In Calypso Bloom imagines young publicans-to-be
"Coming up redheaded curates from
the county Leitrim, rinsing empties and old man in the
cellar." The picture is of rustics scraping by in
the big city, doing menial labor and possibly swilling
leftover beer or selling it to customers. Later, in Eumaeus,
he mentions the chief town in this out-of-the way county, "Carrick-on-Shannon,"
as a kind of quintessentially Irish place far removed from
County Leitrim (pronounced LEE-trəm) is in the northern part of Connacht, just south of Donegal. It has the smallest population of any of Ireland's 32 counties, and little in the way of scenic or historic sites to attract visitors. Gifford observes that it "seemed remote and agrarian to Dublin, and its inhabitants were regarded as country bumpkins."
There has been some difference of opinion about the phrase "old
man." Gifford glosses it as referring to the remainder
in a drinker's glass, suggesting that the servers are slurping
down leftover portions of the customers' drinks. Slote instead
quotes from an entry in Partridge's Dictionary of Slang
that defines it as "That part of the beer engine in which the
surplus beer collects." Given the passage's reference to the
cellar, Slote's reading is probably preferable, and it may
imply that the pub workers are simply cleaning out the
machinery. On the other hand, Richard Wall's Anglo-Irish
Dialect Glossary sees the phrase as referring to "beer
slops which are sold to unsuspecting customers."
Carrick-on-Shannon is the largest town in County Leitrim, but
no more than a village by the standards of more populous
counties. Even today it has far fewer than 5,000 residents.
Sited at a strategic ford on the River Shannon, it grew up as
a market town hosting several annual fairs. When Bloom says that his
calling Jesus a Jew enraged the barhounds in Cyclops "because
mostly they appeared to imagine he came from
Carrick-on-Shannon or somewhere about in the county
Sligo," he apparently means that these provincial intellects
not only paint fair skin and blue eyes on their Mideastern
Savior, but imagine him coming from a part of Ireland barely
touched by the outside world.