Ah, that M’Guckin!

In Joyce’s short story The Dead, one of the guests is the tenor Bartell D’Arcy. He declines an invitation to sing to the company because he is suffering from a head cold. Nevertheless, at the end of the evening, he manages a few verses of the ballad, The Lass of Aughrim. His singing is overheard by Gretta, the wife of Gabriel Conroy, and she is greatly affected by the memory it invokes, of her first love, a young man from Galway.

It is suggested by Ellman that the character of D’Arcy is based on Barton McGuckin (1852-1913). McGuckin is briefly mentioned in Ulysses in the Sirens episode.  Richie Goulding and Bloom are sharing a table in the dining room of the Ormond Hotel and reminiscing about singers of the past.

He reappears In Finnegans Wake (1.7), this time as Baraton McGluckin (sic). As well as Barton we can hear in that first name “baritone” which misleads because McGuckin was a tenor like D’Arcy. There may be a reference, too, to another member of the clan, William McGuckin de Slane (1801-1878), also known as Baron de Slane. An Orientalist, William was Irish by birth but took French nationality. He was known for his cataloguing and translating of Arabic manuscripts.

There is more: the Hungarian phrase kedves barátom can be translated as “my dear friend”.


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