In the beginning . . .

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Above: ‘Altman the Saltman’, Albert Liebes Altman.

Moritz Altman, his wife Deborah and their infant son Albert arrived in Ireland in the early 1850s. Moritz was a talented milliner and was sometimes referred to as ‘Moses the Tailor’. He also sold ladies’ undergarments and Chaco paper. Examples of Altman’s creations can be viewed at the British Post Office Museum and the Imperial War Museum in London. In 1877 Albert was expelled from Mary’s Abbey synagogue for having ‘married out of the pale of Judaism’, and in 1881 it was reported that his father, Moritz, had died after ingesting poison. Luca Crispi of the James Joyce Research Centre at UCD opines that Joyce must have recalled this fairly uncommon fact when he crafted the story of the unfortunate ‘death by misadventure’ of Rudolph, father of Leopold Bloom. The Altmans were fervent supporters of the Temperance Movement, where one of their comrades was a Mr Dignam. Ironically, the brothers drank wine ‘because of their religion’, it is recalled. In an obvious parody, Joyce reveals that the fictional Paddy Dignam is a drunkard.

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