A Parnellite, James Joyce and a Quid of Tullamore. Michael Byrne

Today, Bloomsday, 16 June 2018, let’s take a look at Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and his use of Tullamore tobacco in the opening chapter.

The Tullamore based businessman Daniel E. Williams took the side of Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-91) in the great divide in Irish politics in 1890-91. Parnell had been the greatest leader in Irish politics in the nineteenth century bringing Home Rule centre stage in 1886. Although a quiet and reserved man he could always put in a commanding performance in the House of Commons. Gladstone said of him that he had the rarest of qualities in a speaker – measure. He brought about a ‘Union of Hearts’ between the Liberals and Ireland, a union that was shattered in 1890 when Parnell was cited as co-respondent in the Katharine O’Shea divorce case. Parnell died a year later, a broken man. Nonetheless he had brought to Ireland a sense of Irish statehood, Ireland was a nation.

The fall of Parnell led to a division in Irish politics that was not healed until 1900 and even then the issues continued to resonate. James Joyce captures the scene so vividly in the opening chapter of his autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a young man. Joyce boarded at the Jesuit school, Clongowes Wood College in 1888-91.  A school where Williams had sent his three sons with Edmund 1893-6, Daniel 1893-8, and John 1898-1901.

032531 Clongowes and Tullabeg United XI 1886
Clongowes and Tullabeg United – xi – 1886

The young Stephen Dedalus (Joyce’s high minded fictional counterpart) is home for Christmas from Clongowes, and is looking forward to Christmas dinner. Gathered for the meal are Stephen, his father, Uncle Charles, Mr Casey and a governess, ‘Dante’. Dedalus and Casey are enjoying a glass of whiskey by the fire when dinner is brought in. All is harmonious until comments are made about respect for the clergy. This leads in turn to their role in bringing down Parnell and the turbulent by-elections in 1891 – the year of his death. Casey tells the story of how a chew of Tullamore tobacco came to be used in dramatic fashion. Tullamore had a tobacco factory from the 1840s until the 1880s. After a great fire in 1886 the owners, the Goodbody family, moved the production facility to Dublin. A quid is slang for £1 in British currency, but the word is also used for a piece of chewing tobacco.

James Joyce cover

A quid of Tullamore

-The story is very short and sweet, Mr Casey said. It was one day
down in Arklow, a cold bitter day, not long before the chief died. May
God have mercy on him!

He closed his eyes wearily and paused. Mr Dedalus took a bone from his
plate and tore some meat from it with his teeth, saying:

–Before he was killed, you mean.

Mr Casey opened his eyes, sighed and went on:

–It was down in Arklow one day. We were down there at a meeting and
after the meeting was over we had to make our way to the railway
station through the crowd. Such booing and baaing, man, you never
heard. They called us all the names in the world. Well there was one
old lady, and a drunken old harridan she was surely, that paid all her
attention to me. She kept dancing along beside me in the mud bawling
and screaming into my face: Priest-Hunter! The Paris Funds! Mr Fox!
Kitty O’Shea!

–And what did you do, John? asked Mr Dedalus.

–I let her bawl away, said Mr Casey. It was a cold day and to keep up
my heart I had (saving your presence, ma’am) a quid of Tullamore in my
mouth and sure I couldn’t say a word in any case because my mouth was
full of tobacco juice.

–Well, John?

–Well. I let her bawl away, to her heart’s content, Kitty O’Shea and
the rest of it till at last she called that lady a name that I won’t
sully this Christmas board nor your ears, ma’am, nor my own lips by

He paused. Mr Dedalus, lifting his head from the bone, asked:

–And what did you do, John?

–Do! said Mr Casey. She stuck her ugly old face up at me when she
said it and I had my mouth full of tobacco juice. I bent down to her
and Phth! says I to her like that.

He turned aside and made the act of spitting.

Phth! says I to her like that, right into her eye.

He clapped his hand to his eye and gave a hoarse scream of pain.

–O Jesus, Mary and Joseph! says she. I’m blinded! I’m blinded and

He stopped in a fit of coughing and laughter, repeating:

–I’m blinded entirely.

Mr Dedalus laughed loudly and lay back in his chair while uncle Charles
swayed his head to and fro.

Dante looked terribly angry and repeated while they laughed:

–Very nice! Ha! Very nice!

