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Old Galway

The Green Grass in the Claddagh.

June 5th, 2008

This photograph of part of the Claddagh dates from the 1920's, and shows that part of the village facing what is South Park today. The outline of the Clare hills can be seen in the distance. This area was known locally as 'The Big Grass' or 'The Green Grass' and was the one open expanse of ground in the Claddagh. Parts of it were very swampy and marshy (hence the name 'The Swamp) and subject to the tides, but other parts were dry enough to be used as a playground by local children... hurling matches and football games would have been played here, and it was also where the Claddagh Races used to be held.

These Races were a major event in the Galway sporting calendar and big crowds turned up to watch. It could be dangerous as there was very little in terms of railings to protect the spectators from horses who might veer off track, but there were serious prizes... in 1922 the Claddagh plate was worth �25 to the winner, and other races included The Salthill Plate, The South Park Plate, The Truce Plate, The City of the Tribes Plate, and the inevitable Galway Donkey Derby. A stand was erected to which the entrance was 2s 6d. To get into the field cost a shilling, motor cars were admitted on payment of 5 shillings and horse drawn cars for 2s 6d. These races were revived for a time in the seventies.

There used to be hundreds of geese in the Claddagh and they often congregated here and also at the seafront at the beginning of Nimmo's Pier. If they decided to attack you it was time to run for the hills. It was said that any Claddagh woman could come along and give her whistle or call and her geese would detach themselves from the pack and follow her home.

Around the corner from these houses there was a naval reserve stationed in the Grattan Road area. They were known as the 'Gunna Mors' because they had a battlemented battery in which there were several large guns. They used to practise by firing at targets out at sea.

Notice the lack of trees in our photograph. There were very few trees in the Claddagh. There was a local pisreog about one in Claddagh Parade. It was said that the man who planted it a few hundred years before had wished not an hour's luck on whoever touched it, kicked it or damaged it in any way. So naturally all the kids in the Claddagh used to swing off it. There was a fierce storm in 1927 which knocked the tree. It fell on two houses and the occupants had to cut it up to remove it but they could not give any of it to the neighbours.

We have two requests today. Brother Niall of Saint Patrick's School is working on a history of the Patrician School Brass band. It was started in 1967 and they made their first public appearance in December 1968 in the Imperial Hotel when they played at a Past Pupils function. If anyone has old photographs , clippings , documents or good stories about the band , Brother Niall would love to hear from you. Everything will be cared for and returned. He can be reached at the school or at 087 3823225.

Archive Productions in RTE are making a documentary on Shop Street and its characters. They are looking for old footage or home movies that might include the street or activities thereon. If you think you can help please contact Eimear O Mahony at RTE, phone 01 208 2543 or 087 666 8329.

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