Raymond Chandler and Waterford

By Lisa Marie Griffith

I was in a book  club a few years ago (that regrettably died) and one of the books we read was Raymond Chandler’s, The Big Sleep. Written in 1939 the book introduced the Private Detective Philip Marlowe, surely the coolest fictional private eye. The book begins when Marlowe is hired to uncover a blackmail  plot against General Sternwood, a wealthy but very elderly man with two beautiful precocious daughters. The eldest daughter was married to an ex-IRA leader who had left Ireland in the 1920s. I was surprised and delighted to discover while home that Christmas that Raymond Chandler (b. 1888 d.1959) had spent some time in Waterford city during his childhood. The above is a plaque from outside the house which is located behind Christ Church Cathedral, in Cathedral square. Chandler’s father and brother ran a legal practice in the city and when Chandler’s father (Maurice) emigrated, his brother (Ernest) stayed in Waterford. Chandler was actually born in Chicago on 23 July 1888. When his father died his uncle became an important benefactor for him and Raymond spend many summers in Waterford. Chandler does not seem to have warmed much to his Waterford family, however, and he seems to have found his uncle’s house rather cold. He preferred English society and retreated there when possible. Nevertheless, the stories which he heard in Ireland his connection to the country must have prompted the creation of some of his characters. There is a longer article on Chandler and Waterford in the local Waterford newspaper, the Munster Express.

3 Responses to “Raymond Chandler and Waterford”

  1. Felix Larkin Says:

    I think Chandler should have been included in the DICTIONARY OF IRISH BIOGRAPHY based on the connections with Ireland that are revealed here, but I have just checked and he’s not there. He’s certainly a good candidate to be included in the “missing persons” section when it appears (presumably only in the on-line version of the DIB). FELIX

  2. Tom Williams Says:

    Thanks for pointing out these plaques which I had not seen before. Maurice Chandler, Raymond’s father, was not part of the legal practice though. Maurice was born in Pennsylvania to a second generation family there though he could trace his Quaker roots back to Waterford. Also, he didn’t die this early as far as we know. Maurice and Florence, Chandler’s mother, has a turbulent relationship – Maurice probably had a drinking problem – and she left him in the 1890s taking their young son to Plattsmouth Nebraska to live with relatives. After a brief return to Chicago, Ray and Florence moved to London via Waterford. His uncle Ernest supported him at Dulwich College and sent him to Europe in 1904 for a year but was very disappointed when Ray, who joined the civil service in 1905, walked out after only six months to be a writer. It didn’t work out and he left for America in 1912.

  3. puesoccurrences Says:

    Thanks for the corrections Tom.

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