Rogerson's Quay

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 southeast of his home, in the docklands near the mouth of the Liffey. As the chapter progresses he will move south from this starting point, away from the river, in an inland action that recalls the corresponding episode in the Odyssey.

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A quay (pronounced KEY) is a wharf where oceangoing ships can be loaded and unloaded. In Dublin the term applies (with different proper names every few blocks) to all the central-city streets running along the river's banks, even though bridge construction through the centuries has pushed maritime access farther and farther east. (Today, the docklands have been moved off the Liffey entirely.) Gifford glosses "lorries" as the "waterside cranes" used to transfer goods to and from the moored ships. Gunn and Hart say that they are flat wagons (35).

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 beginning 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 his ships anchored along an unknown coastline and he sent out a scouting party to learn who lived farther inland. As in other such adventures (especially those involving the Lestrygonians and the Cyclopes), what the mariners found there posed a mortal threat to their hopes of returning home to Ithaca. As Bloom turns right onto Lime Street and ventures inland, then, he is symbolically moving into dangerous territory.

JH 2017
Bloom's home in Eccles Street (red arrow) and Sir John Rogerson's Quay (blue) on Leo Knuth's schematic map of Dublin. Source: Hart and Knuth, A Topographical Guide.
The working docklands on Sir John Rogerson's Quay ca. 1900, with waterside cranes visible. Source: www.alamy.com.
Ships docked near the Custom House on the quays across the river, in a photograph of unknown date. Source: www.census.nationalarchives.ie.
Sir John Rogerson's Quay in a 2013 photograph by William Murphy. Source: www.flickr.com.