Stepping back to Leahy’s Terrace

U 3:35: They came down the steps from Leahy’s terrace

In late June 1959 the American scholar William York Tindall arrived in Dublin on a Guggenheim Fellowship. In the following weeks he proceeded to visit sites with James Joyce connections in and around Dublin. He took a large number of pictures on his travels and a selection of these were published the next year by Pennsylvania State University Press in the book titled The Joyce Country. One of the pictures taken by Tindall on his sojourn was of the steps in the sea wall off Beach road in Sandymount at the end of Leahy’s terrace which at that time lead down to the strand. [Fig 1]. Since that date the strand has been extensively reclaimed but you can still see the point in the sea wall where Tindall’s steps were located just across from the end of Leahy’s terrace. [Fig 2].

Fig. 1: William York Tindall, The Joyce Country (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1960), p. 69

Fig. 2: Photograph by Ian Gunn

We used the Tindall picture in James Joyce’s Dublin, (Thames & Hudson, 2004 p 31), believing, like Tindall, that these where the steps referred to by Joyce in the Proteus and Nausicaa sections of Ulysses:

They came down the steps from Leahy’s terrace (U 3:35)

a hoisted lintstock lit the lamp at Leahy’s terrace. (U 13:1172-3)

Unfortunately we are all wrong in this assumption as they are not the steps referred to in Ulysses – those steps are buried further west along Leahy’s terrace.

Looking at the detail of an Ordnance Survey map of 1907 shows that at that time there was no Beach road and overlaying this map over modern aerial view of Dublin shows that a wedge of the strand was infilled between 1907 and 1959. This infilling took place sometime in the 1920s and facilitated the eventual creation of Beach road linking Seafort avenue to Cranfield place.

Fig 3: Detail from Ordnance Survey of Dublin 1:1056 (revised 1907, published 1911)

Fig 4: Detail from Ordnance Survey of Dublin 1:2400 (revised 1908) over Google Earth detail of the area

Taking the above information it is possible to annotate an aerial image of today’s Leahy’s terrace to show where the 1904 steps were located.

On the image below, the red line indicates the line of the 1904 shore line and point ’T’ the location of the sea-wall steps photographed by William York Tindall in 1959. The point ’S’ in the middle of the street is where the 1904 steps were located. This situates the location of Bloom and Gerty on the strand rocks a lot closer to St. Mary’s the ‘Star of the Sea’ church thereby fitting better with the intimacy of Joyce’s allusions to the church and street lamps in the Nausicaa chapter. However it does mean that any reenactments need to take place in the middle of the street rather than over the wall in Sean Moore Park.

Ian Gunn

The National Library of Ireland has an image of the ’Star of the Sea’ church in Sandymount in their Lawrence Collection photographs which shows the closeness of the church to the gap in the wall where the steps to Leahy’s terrace were situated. The digital image can be seen at:

Fig. 5: Annotated detail from Bing Maps

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