It was not nice about the spit in the woman’s eye.

But what was the name the woman had called Kitty O’Shea that Mr Casey
would not repeat? He thought of Mr Casey walking through the crowds of
people and making speeches from a wagonette. That was what he had been
in prison for and he remembered that one night Sergeant O’Neill had
come to the house and had stood in the hall, talking in a low voice
with his father and chewing nervously at the chinstrap of his cap. And
that night Mr Casey had not gone to Dublin by train but a car had come
to the door and he had heard his father say something about the
Cabinteely road.

He was for Ireland and Parnell and so was his father: and so was Dante
too for one night at the band on the esplanade she had hit a gentleman
on the head with her umbrella because he had taken off his hat when the
band played God Save The Queen at the end.

Mr Dedalus gave a snort of contempt.

–Ah, John, he said. It is true for them. We are an unfortunate
priest-ridden race and always were and always will be till the end of
the chapter.

Uncle Charles shook his head, saying:

–A bad business! A bad business!

Mr Dedalus repeated:

–A priest-ridden Godforsaken race!

He pointed to the portrait of his grandfather on the wall to his right.

–Do you see that old chap up there, John? he said. He was a good
Irishman when there was no money in the job. He was condemned to death
as a whiteboy. But he had a saying about our clerical friends, that he
would never let one of them put his two feet under his mahogany.

Dante broke in angrily:

–If we are a priest-ridden race we ought to be proud of it! They are the
apple of God’s eye. Touch them not, says Christ, for they are the apple
of my eye.

–And can we not love our country then? asked Mr Casey. Are we not to
follow the man that was born to lead us?

–A traitor to his country! replied Dante. A traitor, an adulterer!
The priests were right to abandon him. The priests were always the true
friends of Ireland.

–Were they, faith? said Mr Casey.

He threw his fist on the table and, frowning angrily, protruded one
finger after another.

–Didn’t the bishops of Ireland betray us in the time of the union
when Bishop Lanigan presented an address of loyalty to the Marquess
Cornwallis? Didn’t the bishops and priests sell the aspirations of
their country in 1829 in return for catholic emancipation? Didn’t they
denounce the fenian movement from the pulpit and in the confession box?
And didn’t they dishonour the ashes of Terence Bellew MacManus?

His face was glowing with anger and Stephen felt the glow rise to his
own cheek as the spoken words thrilled him. Mr Dedalus uttered a guffaw
of coarse scorn.

–O, by God, he cried, I forgot little old Paul Cullen! Another apple
of God’s eye!

Dante bent across the table and cried to Mr Casey:

–Right! Right! They were always right! God and morality and religion
come first.

Mrs Dedalus, seeing her excitement, said to her:

–Mrs Riordan, don’t excite yourself answering them.

–God and religion before everything! Dante cried. God and religion
before the world.

Mr Casey raised his clenched fist and brought it down on the table with
a crash.

–Very well then, he shouted hoarsely, if it comes to that, no God for

–John! John! cried Mr Dedalus, seizing his guest by the coat sleeve.

Dante stared across the table, her cheeks shaking. Mr Casey struggled
up from his chair and bent across the table towards her, scraping the
air from before his eyes with one hand as though he were tearing aside
a cobweb.

–No God for Ireland! he cried. We have had too much God in Ireland.
Away with God!

–Blasphemer! Devil! screamed Dante, starting to her feet and almost
spitting in his face.

Uncle Charles and Mr Dedalus pulled Mr Casey back into his chair again,
talking to him from both sides reasonably. He stared before him out of
his dark flaming eyes, repeating:

–Away with God, I say!

Dante shoved her chair violently aside and left the table, upsetting
her napkin-ring which rolled slowly along the carpet and came to rest
against the foot of an easy-chair. Mrs Dedalus rose quickly and
followed her towards the door. At the door Dante turned round violently
and shouted down the room, her cheeks flushed and quivering with rage:

–Devil out of hell! We won! We crushed him to death! Fiend!

The door slammed behind her.

Mr Casey, freeing his arms from his holders, suddenly bowed his head on
his hands with a sob of pain.

–Poor Parnell! he cried loudly. My dead king!

He sobbed loudly and bitterly.

Stephen, raising his terrorstricken face, saw that his father’s eyes
were full of tears.