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Old Galway

A Traffic Free Waterside.

May 15th, 2008

�Waterside; ye plot or waster ground wherein the works are erected at the Abbey gate, formerly in ye tenancy of Joseph Eaton and others, and ye mearing of ye ground which they have ascertained to be from ye side wall of the side gate of the bridge, and to build no further to the street than Morris built and to leave a slip or passage on the left side of said bridge, or 24 feet for water to be brought with care to leave by the side.�

�Waterside; Six feet betwixt Thos. Rushe and his house, and the side plot as a pathway for servant maids to wash and the rest of the mears (boundary) to be by the town wall.�

These two descriptions of Waterside in the 17th century give us an idea of how rough the general area was then. As Mary Naughten describes it in her wonderful book �The History of Saint Francis Parish,� the area was outside the walls and probably occupied by farmers and fishermen who lived in thatched houses. It was next to Woodquay, so called because of the wood and the timber that was brought down by boat from the shores of the lake and sold here. They also brought turf, wood wattles, frieze lyn cloth (Linen cloth), broad cloth, butter, corn, grain, honey and poultry which was for sale. And so the area gradually became more commercial. A drawing done for Hardiman�s History c.1820 shows many of the buildings in Waterside to be substantial warehouses.

By the mid 19th century, most of those buildings were part of the Erasmus Smith Estate. At that time many of the farmers in Menlo lived by keeping cows and supplying the city with milk, and many of them would have brought potatoes by boat to the potato market in Woodquay.

In recent times, the general area has become more associated with leisure than with commerce. It is used by boating people, oarsmen and women, fishermen, strollers and tourists... which is hardly surprising for one of the most beautiful parts of our city. Our photograph today dates from 1950 and illustrates the leisurely atmosphere and what it might be like without traffic. You can see the Salmon Weir Bridge in the distance. The park seat you see was wrecked in an accident by a vehicle driven by an eminent medic.

The building on the left was once a grain store. It may well have been part of Corrib Castle next door which at one time was owned by James Alcorn. He had a corn mill in Corundulla which was driven by a water wheel on the Cregg river, and he may have used Corrib Castle as a sort of city depot because there was a large furnace there. Corrib Castle was later occupied by the O�Connor family and today houses the architectural practise of Simon J. Kelly. On the other side of the castle was Lydon�s house and past that again (on the corner) was Cooke�s, which at one time belonged to the Lally family. The building in our picture is a Domestic Violence Refuge today known as Waterside House.

A friend was talking nostalgically the other day about being a member of the Guth na n-Og pipe band that played for President Kennedy when he visited. They were at the top of High Street and when he passed, half the band stopped playing and started waving. He would love to see a photograph of the scene, and so would I. Can anybody help?

One of the joys of life is listening to birdsong, especially at this time of the year. Birdwatch Galway are inviting people to go to the NUIG Dangan Sports grounds at 5am on Sunday, 18th of May to listen to the Dawn Chorus. There is no charge, children under supervision are welcome, and please NO DOGS.

Photo: Francis Frith Collection, Vancouver, Canada.

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