On this day…10 July

On 10 July 1904 Matthew F Kane drowned in Dublin Bay.

Kane was a friend of John Joyce, and was the model for a couple of characters in Joyce’s Ulysses. His funeral to Glasnevin Cemetery on 13 July 1904 provided the basic material for the ‘Hades’ episode.

For many years Kane had been Chief Clerk of the Crown Solicitor’s Office, based in Dublin Castle, and he was popular and well-respected in the city. On 10 July he had gone swimming from a boat near Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) harbour and suffered a stroke and drowned. Kane left a widow and five young children.

The funeral took place on 13 July with the cortege following a route from Kingstown to Glasnevin. Kane’s wife was absent from the funeral as he had had her committed to an asylum for alcoholics. There was a whip-round at the funeral to gather money for the children Kane had left.

According to the report of the funeral in the Freeman’s Journal on 14 July, Joyce and his father and brother were among those who attended the funeral. Among others listed as being in attendance were Alf Bergan, John Henry Menton and Sir Frederick Falkiner, all of whom find their way into Ulysses under their own names, and Alfred H Hunter, who was one of the models for Leopold Bloom.

Kane provides elements of different characters in Ulysses. He is the model for Martin Cunningham, who makes his first appearance in the story ‘Grace’ in Dubliners. Like Kane, Cunningham also works at Dublin Castle and has a dipsomaniac wife. The threat of dipsomania seems to hang over Paddy Dignam’s widow as well, with Dignam’s ghost requesting that she be kept from the bottle of sherry. The funeral route in ‘Hades’ and the collection for the children may also be based on Kane’s funeral.

Matthew Kane is mentioned under his own name in the ‘Ithaca’ episode in a list of Bloom’s now-defunct friends. His grave in Glasnevin is marked with a headstone which records him as the model for characters in Joyce’s Ulysses.


Sources & Further Reading:

Adams, RM: ‘Hades,’ in James Joyce’s Ulysses – Critical Essays, Clive Hart & David Hayman (eds), Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974.