The first buses came to Galway in 1919. Before that, there was a horse drawn tram system in operation between Eyre Square and the Eglinton Hotel, but the First World War put an end to it when the British Army commandeered most of the horses. Motorised vehicles were becoming more popular, and the availability of ex-army and ex-RAF vehicles in quantity at cheap prices after the war was a major help to those setting up bus companies in Ireland.
The Galway General Omnibus Company, also known as "Bus -Chomhlucht na Gaillimhe Teoranta" started operations between Eyre Square and Salthill with three vehicles�..a Commer 20-seater single decker, a Lancia 35-seater charabanc and a 49-seater double decker with an open upper deck. All of these buses were chain driven, fitted with solid tyres and relied on carbide lamps to direct the driver at night. In those early days, all one had to do was wave one's hand, and the bus would stop.
Martin McGrath was the driver of the double decker, and in the early twenties, he was stopped by a Guard Walsh outside O'Gorman's in Shop Street. He was accused of having knocked down a man and driven over him. When the passengers were ordered out,one of them, a Mr. Fleming explained the situation. The dead man had occupied a seat in the last row of the open top saloon. When he stood up to give his seat to a lady passenger, he became entangled in an overhead banner and fell to the street below. The banner had in fact removed Mr. Fleming's hat, even though he was seated�.it had been hung across the street to welcome Eamon DeValera to Galway, and had sagged due to heavy rain the previous night.
On August 5th, 1936, the company was taken over by Great Southern Railways. Fifteen buses were included in the fleet, most of which was scrapped by the end of the following year. GSR painted bus signs at various places along the road and they eventually wore away with the weather. Everyone knew where they were and would congregate at the usual place as normal.
This company became CIE in 1945, and they eventually produced small bus stop signs which were nailed on to ESB poles. Bus stops were introduced in the late fifties.
The Eyre Square - Salthill route was the busiest in Galway. During the Summer it was supplemented by every available spare bus. In 1956, CIE transferred two Leyland Titan double deckers from Dublin to provide an increased capacity for the Salthill route. The regular conductors on those buses were Peter Flood, Jimmy Mulreaney and Hyacinth Darcy. By contrast, in those days, the bus route from Taylor's Hill to Renmore only ran every 50 minutes, and required just one vehicle to maintain the service throughout the day. In the early sixties, a double decker was introduced to expand the bus network to serve new housing areas. Galway had a distinctive local variation of the CIE blue & cream livery applied to double deckers from 1961 on with an additional blue band between the upper & lower decks.
Our photograph of this bus was taken in the mid sixties in Eglinton Street with the Savoy Cinema and Irish TV Rentals in the background, and on the right, the newly opened Cellar Bar. It is one of the illustrations in the excellent "Wheels around Connaught" by Cyril McIntyre published by Stenlake Publishing in 2004 ---a marvellous collection of photographs of various types of public transport in the west. Our thanks also to Criostoir MacGearailt for his help today.
Please forward any queries/comments to email@example.com