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"James Joyce and 'Ulysses'" (2004)

Commentary No. 4 – census return for Nora Barnacle (1901)


1901 census return for the family of Annie Barnacle in which Nora Barnacle is returned as a laundress and is aged 18.

1901 census return for the family of Annie Barnacle in which Nora Barnacle is returned as a laundress and is aged 18.

In 1901, Joyce had not yet met Nora Barnacle, who was to elope with him to Europe and spend the rest of her life with him. The census return for her family, at 4, Bowling Green in Galway city, lists the members of her family: her mother Annie Barnacle, 40, a seamstress who spoke both Irish and English, her sister, Delia, 16, a laundress like Nora, 18, her three younger sisters and her brother, all still at school. Nora’s parents had separated some years before, which explains her father’s absence from the census return.

The youngest child, Cathaline (Kathleen), became Nora’s confidante later and received many letters from her complaining about her husband. They fell out temporarily over their mother’s will after she died in 1940. All of Annie Barnacle’s children, except Kathleen, who married a furniture polisher, John Griffin, and Delia, who had health problems, emigrated. Nora left Galway for Dublin in 1902 and found work in Finn’s Hotel in Nassau Street. She and Joyce first walked out together on 16 June 1904, the day Joyce chose for the action of Ulysses.

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