James's gate

James's gate

In Brief

The 12th section of Wandering Rocks opens with Tom Kernan walking eastward "From the sundial towards James's gate," along James's Street on the far western edge of Dublin. Later in the section he turns north toward the river. His walk is marked by proximity to a pub, a drinking fountain, an immense brewery, and an immense distillery.

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Just before the action begins, Kernan has exited a pub run by "Mr Crimmins," where he has secured an order of some tea for his employer while downing two glasses of the proprietor's "best gin." The pub still exists on the south side of James's Street, but today it is called the Malt House. Mr. Kernan has turned right after leaving the premises, heading east on James's Street toward the center of town. The section begins with him congratulating himself on what he thinks if the brilliantly conversational way in which he has "Got round" Mr. Crimmins. He has walked about half a block from the pub and now stands across from a small plaza where Bow Lane West runs into James's Street from the northwest.

The "sundial" that stands on this plaza is actually an obelisk bearing four sundials near its top and two water basins at its base. Commissioned by the Duke of Rutland (the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), and designed by the architect Francis Sandys, it was erected in 1790. Originally, water apparently flowed from four ornamental heads into a large circular basin at pavement level, but at some point in the 19th century the large pool was paved over and two small drinking basins, manufactured by "T. Kennedy, Patentee," were installed on opposite faces of the obelisk, with injunctions to "Keep the pavement dry." The monument still stands, though the basins no longer quench anyone's thirst or slicken any stones. Dublin Corporation commissioned a company to restore the stonework in 1995, with financial help from Guinness Ireland and the Ireland Fund of Canada.

"James's Gate," toward which Mr. Kernan is walking at the beginning of the section, began life in the 13th century as the westernmost gate to the walled city of Dublin. The medieval gate was demolished in 1734, but the name remained attached to the spot at the eastern end of James's Street where it passes Watling Street and becomes Thomas Street West.

The area and the name have been associated with brewing since the 17th century. In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on four acres and founded the St. James's Gate Brewery. His company later bought those acres and about 50 others nearby, building production and storage facilities south of James's Gate and north all the way to the river, whence barges could transport their product past Carlisle (O'Connell) Bridge to waiting ships for export. Varieties of the famous Guinness stout ("the black stuff" in Dublin) have been brewed near James's Gate since the late 1700s, and at some point the company erected its own gateway into the brewing facilities, opening off the south side of James's Gate, to honor and capitalize on the medieval gateway that once led into the city.

The most direct route for Kernan to take back to his office would be to pass by this gate on his right and continue along Thomas Street, heading east. Instead the narration observes that he "turned and walked down the slope of Watling street by the corner of Guinness's visitors' waitingroom," which the company built across from the gate, on the north side of the street, for people waiting to tour their brewing facilities. As he turns left onto Watling Street Kernan walks by this facility, which no longer exists. In the 21st century its functions have been more than replaced by the Guinness Storehouse, in the block of brewery buildings south of James's Gate. An architecturally ambitious building, the Storehouse contains six floors of museum-like displays and a seventh-floor bar offering excellent 360-degree views of Dublin.

As he walks north on Watling Street toward the river, skirting the Guinness storage facilities on his left, Mr. Kernan sees on the right hand side of the road a jaunting car left unattended "Outside the Dublin Distillers Company's stores." This large two-story warehouse building, which still stands, was constructed in 1866 as part of the huge Roe distillery on Thomas Street. Peter Roe founded the distillery in 1757, and over the course of the 19th century it grew to become the largest in Ireland and perhaps the world. In 1890, George Roe and Company's Thomas Street distillery combined with William Jameson's Marrowbone Lane distillery (different from John Jameson's Bow Street distillery) and the Dublin Whiskey Company's Jones Road distillery to form the ill-fated Dublin Distillers Company. The storehouse at 21-32 Watling Street was one of several buildings purchased by the Guinness company when the Thomas Street distillery closed during the Prohibition era and many of its structures were demolished.

Kernan is then seen approaching "Island street," which intersects Watling one block shy of the river. No further exact indications of his location are given in the section, but it can be inferred that as his interior monologue concludes he passes beyond Island Street and approaches the quays. The section ends with him seeing that he has just missed an opportunity to greet the viceregal cavalcade rolling eastward "along Pembroke quay."

Starting with two glasses of gin in Mr. Crimmins' pub, passing by a drinking fountain, threading the needle of the gargantuan Guinness complex, and finally passing by the largest of all Irish whiskey distilleries, Mr. Kernan's walk seems calculated to register as a geographical salute to human thirst.

JH 2019
The geography of section 12 overlaid on Bartholomew's 1900 map of Dublin. Click on image for more detailed approximation of Mr. Kernan's course (blue), the Malt House (green), obelisk (orange), Guinness brewery (red), Roe distillery (purple), and Pembroke Quay (brown). Source: Pierce, James Joyce's Ireland.
The Malt House on James's Street, formerly Crimmins'. Source: John Hunt.
The sundial obelisk, looking across James's Street toward the spot where Wandering Rocks begins. Source: John Hunt.
The gate to one part of the Guinness brewery grounds, near where the old James's Gate once stood, and across James's street from where the Guinness visitors' waitingroom once stood. Source: www.google.com.
The building that housed "the Dublin Distillers Company's stores" on the corner of Watling Street and Bonham Street. Source: www.buildingsofireland.ie.
Sketch of the Thomas Street distillery, published in Dublin, Cork and South of Ireland: A Literary, Commercial & Social Review Past and Present; With a Description of Leading Mercantile Houses and Leading Enterprises (1892). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
An early drawing or engraving of the obelisk, artist and date unknown. Source: archiseek.com.