Galway shawls have been the subject of a number of recent columns, and you were able to appreciate them in colour. The Fishmarket was a very colourful place, with lots of women in blue cloaks and red cloaks, in black or in patterned shawls, in red petticoats and white aprons vying against each other as they tried to sell their produce. This photograph of the area was taken c.1905, and gives us an idea of the hustle and bustle of the market. There is an interesting variety of patterned shawls on view as well as petticoats and working aprons which were known as 'praiscins'. These women are standing around or sitting on an area known as 'the concrete', which was especially constructed for the Fishmarket. It was later extended to cover a larger area closer to the Spanish Arch.
The Fishmarket was originally held on Bridge Street. At the time, there was only one bridge over the river, 'The West Bridge', or O'Brien's Bridge as it is known today. This meant a long roundabout walk for Claddagh women who had to haul their heavy loads of fish in various skibs or creels or cishs. This market was as important to the town as it was to the people of the Claddagh, and eventually the women's complaints were listened to and a wooden bridge was built where the Wolfe Tone bridge is today. It was quite dangerous, but had the effect of making the area we know as the Fishmarket far more convenient to the Claddagh women, and they quickly made it their own. It may look romantic in this photograph, but there was not much shelter in this wide space, so it must have been cruel in wet or stormy weather trying to make a living here.
The wooden bridge was replaced by a metal one in 1887, and it in turn was replaced by the present structure in the 1930's.
The high wall we see on the left in the background was of Burke's Distillery. It was eventually taken over by McDonoghs who had a manure and chemicals factory there. The house beside it was occupied on the left hand side by Bridget O'Connor who had a little sweet shop, and on the right by Monaghans. One of the distillery Burke family lived upstairs here. I don't know who ran the mill (the tall building) next door, but next to that again was Blake's Castle.
The two houses on their own were occupied by Julia Murphy who had a sweet shop, and Johnny Joyce who sold 'Aran brames', or salty fish. Those who lived in Quay Lane at the time were Michael Hernon, Paddy Kelly, Josie O'Toole, The Goldens, The Curleys, Johnny Allen and finally, Kililea's Pub.
Notice the rough surface of the foreground of the photograph, and the interesting variety of clothes on the males.
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