Alec Bannon

Alec Bannon

In Brief

Ulysses keeps its readers waiting for hundreds of pages to see if Bloom will cross paths with co-protagonist Stephen Dedalus, a young man in whom he takes a paternal interest on June 16. For much lower stakes, it also shows him becoming aware of one Alec Bannon, a young man who has shown a romantic interest in his daughter Milly, and here too the book raises the possibility of a meeting. Bannon probably had a real-life model, though identifying him has proved difficult.

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Near the end of Telemachus Mulligan tells a young man at the swimming hole that his brother is "Down in Westmeath. With the Bannons." The young man says, "I got a card from Bannon. Says he found a sweet young thing down there. Photo girl he calls her." The reference, it eventually becomes clear, is to Milly Bloom, who has taken a job in a photographer's shop in Mullingar, the seat of County Westmeath. Reading a letter from his daughter in Calypso, Bloom's antennae tingle when he reads the words, "There is a young student comes here some evenings named Bannon his cousins or something are big swells." He ponders this information: "Young student.... Then he read the letter again: twice. / O, well: she knows how to mind herself. But if not? No, nothing has happened. Of course it might. Wait in any case till it does. A wild piece of goods. Her slim legs running up the staircase. Destiny. Ripening now."

Bloom does not know Mulligan and his friends, but he picks up from Milly's words the sexual implications that they bandied about in the earlier chapter. Instead of vicarious thrills he feels parental anxiety. So some tension is created ten chapters later when Alec Bannon shows up in the hospital commons room where Bloom is sitting with Mulligan and others. A mutual acquaintance has "chanced against Alec. Bannon in a cut bob (which are now in with dance cloaks of Kendal green) that was new got to town from Mullingar with the stage where his coz and Mal M’s brother will stay a month yet till Saint Swithin and asks what in the earth he does there, he bound home and he to Andrew Horne’s being stayed for to crush a cup of wine, so he said, but would tell him of a skittish heifer, big of her age and beef to the heel, and all this while poured with rain and so both together on to Horne’s. There Leop. Bloom of Crawford’s journal sitting snug with a covey of wags."

Oxen of the Sun does not say that anyone in the hospital room introduces this new arrival to Bloom, or that Bannon talks about his "skittish heifer" after joining the company. But near the end of the chapter, amid the wild whirl of words describing a retreat to a nearby pub, the young men gossip about Bloom to one another: "Digs up near the Mater. Buckled he is. Know his dona? Yup, sartin I do. Full of a dure. See her in her dishybilly. Peels off a credit. Lovey lovekin. None of your lean kine, not much. Pull down the blind, love.... Got a prime pair of mincepies, no kid. And her take me to rests and her anker of rum. Must be seen to be believed. Your starving eyes and allbeplastered neck you stole my heart, O gluepot...."

These salacious comments about Molly are followed soon after by some remarks about Milly: "Les petites femmes. Bold bad girl from the town of Mullingar. Tell her I was axing at her.... / No fake, old man Leo. S'elp me, honest injun. Shiver my timbers if I had.... / Bloo? Cadges ads. Photo's papli, by all that's gorgeous. Play low, pardner. Slide. Bonsoir la compagnie." It is often difficult to grasp what people are saying in the final pages of this chapter, but the thrust of these sentences seems clear: the girl Bannon has chatted up in Mullingar is Leopold Bloom's daughter, and Bannon should probably "Play low," "Slide" off, say "Bonsoir" (G'night, all) if he wants to avoid an uncomfortable encounter.

Neither Ellmann nor Bowker has anything to say about Bannon—nor do Jackson and Costello, John Joyce's biographers—but Vivien Igoe notes that "Joyce met Mr A. E. Bannon, when John Stanislaus Joyce was working on the electoral register in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, in 1900 and 1901. Bannon was a local man who had made a name for himself through his work as the district councillor for Mullingar. John Stanislaus Joyce knew Bannon through his work and it is likely that on his visit to Mullingar with James that [sic] he stayed in his house at Portloman on the shores of Lough Owel. Members of the Bannon family are buried in the cemetery at Portloman."

These facts cohere with Milly's news that "We are going to Lough Owel on Monday with a few friends to make a scrap picnic" and that Bannon's "cousins or something are big swells." The generational alignments seem off, however. Could the hormonal young man who is so keen on Milly really have been modeled on a "local man who had made a name for himself through his work as the district councillor for Mullingar"? May Igoe, in other words, possibly have identified the wrong Bannon? It would be interesting to know if A. E. Bannon had a son or nephew whom John's son James could have met in Portloman.

John Hunt 2022

Houses in Portloman, just west of Lough Owel. Source: