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According to the Gifford annotations, Rochford was a real man who was involved in the attempt to rescue a sanitation worker overcome by sewer gas. He was one of twelve men that went down in the attempt, two of whom died. His eyes were severely injured by the gas. The story is radically altered in Ulysses, and Rochford is presented as something of a small-time inventor.
Rochford appears briefly in "Lestrygonians" "The Wandering Rocks," "Sirens," and "Circe." He shows his invention to Lenehan and M'Coy, and asks Lenehan to pass on the idea to Blazes Boylan. As the two men leave, they discuss Rochford's heroic effort to pull the man out of the manhole and they think that he is a hero.