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Oliver St. John Gogarty - Inspiration for Buck Mulligan

Oliver St. John Gogarty Visual Arts Biographies Famous People Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs

Oliver St. John Gogarty (1878-1957), an important person in Irish history, was a:

  • Poet (his work was greatly admired by W.B. Yeats);
  • Supporter of Irish independence (his home was a safe house during Ireland's war against Britain);

How do we know that Joyce used Gogarty as his model for Buck Mulligan? One source, for this, is The James Joyce Center in Dublin, Ireland. In its article, “On This Day ... 17 August,” we read:

Gogarty and Joyce met in 1902, and lived together at the Martello Tower in Sandycove briefly in 1904. Gogarty was the model for the character Buck Mulligan in Ulysses.

How did Joyce meet Gogarty? Did they remain friends—or—did they have a falling out? The article, from the Joyce Center, continues:

Gogarty and Joyce met for the first time in December 1902, shortly after Joyce returned from his first visit to Paris, and they became friends and drinking companions. Gogarty spent two terms at Worcester College, Oxford, in 1904, and when he got back to Dublin he leased the Martello Tower at Sandycove and invited Joyce to go and live with him there. Also there at the same time was Samuel Chenevix Trench with whom Gogarty had been friendly in Oxford.

What happened between Joyce and Gogarty at the Tower is not clear: we have Joyce’s fictionalised account in Ulysses, and Gogarty’s account in his memoirs, neither of which are entirely reliable. Whatever it was, it was decisive for Joyce. Having moved into the Tower on 9 September 1904, he left in the early hours of 15 September, and within a month Joyce had left Ireland for good. Though Gogarty held the lease until 1925, the Tower later became more associated with Joyce and Ulysses, and today it is the James Joyce Museum.

Gogarty made several attempts at reconciliation with Joyce, none of them successful, and it seems that Gogarty feared what Joyce might write about him. By the time Ulysses was published in 1922, Gogarty was an important society figure in Dublin, and was about to be appointed to the Free State Senate, and he did not appreciate Joyce’s depiction of him as Buck Mulligan.

Gogarty was closely identified with the new Provisional Government in 1922. He performed the autopsies and did the embalming for both Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. The home Gogarty bought in 1917 at Renvyle in Galway was burnt in 1923 because of his association with the new government, and he and his family moved to London until 1924. He continued writing poetry, and won the gold medal for poetry at the Tailteann Games, and the bronze medal for poetry at the Olympics in 1924. He remained a Senator until the Senate was abolished in 1936.

Gogarty believed that St. Patrick was born near St. David's, in the Pembrokeshire section of coastal Wales.  (See John Benignus Lyons’ biography of Gogarty, at page 67).

Eventually becoming disillusioned with his life in Ireland, Gogarty moved to America. He died there—in New York City—during September of 1957.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 14, 2017

Updated Last Revision: Mar 14, 2017


Media Credits

Photo online, courtesy The National Archives of Ireland.

 

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