Never you fret


In Brief

The "timekeeper" who shouts out the destinations of various trams at the beginning of Aeolus was a dispatcher stationed at Nelson's Pillar where all the lines originated. In 1904 the position was held by Richard Delany, known around Dublin as "the Captain."

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In Through Streets Broad and Narrow: A History of Dublin Trams (2008), Michael Corcoran observes that the timekeeper "ordered departures by calling out destinations rather than motorman's names or car fleet numbers" (68). Corcoran identifies Richard Delany as the man who held the job in 1904, observing that "He was renowned for his prodigious memory and is reputed to have never needed to consult a timetable" (68).

In The Bloomsday Trams: Dublin's Tramway Fleet of James Joyce's Ulysses (2009), David Foley adds several features to the portrait. Delany was 62 in 1904. He was married to a woman 22 years younger and they had three young children, two boys and a girl. The motormen called him "the Captain" because he had served three years in the metropolitan police after moving to Dublin from Queen's County (now County Laois), and "He never used a whistle" (8). None of Delany's biography figures in Ulysses except this last detail: Joyce opens a chapter dedicated to wind, sound, speech, and language with the piercing voice of the timekeeper calling out name after name.

Vivien Igoe (2016) observes that, in an 1888 article in Sport, Jakes M'Carthy wrote, "You just peep over and see if Delany, the commander-in-chief of the tram cars is gone, for he appears to me to never leave the place, and is there shouting, 'Go on, Rathmines!' night, noon and morning the whole year round."

John Hunt 2023
Trams departing from Nelson's Pillar and passing by the General Post Office. Source: