Holles Street hospital

In Brief

In Hades Bloom thinks that a young medical student named Dixon who treated him at the Mater hospital has moved to "the lying-in hospital," and in Lestrygonians Josie Breen tells him that Mina Purefoy is in her third day of labor at the lying-in hospital "in Holles street." The establishment is not named until Oxen of the Sun, whose action takes place "in the commons' hall of the National Maternity Hospital, 29, 30 and 31 Holles street." In Ithaca, when Bloom and Stephen discuss places to meet in the future, this phrase is repeated verbatim.

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The NMH was, and is, one of three large maternity hospitals in Dublin. Oxen mentions that it has "seventy beds" for laboring women, and that 300 babies are delivered each year: "in twelve moons thrice an hundred." The second number, averaging to not even one child per day, seems low. Today, so many babies are delivered at the hospital (over 9,000 per year) that a move to larger premises is being explored. The hospital lies just north of the Merrion Square park, a location that is highlighted in Oxen as a rainstorm moves in: "In Ely place, Baggot street, Duke's lawn, thence through Merrion green up to Holles street a swash of water flowing that was before bonedry." The sentence describes a storm track moving from southwest to northeast.

The NMH forms a major reference point in the 16 June 1904 action of Ulysses, chiefly because Mrs. Purefoy is giving birth there. But did Molly Bloom likewise give birth at this hospital? Both Gifford (79) and Igoe (290) assume that she did, and it seems possible that Joyce did as well. But Milly was born in June 1889 and Rudy in December 1893, while the NMH was founded in March 1894. The stone plaque over the hospital's entrance supports this dating, as do numerous documentary sources. Among them is a Charter Amendment Act passed in 1936, which begins, "WHEREAS the National Maternity Hospital situate in Holles Street in the City of Dublin was founded in the year 1894 for the relief of poor lying-in women and for the treatment of diseases peculiar to women . . ." But there is some contrary evidence. The hospital has been led by 18 Masters since its founding (Professor Shane Higgins began his service as the 18th Master earlier this year), and the list stretches back to a William Roe who served from 1885 to 1893. I have not yet been able to resolve this contradiction.

JH 2018
The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, date unknown. Source: allied.ie.
Inscription over the front door of the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street. Source: www.newstalk.com.