Sir Frederick Falkiner

Sir Frederick Falkiner

In Brief

From 1876 to 1905 Sir Frederick Falkiner was the Recorder of Dublin, an important magistrate with the immense task of overseeing much of the city's day-to-day orderly functioning. In Lestrygonians Bloom sees him going into the Freemasons' Hall "Solemn as Troy. After his good lunch in Earlsfort terrace." Other characters think about him during the day, particularly in Cyclops where legal cases are on everyone's lips.

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In Cyclops Alf Bergan comments on the reputation that this real-life magistrate had as the "poor man's judge." It is easy to sway him, he says: "— Poor old sir Frederick, says Alf, you can cod him up to the two eyes." Ned Lambert agrees: "— Heart as big as a lion, says Ned. Tell him a tale of woe about arrears of rent and a sick wife and a squad of kids and, faith, he'll dissolve in tears on the bench." Bergan notes that a Jewish moneylender who sues to Sir Frederick for recovery of funds faces an uphill battle: "Reuben J was bloody lucky he didn't clap him in the dock the other day for suing poor little Gumley that's minding stones, for the corporation there near Butt bridge." Bergan then launches into an imitation of the exchange in the courtroom: Falkiner: "A most scandalous thing! This poor hardworking man! How many children? Ten, did you say?" Gumley: " Yes, your worship. And my wife has the typhoid." Falkiner: "And the wife with typhoid fever! Scandalous! Leave the court immediately, sir. No, sir, I'll make no order for payment. How dare you, sir, come up before me and ask me to make an order! A poor hardworking industrious man! I dismiss the case."

The Recorder's reluctance to rule in favor of Jews no doubt bears on his appearance in Circe as the judge who sentences Leopold Bloom to death: "I will put an end to this white slave traffic and rid Dublin of this odious pest. Scandalous! (He dons the black cap) Let him be taken, Mr Subsheriff, from the dock where he now stands and detained in custody in Mountjoy prison during His Majesty's pleasure and there be hanged by the neck until he is dead and therein fail not at your peril or may the Lord have mercy on your soul." The subsheriff, Long John Fanning, calls out, "Who'll hang Judas Iscariot?"

At the end of Cyclops, the "violent atmospheric perturbation of cyclonic character" that results from the Citizen heaving a biscuit tin at Bloom carries away "a silk umbrella with gold handle with the engraved initials, crest, coat of arms and house number of the erudite and worshipful chairman of quarter sessions sir Frederick Falkiner, recorder of Dublin." This ornate umbrella, which appears again in Circe, suggests the judge's high social station, as does his lunch in Earlsfort Terrace, a short street in a very fashionable part of south central Dublin, running south from St. Stephen's Green to Adelaide Road. The "house number" too signifies wealth: Gifford notes that Sir Frederick lived at 4 Earlsfort Terrace, just off the Green (187). Membership in the Masonic order also suggests that Sir Frederick is Protestant.

JH 2014
Anonymous engraving after an oil portrait of Sir Frederick Falkiner in his judicial robes, by G. Osborne. Source:
John J. Clarke, photograph of a gentleman walking on Earlsfort Terrace, ca. 1897-1904. Source: