On 14 July 1904 the Freeman’s Journal reported on a fatal accident at Sydney Parade.
The accident took place on Wednesday 13 July when Mrs Sarah Bishop, wife of the Station Master at Sydney Parade, was attempting to cross the line. Joyce used reports of Mrs Bishop’s death as background for his story ‘A Painful Case,’ written a year later.
The accident occurred at Sydney Parade station on the Dublin to Kingstown railway line around 8pm on 13 July. It seems that Mrs Bishop was leaving the Station Master’s house beside the railway line to cross to the opposite platform to meet a friend who was arriving on the 8pm ‘down’ train to Kingstown.
James Byrne, the signalman on duty at the time of the accident, said he saw Mrs Bishop attempting to cross the line just before the train arrived at the platform. He blew his whistle, but Mrs Bishop was caught by the side of the engine and dragged along the line. The fireman on the engine said the driver did everything he could to stop the train when he saw Mrs Bishop.
Mrs Bishop was still alive and was taken on the train to Kingstown where she was admitted to St Michael’s Hospital and attended by Dr McDermott. She was suffering from a cut to the back of the head and other injuries, and died a short time later. The engine driver, James Flynn, was charged with “negligently managing his engine,” but the charge was dismissed at the Southern Police Court on 15 July. (Perhaps it was here that Joyce got the name of the priest in ‘The Sisters. ’ The story was submitted to the Irish Homestead on 23 July 1904.)
In Joyce’s story ‘A Painful Case,’ Mr Duffy is disturbed to read an account of the inquest into the death of Mrs Sinico, a former friend of his. There are differences between Joyce’s fictional account and the actual incident in July 1904: Mrs Bishop was 80 years old while Mrs Sinico is only 40, and Mrs Sinico is very clearly supposed to be intoxicated. But the parallels between the actual incident and Joyce’s fiction are also clear.
In September 1905, Joyce quizzed his brother about specific details for the story, including which police division would cover Sydney Parade, and which hospital might be used in the event of such an accident. A year later, Joyce was considering rewriting the story, and in November 1906 he told his brother that ‘A Painful Case’ and ‘After the Race’ were the two worst stories in Dubliners.
Sources & Further Reading:
Freeman’s Journal, Thursday 14 July 1904, p. 5.
Joyce, James: Letters of James Joyce, vol. II, edited by Richard Ellmann, London: Faber & Faber, 1966.