Mother Grogan

In Brief

"Mother Grogan" is a figure in the anonymous Irish song Ned Grogan. She enters Ulysses with Mulligan's clowning about urination in Telemachus: "When I makes tea I makes tea . . . And when I makes water I makes water . . . Begob, ma'am, says Mrs Cahill, God send you don't make them in the one pot." The song appears to have charmed Mulligan because of the old woman's commendable frankness about sex.

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Gifford and Seidman reproduce the first verse:

Ned Grogan, dear joy, was the son of his mother,
And as like her, it seems, as one pea to another;
But to find out his dad, he was put to the rout,
As many folks wiser have been, joy, no doubt.
To this broth of a boy oft his mother would say,
"When the moon shines, my jewel, be making your hay;
Always ask my advice, when the business is done;
For two heads, sure, you'll own, are much better than one."

This pragmatism about the copulative act also inspires Mulligan to joke about infidelity. In Oxen of the Sun, Dixon comments on his gravid belly: "For answer Mr Mulligan, in a gale of laughter at his smalls, smote himself bravely below the diaphragm, exclaiming with an admirable droll mimic of Mother Grogan (the most excellent creature of her sex though 'tis pity she's a trollop): There's a belly that never bore a bastard."

JH 2016
19th century English chamberpot. Source: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk.
Statue of Molly Malone, heroine of another popular song called "Cockles and Mussels," on Grafton Street in Dublin. Dubliners refer to the statue as The Tart with the Cart, The Trollop with the Scallops, The Dish with the Fish, and so on.