Meade's timberyard

Meade's timberyard

In Brief

In Lotus Eaters Bloom walks from the cabstand on Great Brunswick Street to the corner of Cumberland Street South where a lumberyard sits: “Meade’s timber yard. Piled balks. Ruins and tenements.” In Joyce's time Meade's business might still have evoked the militant nationalism of James Carey that Bloom ponders in the church slightly later in Lotus Eaters. The connection is insinuated again in Hades when Bloom gazes once more on the business and brackets it with some loaded words: "National school. Meade's yard. The hazard."

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According to Thom's, "Michael Meade & Son," 153-59 Great Brunswick Street, were building contractors with "sawing, planing, and moulding mills" facilities. The sawmill business owned by "Alderman Meade" is also mentioned in the 28 March 1906 annual special issue of Timber and Wood Working Machinery, published in London. Glossing the "piled balks," Slote quotes the definition in the OED: "A roughly squared beam of timber, sometimes used technically to designate Baltic timber, which is roughly dressed before shipment."

Why mention this business, twice? Senan Molony's The Phoenix Park Murders (Mercier, 2006) observes that it employed James Carey as a bricklayer for eighteen years. Carey lived not far from the lumber yard on Denzille Street (renamed Fenian Street after independence). He was a central figure of the Invincibles, the Fenian militants who assassinated two top government administrators in front of the Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park on 6 May 1882. Before leaving Dublin for a new life after the trials for the murders, which he had planned and was centrally involved in before turning State’s evidence against his co-conspirators, Carey transferred most of his property portfolio to Michael Meade, his former employer. This caused a sensation when it became known in Dublin in 1883. Carey left behind a legal row over his alleged "fraudulent deed" of transfer and a demand that the houses be sold to raise the money towards his civic debts. Meade eventually kept his new properties.

The words before and after the mention of Meade's business in Hades might be taken as insinuating his involvement in Fenian politics. A “National school" called St. Andrew's was sited on Great Brunswick Street. Referring to it as Bloom does, however, may suggest that Meade’s was a school of Nationalism. “The hazard” is a cabstand, nothing necessarily hazardous about it. However, the Invincibles were transported to and from the site of the murders by cabs, several of them were cabbies, and Dubliners in the novel think that the operator of the cabman's shelter in Eumaeus is James Fitzharris, a.k.a. "Skin the Goat," the cabbie who drove a decoy cab from Phoenix Park to central Dublin to confuse the authorities. There was certainly a hazard in Fenian nationalism, and not only for government authorities: a participant risked his life if caught or betrayed.  

Senan Molony and John Hunt 2021
Detail of 1920 Bartholomew map showing location of Meade's yard (blue arrow) and Denzille Street (green). Source: Leventhal Center, Boston Public Library.
Large rough-hewn timbers (perhaps "balks"?) piled in the yard of H. and C. Bisley, Bermondsey, Greater London, featured in the 1906 issue of Timber and Wood Working Machinery. Source: