November 22nd, 2007
The town of Galway was virtually an independent city state, self contained politically and ecclesiastically, relying on it's own resources as it was cut off from central English authority, until the 16th century. Then the Tudors began to extend their influence westwards so that the city gradually came totally under their dominion. The real symbol of that growing influence was the fortifications, four in number, raised to defend this all important spot against possible enemies, notably France and Spain.
The first mention of fortifications occurs in 1548 when Edward VI asked the Mayor and Council of Galway to fortify the port. They were willing, but pleaded a lack of funds. The government were willing to advise, but not to pay, so nothing happened. The establishment of a garrison of English soldiers here proved unpopular with the natives, and gave 'rebels' in the west an excuse to attack the city. Some Galwegians whose Spanish trade had been ruined by the English were now trafficking guns and supplies to these rebels. Then there was the danger from Spain itself, so in 1584, the first fortifications were built at Ceann-a-Bhalla.
Four years later, most of the Spanish Armada perished in terrible storms off the west coast. It was obvious that this would not be a final defeat for Spain, and some years later, they sent another fleet to Ireland. They also ran into bad weather and were forced to land at Kinsale where they and the army of O'Neill were roundly defeated by Mountjoy. Had they landed in Galway, the result might have been much different, so the English decided to run no more risks, and fortify Galway at once.This was done outside the walls at Forthill. In 1609, this fort was thoroughly overhauled and improved, and new fortifications were built at Mutton Island.
In 1625, the West Gate was fortified.
In 1642, the Irish insurgents set up a government of their own at Kilkenny and appointed Col. John Burke as Lieutenant-General for Connacht. He was a good strategist and in June 1643, the fort at Galway surrendered to his troops. The Corporation threw open the gates to the Confederate Irish. Galway had won back it's independence, and the citizens lost no time in strengthening and fortifying the town so as to make the place virtually unassailable. The east & south ramparts were finished quickly. In 1645, the bulwark around Lyon's Tower was built, and two years later, the flanker about the new tower and also the flanker adjoining Lyon's Tower with the wall and ramparts were completed. Guns were purchased from France by order of the Corporation and placed on the fortifications. In 1649, all the gates were repaired, and the new flanker outside the east gate was added. Finally, in 1650 the rampart and bastions from the east gate to Kirwan's Tower were finished, thus completing the fortifications around the town, and making it, as far as defence went, the strongest point in the kingdom.
But it was all in vain. Having conquered the whole country, Cromwell's army stood before Galway in 1651. On April 5th, 1652, the city surrendered. All was lost. The old Corporation and indeed the old town were wiped out. The city state was at an end.
There is virtually no evidence of any of the fortifications left today, and indeed almost all traces of the old city walls have gone too. Our photograph today (which dates from c.1865). was given us by the Bational Library.
Tomorrow evening (November 23rd), the annual memorial mass for Father Michael Griffin and deceased members of Fr. Griffin's Football Club will be celebrated in the clubhouse at 7.30pm. Light refreshments will be served, and all are welcome.
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