Joyce, Michael (1851–1941), sailor, Shannon pilot and MP, was born 4 September 1851 at Merchant's Quay, Limerick, the son of Richard Joyce, a Shannon pilot, and his wife Bridget (née Tubbs). His grandfather, John Joyce, had also been a Shannon pilot. Educated at the CBS schools in Limerick, Michael went to sea aged fourteen on the barque Red Gauntlet. During the course of his maritime career he was shipwrecked four times. In 1869 he was aboard the Herald when she foundered in the Bay of Biscay and shortly afterwards another ship he was working aboard capsized in the middle of the Atlantic. Joyce and his fellow-crewmen clung to the overturned hulk for five days until rescued. His next misfortune took place in the North Sea where his ship was blown ashore in a gale and, during the Franco–Prussian War, he was shipwrecked once again when his ship ran aground after all marker buoys had been removed from German and French territorial waters.
He returned to Limerick in 1876 where he served an apprenticeship as a river pilot and, in March 1878, was granted his pilot's licence by Limerick Harbour Commissioners. Responsible for piloting ships up the river from Cain's Island and down to Scattery Island and Loop Head, he was also a member of the Royal Naval Reserve. A keen sportsman, he was a founding member of Garryowen rugby club and played in the first fifteen for both Garryowen and Limerick County. He was a member of a local temperance debating society, and became increasingly interested in politics and was a founding member of the Sarsfield Branch of the National League. In January 1899 he stood as a candidate in the Limerick Corporation elections and was returned on a labour mandate. In the general election of 1900 he was elected nationalist MP for Limerick city, decisively beating the unionist candidate. A man of considerable charm and a brilliant raconteur, he became a popular figure in the commons and was known as the ‘Pilot of the House’.
Elected mayor of Limerick for two terms (1905–6), he was returned uncontested as MP for the city in the general election of 1906. Active in the Limerick Harbour Board and its pilotage committee, he was a member of the United Kingdom Pilots’ Association. In 1909, along with the association's president, Commander George Cawley, he took part in a series of meetings with Winston Churchill, president of the Board of Trade, and a pilotage select committee was established on the basis of their recommendations. Succeeding Cawley as president of the UK Pilots’ Association in 1910, he also served on the Marine Advisory Committee of the Board of Trade and gave evidence on the state of pilotage on the Shannon. The committee's work resulted in the pilotage act of 1913.
Joyce retained his seat in the two general elections of 1910, beating the independent nationalist, John H. Rice, by a substantial margin on both occasions. In October 1918 he narrowly escaped death while travelling to England on the mail ship RMS Leinster when it was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Irish sea. Putting his maritime experience to good use, he assisted in the evacuation of the ship and was later commended for his actions. In November 1918 his pre-election rallies in Limerick were disrupted by Sinn Féin activists and he stood down to avoid further disruption in the city. The Sinn Féin candidate, Michael Collivet, was returned as the new MP for Limerick city. Joyce retired from the Limerick Harbour Board in 1920 and as president of the UK Pilots’ Association in 1923.
During his public career he had enjoyed a measure of celebrity. T. P. O'Connor (qv) introduced him to Mark Twain as the ‘Shannon pilot to the Mississippi pilot’. He also met Count John McCormack (qv), the actress Ada Rehan (qv), and the Australian soprano, Eva O'Connor. Remaining active in the cultural life of Limerick, he was chairman of the Michael Hogan (‘Bard of Thomond’) Committee which erected a cross at Hogan's (qv) grave in 1933. A member of the Limerick division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, he served on the Joseph Devlin Memorial Committee, presenting a bust of Devlin (qv) to the Limerick Municipal Art Gallery in 1939. He died 9 January 1941 at ‘The Moorings’, O'Connell Avenue, Limerick.
In 1878 he married Annie Mahony, who was from Limerick; her father was also a pilot. They lived in Limerick and had two sons and two daughters: the elder son, Richard, emigrated to America and was wounded in France in 1918 fighting with the 165th regiment.