In 1904 Dublin had covered sewers (an improvement over the open drains and backyard cesspools of the 18th century), but no sewage treatment facilities. The River Liffey served as the ultimate sewer, carrying vast amounts of untreated human waste into Dublin Bay. The novel casts many glances at this urban pollution problem, and a couple more at a major effort that was being made to improve the infrastructure by routing all the sewage to a treatment plant through drains laid under the quays. Wandering Rocks makes an anti-imperial gesture out of the filth.

John Hunt 2014

Early 20th c. photograph of quays in front of Grattan Bridge. Source:

Paulmoloney photograph of the confluence of the Poddle and the Liffey at low tide under Wellington Quay, May 8, 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Late 19th c. photograph of men involved in the Dublin Main Drainage Scheme, "at Commencement of Outfall Works." Source: