrick John Fitzgerald Munden (1883-1962)15 and at a cost of over £20,000, had left no stone unturned in their redevelopment of Nos 8 and 9. The new Sirens Bar was nothing more than a nod to nostalgic Dubliners in 1933, in the years well before Joyce tourism had become an issue.

Harald Beck

My thanks are due to Vincent Deane and Eamonn Finn (Dublin), Ian Gunn (Edinburgh), John Smurthwaite (Leeds), Christine Casey (TCD), Karla McBride (An Bord Pleanála), Sophie Schumann (Germany) and the patient staff at the Pearse Street Library, the Irish Architectural Archive and the Registry of Deeds in Dublin.


1 Apparently Shaw charged money for identifying commercial properties in his directory and the 1850 owners of number 8 do not seem to have been inclined to oblige.

2 The Industries of Dublin; historical, statistical, biographical. An account of the leading business men, commercial interests, wealth and growth (London: S. Blackett, 1887), p. 59. The hotel’s name is spelt here “Ormonde Hotel”: this form can still be found in 20th-century newspaper reports.

3 Christine Casey, Dublin: The City Within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road and the Phoenix Park (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005), p. 113.

4 The deeds show that Patrick O’Malley had been owner since 1922.

5 The information given in Thom’s always dates back to the latter half of the preceding year.

6 This middle section of one only storey is a typical feature of all the buildings between number 4 and 10 Upper Ormond Quay.

7 Irish Times, 13 October 1905.

8 The upper floors contained the hotel bedrooms and a coffee-room at number 8.

9 Smoke room: In Sirens we are told that the piano has been tuned for a smoking concert.

10 “Extensive alterations […] including new kitchen”, announced in the Irish Builder of 9 July 1910 do not seem to have been relevant for the setting of Sirens.

11 For details of the time scheme see: Ian Gunn and Clive Hart, James Joyce’s Dublin. A Topographical Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses (London: 2004), p. 58-60.

12 Advertisement in Irish Independent of 15 September 1907.

13 Catherine Fahy, compiler, The James Joyce – Paul Léon Papers in the National Library of Ireland (National Library of Ireland: 1992), p. 84.

14 Monteco Holdings had applied for the development of a six-storey hotel at the site of the old Ormond Hotel, closed since 2005, and two adjoining properties in 2014, but their application was rejected.

15 In 1985 Frank Purcell gave a large collection of drawings and related records from Munden’s office to the Irish Architectural Archive, but, unfortunately, they are not catalogued or available to the public because of their brittle state.

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