“The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.”
― James Joyce, Dubliners
James Joyce has a long and storied relationship with Irish Distillers.
John Murray, Joyce’s maternal grandfather, acted as a sales rep with Powers. Joyce’s father, John, was an investor and later Secretary of the Phoenix Park Distillery and had a huge interest in whiskey production. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce referred to his father as ‘something in a distillery’.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix Park Distillery failed, and the losses marked the inexorable descent of the Joyce family into penury. As a result, James Joyce often used the device of the distillery in all his writings to convey a sense of gloom and negativity.
However, this failed to dampen the Irish novelist’s appreciation for the drink. Jameson was his preferred tipple throughout his life, apart from during his time in Paris, when it was a glass of white wine. Joyce often referred to his books as ‘Jem’s sons’, a pun on Jameson. Such puns crop up throughout his writing.
He even had thoughts of using the famed Jameson logo in his work. In 1927, fearing he would never finish Finnegan’s Wake, Joyce suggested to his publisher, Harriet Shaw Weaver, that James Stephens should be approached to finish off the work. He suggested using the Jameson logo ‘JJ&S’ to go under the title if Stephens took up the task.
Whiskey is at the heart of Finnegan’s Wake and is dominant throughout Joyce’s works, particularly during Dubliners, in the stories of ‘The Sisters’, ‘A Painful Case’ and ‘Counterparts’.
Carol Quinn, Archivist, Irish Distillers