Rogerson's Quay

In Brief

"By lorries along sir John Rogerson's quay": at the beginning of Lotus Eaters Bloom stands more than a mile away from his house on Eccles Street, on a dockland street not far from the mouth of the River Liffey. A quay (pronounced KEY) is a wharf where ships can be loaded and unloaded. According to Ian Gunn and Clive Hart (James Joyce's Dublin, 35), lorries are the flat wagons used to transfer the goods, but Gifford glosses them as "waterside cranes."

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Sir John Rogerson's Quay is named for a former Lord Mayor of Dublin who in 1713 was allowed to develop 133 acres near Ringsend on the eastern edge of the river's south bank, on the condition that he construct a quay. The wharf was operational by the middle of the 18th century, and over the course of the 19th century many storehouses and other businesses were built along it.

ยง The echo is fleeting, but Joyce must have known that by starting his chapter on the docks he was evoking the setting of Homer's story of the lotos eaters. In Book 9 of the Odyssey, Odysseus recounts how he anchored along an unknown coastline and sent out a scouting party to learn who lived there. As in many other such adventures, the lotos plant that these men were given to eat posed a mortal threat to the mariners' hopes of returning home to Ithaca. As Bloom turns right on Lime Street and ventures inland, then, he is symbolically moving into dangerous territory.

JH 2017
Ships docked near the Custom House on the north bank of the Liffey, date unknown. Source: www.census.nationalarchives.ie.
Sir John Rogerson's Quay in what were then the Dublin docklands, ca. 1900. Source: www.alamy.com.
Sir John Rogerson's Quay in a 2013 photograph by William Murphy. Source: www.flickr.com.