Malahide

In Brief

"Malahide" is a coastal village and resort about 10 miles (16-18 km) north of Dublin. In Proteus it figures as the port from which James Stephens reportedly escaped Ireland in 1867 after the failure of the Fenian rebellion. In other chapters it is mentioned as a town which Dubliners may visit on a holiday excursion, or get stranded in through poor choice of late-night trains. Most notably, it also figures as the site of Malahide Castle, ancestral home of the "Talbot" family.

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The Talbots owned this baronial estate from the time of the Norman conquest in the late 12th century until its purchase by the Dublin County Council in 1976. In return for services rendered during the invasions, and, more importantly, for pledges of continuing fealty to the distant English crown, King Henry II granted one of his knights, Sir Richard Talbot, an extensive piece of land adjoining an estuary well suited to shipping. The Talbots soon built both a strong defensive fortification and a useful harbor, and in 1476 King Edward IV gave them the important title "Lord High Admiral of Malahide and the Seas Adjoining," which conferred the power to regulate local shipping and exact customs duties. Father Conmee thinks of this title in Wandering Rocks: "Lord Talbot de Malahide, immediate hereditary lord admiral of Malahide and the seas adjoining."

In the next sentence, Conmee recalls a well-known incident that occurred nearly 50 years before the conferring of the title and that has only an incidental connection to the Talbots: "Then came the call to arms and she was maid, wife and widow in one day." In 1429 Sir Walter Hussey, son of Lord Galtrim, married Lady Maud Plunkett, daughter of Lord Plunkett, and was killed in battle later the same day. Very soon after this, Maud married Sir Richard Talbot of Malahide, Walter's rival for her hand. Sir Walter's ghost is said to haunt the castle, filled with resentment toward his unfaithful bride. Lady Maud too is said to haunt the castle, for different reasons.

The Talbots' reign of nearly eight centuries was interrupted only once. During the English Civil War, Lord John Talbot and his lady were evicted and exiled to the west of Ireland by Cromwell's parliamentary forces, who installed one of their stalwarts, Miles Corbet, in the castle. With the Restoration of King Charles, Lord and Lady Talbot resumed possession of the castle but lost control of the port. They ordered the castle's defenses to be torn down, so that it would never again attract a usurper. (Most of the strong-looking towers and battlements that now adorn the castle are later, purely ornamental additions.) Miles Corbet was eventually captured in the Netherlands and hung, drawn, and quartered in England. His ghost too haunts the castle, and, like Nearly Headless Nick in the Harry Potter tales, falls into four pieces whenever some unlucky person encounters it.

Another threat to Talbot rule came at the end of the 17th century, when a large branch of the family sided with King James against the forces of King William. It is said that on the morning of the Battle of the Boyne 14 members of the family had breakfast together at the castle, and at the end of the day all 14 were dead. Even though many Talbots fought on the losing side in this pivotal battle, the Malahide estate remained in the family's hands. Responding to the new political conditions, however, the owners of the castle adopted the Protestant faith of the Church of Ireland, a fact reflected in Oxen of the Sun when Mulligan proposes buying Lambay Island from "lord Talbot de Malahide, a Tory gentleman of note much in favour with our ascendancy party."

Like Father Conmee, Leopold Bloom is well aware of the castle and some of the legends surrounding it. In Eumaeus he recalls a dubious rumor, uttered "with facetious proclivities," that "Lord" John Corley derived his nickname through connection with the Talbot family: "His grandfather Patrick Michael Corley of New Ross had married the widow of a publican there whose maiden name had been Katherine (also) Talbot. Rumour had it (though not proved) that she descended from the house of the lords Talbot de Malahide in whose mansion, really an unquestionably fine residence of its kind and well worth seeing, her mother or aunt or some relative, a woman, as the tale went, of extreme beauty, had enjoyed the distinction of being in service in the washkitchen." The very funny joke here, delivered in the final five words, concerns the way in which Corley's grandmother is said to have been "descended from the house" of the Malahide Talbots. Her mother or aunt or whatnot did not trace her lineage to the great family (a "noble house," as the saying goes), but was quite literally a member of the household: she washed pots in the mansion's kitchen.

Malahide Castle today remains "well worth seeing." It features a Gothic-style country house displaying many portraits from the National Gallery, splendid gardens and parklands, and a scale model railway with structures and landforms from the surrounding countryside. The nearby village of Malahide, its harbor and marina, and its beach attract summer vacationers from nearby Dublin. Today it is a far-outer suburb of the city served by the DART line, but in Joyce's era it was an independent seaside town, cultivated as a resort since Georgian times. In Eumaeus Bloom recalls the story of Mulligan rescuing a man from drowning "at Skerries, or Malahide was it?" Skerries is another seaside resort popular with Dubliners, several miles farther up the coast. 

JH 2019
Malahide Castle from the air. Source: www.tripadvisor.in.