Fortyfoot hole

In Brief

Mulligan leads the way "down towards the fortyfoot hole," an ocean swimming spot about one hundred yards from the tower. Stephen follows behind him with Haines, his walking stick scraping along the path.

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A rocky ledge juts into the sea near the Sandycove tower, sheltering a deep swimming hole. The water there, though deep, is less than forty feet, so the source of the name is anyone's guess. In Joyce’s time only men swam in its cold waters, and bathing suits were optional. Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds features the same swimming hole.

It is strange that Joyce should twice refer to the waters in the hole as "the creek." The ceaseless movement of ocean water into the inlet, and back out, may have created the image of a river of water in his imagination. Or perhaps the reduced water level at low tide creates this impression, much as a section of the bay becomes "Cock Lake" when the sands on either side of it dry out.

JH 2011
Photograph of the path to the swimming hole by William York Tyndall. Source: The Joyce Country.