On this day…24 June

24 June 1904 was the date from which Gogarty offered to occupy that Martello tower at Sandycove.

In the tender for the no. 11 Martello tower at Sandycove (which was addressed to ‘His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the War Department’), Gogarty stated his willingness to become the tenant from 24 June 1904. However, the tender is only dated 29 July 1904, and Gogarty only took possession of the tower in mid- or late August 1904.  Joyce lived there from 9 to 15 September.

Martello towers were built in many locations around the British Empire in the nineteenth century. They were named after the Torre di Mortella in Corsica, a three-storey cylindrical tower designed and built by Giovan Giacomo Paleari Fratino in 1564-5. (Incidentally, Fratino also built part of the defences at Gibraltar known as the ‘Moorish Wall,’ mentioned at the end of Ulysses.)

British forces attacking the tower over two hundred years later in 1794 were impressed by its capacity to withstand the barrage and by the safety it afforded to those within. It was only with difficulty that they managed to blow it up in 1803 when they were leaving.

The British authorities copied the design and built Martello towers in various parts of the Empire, particularly in response to the threat of invasion during the Napoleonic wars. Fifteen towers were built between Dublin and Bray under the National Defence Act of 1804. Most of the towers were demilitarised in 1867 though the no. 11 tower at Sandycove was not demilitarised until 1900.

Gogarty hoped that the tower would become the ‘omphalos’ or navel of a new Hellenising movement he was planning, and from early on it was intended that Joyce would be involved and would move into the tower. Though Joyce only stayed there for less than a week in 1904, Gogarty continued to live there for a while, and continued to pay rent there until 1925.


Sources & Further Reading:

Nicholson, Robert: The Ulysses Guide – Tours Through Joyce’s Dublin, Dublin: New Island Books, 2002.

Ellmann, Richard: James Joyce’s Tower, Dun Laoghaire: Eastern Regional Tourism Organisation, 1969.

Norburn, Roger: A James Joyce Chronology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.