Hoppy Holohan

In Brief

In a book stuffed to the rafters with minor characters, "Hoppy Holohan" is one of the most minor. Joyce probably based him on an actual person that he learned about from Nora, but biographical information about this person has not been found. Holohan plays a fairly important (though ignominious) role in the Dubliners story "A Mother," but in Ulysses he is reduced to having two people ask two other people whether they know him.

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"A Mother" begins with a paragraph introducing him: "Mr Holohan, assistant secretary of the Eire Abu Society, had been walking up and down Dublin for nearly a month, with his hands and pockets full of dirty pieces of paper, arranging about the series of concerts. He had a game leg and for this his friends called him Hoppy Holohan. He walked up and down constantly, stood by the hour at street corners arguing the point and made notes; but in the end it was Mrs Kearney who arranged everything."

In Lotus Eaters M'Coy learns that Bloom is going to Paddy Dignam's funeral and says, "I only heard it last night. Who was telling me? Holohan. You know Hoppy?" Bloom replies, "I know." In Aeolus Mr. O'Madden Burke, who lends moral support to Holohan in "A Mother" when he has his falling out with Mrs. Kearney, discusses details of the Phoenix Park murders with Myles Crawford and says, "Holohan told me. You know Holohan?" Crawford replies, "Hop and carry one, is it?"  In Circe Holohan fills a small and purely choral role. He has one line: "Good old Bloom! There’s nobody like him after all."

Vivien Igoe writes that a man of the same name "was mentioned in a letter from a suspicious Joyce to Nora dated 7 August 1909. Holohan appeared as a guest in Finn's Hotel in Leinster Street where the 19-year-old Nora worked as a chambermaid in the early months of 1904. He tried unsuccessfully to seduce her. Holohan could well have served as the model for the Holohan in Joyce's fiction."

JH 2019
Ghost sign on the old Finn's Hotel building on South Leinster Street near Trinity College, now a dental hospital. Source: comeheretome.com.