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
1859 James Redmond - tea, wine and spirit merchant [plus 8 solicitors]
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
1884 Thomas O’Neill - wine and spirit merchant
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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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