Page 51. " bearing a dented billycan "

A billycan is a tin or enamel cooking pot with a lid and wire handle, used outdoors, especially for making tea. In Ireland, a billycan is most often associated with 'travellers' who were once called by the name 'tinkers' because these 'gypsy-like folk' were tinsmiths.

According to the Australian National Dictionary Centre, the word comes from the Scottish billy meaning ‘cooking utensil’.  An alternative derivation is the Scottish bally, meaning 'milk pail.'

Page 63. " Vaublin and the fête galante style "

Vaublin is a fictitious painter who appears in two of Banville's other novels, Ghosts and Athena

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) popularised the fête galante painting style, placing real patrons in scenes of Arcadian mythology.  The general theme, according to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., is of 'well-dressed members of the upper class pursuing love, music, conversation'.

The term fête galante, literally "gallant party" refers to various theatrical entertainments of the Versailles court during the 18th Century.


Page 72. " the distant rattling of a corncrake "
Creative Commons AttributionCorncrake - Credit: Sergey Yeliseev

The corncrake (Crex crex) is a shy, secretive bird.  It is endangered in Ireland, and is probably not actually seen or heard in the area in which The Sea takes place.   

The corncrake makes a noise like 'two cheese graters rubbed together, producing a sound so monotonous as to qualify the bird as the world's worst singer' -  BirdWatch Ireland.

Listen on the RSPB Website

It is perhaps no coincidence that Banville chose the corncrake, for the young Max is also shy and secretive in his obsession with the Graces.