On 13 June 1904 Paddy Dignam died suddenly.
Dignam, who had worked for Menton, the solicitor, died suddenly on Monday 13 June 1904 at his home at 9 Newbridge Avenue, Sandymount. According to the report of Dignam’s funeral in the Evening Telegraph of 16 June 1904, “The deceased gentleman was a most popular and genial personality in city life and his demise, after a brief illness, came as great shock to citizens of all classes by whom he is deeply regretted.”
The shock is evident amongst Dignam’s friends on 16 June, the day of his funeral. Bloom mentions that Dignam died quite suddenly, and Tom Kernan thinks he “went out in a puff.” CP McCoy had been drinking in the Arch with Dignam as recently as the previous Thursday or Friday, and Mr Power, too, had seen Dignam the previous Thursday. For his part, Alf Bergan doesn’t believe Dignam is dead at all, claiming that he had seen him only five minutes ago.
Leopold Bloom heard of his old friend’s death from Molly who read it in the paper on Tuesday 14 June. Bloom was writing to Martha Clifford and had to hide the letter under the blotting paper when Molly came in to show him the death announcement in the paper.
It’s not entirely clear what Dignam died of. Bloom tells Josie Breen he thinks it was heart trouble, but later thinks of “Dignam laid in clay of an apoplexy.” Gerty MacDowell thinks he died of a stroke, which would fit with apoplexy. Paddy Dignam, appearing in a séance in the ‘Cyclops’ episode, says “Doctor Finucane pronounced life extinct when I succumbed to the disease from natural causes,” which tells us little, but he adds “the wall of the heart atrophied.” All we know for certain is that “He paid the debt of nature,” as Hynes puts it.
Dignam had been to Fr Conroy for confession on the Saturday night, and on the Sunday night, drunk, had wanted to go out to Tunney’s for more drink, but couldn’t find his other boot. On his deathbed he told his eldest son, Patrick Aloysius Dignam, known as Patsy, to be a good son to his mother. Patsy could see his father trying to say other things, but couldn’t hear what they were.
Perhaps the inaudible part had to do with the whereabouts of his missing boot. In the séance in the ‘Cyclops’ episode, Paddy Dignam announces that the missing boot is under the commode in the return, and that he wanted this message to be passed on to his son, as it had greatly perturbed his peace of mind on the other side.
Dignam was survived by his wife and five children: Patsy, Freddy, Susy, Alice and a baby. His wife was “awfully cut up” about it, but seemed to be finding consolation in a bottle of superior tawny sherry brought from Tunney’s by her brother Barney Corrigan. During the séance, Dignam asks that they keep her away from the bottle of sherry. She’s seen with a Scottish Widows insurance policy in her hand but many of those who know the Dignam family are concerned about her welfare and contribute to a whip-round for her and her children. Cornelius (‘Corney’) Kelleher, the manager at HJ O’Neill’s funeral parlour, was a close friend of Dignam’s and he made the funeral arrangements. The funeral took place on the morning of 16 June 1904 to Glasnevin Cemetery.
At the end of the séance in ‘Cyclops,’ we’re told “He is gone from our mortal haunts: O’Dignam, sun of our morning. Fleet was his foot on the bracken: Patrick of the beamy brow. Wail, Banba, with your wind: and wail, O ocean, with your whirlwind.”
Sources & Further Reading:
Joyce, James: Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare & Company, 1922.