Bob Reynolds

Bob Reynolds

In Brief

The identity of one of the lesser figures in Stephen's list of creditors in Nestor, "Bob Reynolds," remained a mystery until recently. It now seems certain that the reference is to one of Oliver Gogarty's cycling friends, who was four years older than Joyce.  

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Gifford expresses uncertainty about who Reynolds may be. Other annotators of Ulysses (Kiberd, Johnson, Slote) simply ignore the reference. But Vivien Igoe, in her 2016 book The Real People of Joyce's Ulysses, identifies him as Robert "Bob" Reynolds (1878-1959), a Balbriggan-born man who "joined the local Wanderers Cycling Club as a teenager. He was a cycling companion and friend of Oliver St John Gogarty. In the 1890s Reynolds and his brother Harry, an extraordinarily talented cyclist, made cycling history participating in many overseas events. Bob came in third in the World Mile Championship at Copenhagen and competed in the grand cycling and athletic tournament held in Ballsbridge on 16 April 1900. Known for his famous pop-gun sprints, he won the Half Mile Championship of Ireland in Waterford on 2 July 1901."

Igoe's identification is almost certainly correct given Bob Reynolds' age and connection to Gogarty. Annotators of the novel would have cottoned on to it much earlier if they had consulted Ulick O'Connor's biography Oliver St John Gogarty (1963). O'Connor first mentions Reynolds while introducing Gogarty's own great prowess as a cyclist: "'Oliver Gogarty', recalls Robert Reynolds, 'was a first-rate cyclist. You had to watch him like a hawk in a race. If you took your eyes off him for a second he was past in a flash, with his cry of "up, up Balrothery." You see we trained on Balrothery Straight.' Reynolds was third in the world mile championship at Copenhagen. In 1900 Gogarty won the scratch mile in the college races and the mile and five-mile double at the RIC sports in Ballsbridge.

"In the latter race there was a crash in which five men were badly injured. Gogarty often had to come down to breakfast with gloves on to hide his lacerated hands from his aunt, who disapproved of cycling on social grounds. It was exceptional, actually, for a Trinity student to compete in open competition as Gogarty did, and he was often embarrassed to read his name on the hoardings, for fear his aunt might spot it and come down on him. This was his last year cycling. The following year, 1901, he was suspended for bad language. Three cyclists tried to ram him, and he let go with a volley of oaths which were heard by the judges. Though Bob Reynolds offered to appeal for him, Gogarty wouldn't hear of it and never raced again. His suspension in his own opinion may have done him a favour. It made him wake up to the fact that there was a Literary Renaissance going on around him" (26-27).

JH 2022
Unidentified early bicycle race in Ireland. Source:
Postcard ca. 1900 by an unknown photographer showing racing cyclists at the Vélodrome of the Parc des Princes, Paris. Source: Wikimedia Commons.