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by Tom Kenny

The first book printed in Ireland was The Book of Common Prayer in 1551. As printing became more sophisticated, newspapers became inevitable. The first gazettes were published originally in manuscript – the word gazette being derived from gazetto, a coin of Venice, the amount paid for reading the news. The earliest printed newspapers began to appear around the end of the 16th century. These were small, quarto in size, printed on one or both sides of the page, or of four pages containing intelligence of public interest which were variously called 'Books of Newes', ‘Newe Newes’, 'Wonderful Newes', ‘Bloody Newes out of Ireland’, etc.

Because of English suppression of Ireland, the first newspaper published in Ireland came much later, in 1685. It was usually single leaf and printed on both sides. The earliest reference to a Galway newspaper I have found is The Connaught Journal of 1756 which was published at Martin Burke’s, Galway. That paper lasted until 1840.

Some other early Galway newspapers were The Galway Weekly Advertiser, 1823-1843; The Galway Independent, 1825-1832; The Western Argus & Ballinasloe Independent; The Galway Free Press, 1832-1835; The Tuam Herald, 1837-present; The Galway Patriot, 1835-1839; The Galway Vindicator, 1841-1899; The Galway Mercury, 1844-1860; The Galway Packet, 1852-1854; The Galway Express, 1853-1920, which was closed down by the Black and Tans; The Connaught Patriot, Tuam, 1859-1869; Western News, Ballinasloe, 1877-1926; The Galway Observer, 1881-1966; The East Galway Democrat, 1913-1921 and 1936-1949; and The Connacht Tribune, 1909 to present.

Our illustration today is of the masthead of The Galway Pilot, with which were incorporated the Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser, a Catholic journal for the west of Ireland. It was printed and published weekly by John N Sleator at the offices, Eyre Square and Lombard Street. Sometimes, the masthead carried a Galway coat of arms underneath. It was an attractive combination of beacon, canals, railways, and ships, both large and small.

It used to be very difficult to do research on early newspapers or journals, but modern technology has changed all that. Galway County Library has long runs of a large number of different Galway papers on microfilm, an invaluable archive of contemporary reports of almost 250 years of local history. It is a wonderful asset to the city, and surprisingly easy to use. The main problem one has going through these old papers is that one can become distracted reading the paper and forget the reason for doing the research.