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Old Galway

A CLADDAGH CHRISTMAS LONG AGO

by Tom Kenny

These were the memories of Christmas in the Claddagh long ago as recalled by Martin Geary of Father Griffin Road and published in this paper in 1979.

“All the people of the street would start cleaning up, whitewashing, painting, a month before it. The smell of whitewash was grand. Well a few days before it, they would start putting up the holly. A woman used to make red roses from paper. She would put some wire at the bottom and put them on the holly, then the chains with lanterns, also paper mottos they were called. On these would be wrote ‘What is home without a mother’, ‘Merry Christmas’ and so on. They would be fancy decorations.

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JOYFUL CHAOS, THE CHRISTMAS MARKET

by Tom Kenny

For many people, the Christmas market takes place in Eyre Square and involves a big wheel, hurdy-gurdies and German beer tents. For others, it is part of a Galway tradition that goes back some 800 years under the shadow of the old grey St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. This was the fruit and vegetable market which expanded greatly at this time of the year with the big influx of turkeys and geese for sale.

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Some aspects of Galway postal history

by Tom Kenny

The idea for regular stages for carrying letters is as old as history itself. The regular use of the words “post” and “litir” in 15th century Irish manuscripts suggests that by that time a postal system was already in existence here.

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One hundred and ninety five years of the Patrician Brothers in Galway

by Tom Kenny

In 1790, the Rev Augustine Kirwan, Catholic warden of Galway, established the Galway Charity School near the Shambles Barracks for the education of poor boys. For a variety of reasons, the school failed and eventually, the Brothers of St Patrick, also known as the Patrician Brothers, an order founded in 1808, were invited to take charge.

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THE RAILWAY HOTEL

by Tom Kenny

This ancient site on the southern end of what we now know as Eyre Square was occupied by a Knights Templars convent in the 13th century. By the 17th century Robert Martin had a large house on the site, but this was taken from him by the Cromwellians and given to Edward Eyre. The Eyre family held on to the property and on May 12th, 1712, Edward Eyre, son of the above, presented the land in front of his house to the Corporation as a place of recreation for the people of Galway. In 1827, a man named Atkinson built houses at this end of the Square and by 1845, the site was occupied by a block of tenements owned by Fr. Peter Daly.

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THE BROWNE DOORWAY

by Tom Kenny

According to a Browne family tradition, the first Browne to settle in Ireland was Phillipus de Browne who, in 1172, was appointed Governor of Wexford. He had three sons, one of whom, Walter, settled in County Galway, where his posterity still remains. By around the year 1300, the Brownes seemed to have settled in the Athenry area. They were one of the fourteen families from the Irish lower classes who rose to become one of Galway’s prime merchant families who famously were known as The Tribes of Galway.

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THE UNVEILING OF A PLAQUE TO FR. GRIFFIN

by Tom Kenny

On November 14th, 1920, a young curate, Father Michael Griffin was lured from his house at No. 2,  Montpelier Terrace by the Black and Tans. Whatever ruse they used to get him out of the house, it was not to go on a sick call, as he did not take the holy oils or the Eucharist with him, but went peacefully. He went missing and volunteers and search parties were organised and combed the city and surrounding countryside looking for him. A week later his body was found buried in a bog at Clochsgoilte in Barna. There was an international outcry. He had worked in the parish of Rahoon since June, 1918 and was hugely popular. He spoke in Irish to young and old, organised feiseanna, currach races and donkey races on Silver Strand. He was very republican and was suspected by the Tans of having heard the last confession of the informer Patrick Joyce, which was probably the reason why they abducted him and tried to extract the identity of Joyce's killers from him.

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PERRSE'S GALWAY WHISKEY

by Tom Kenny

The name Persse is synonymous with Galway, the first members of the family having arrived in this country with the Cromwellians and many of them making significant contributions to life here since, the best known being Isabella Augusta Persse who later became Lady Gregory.

The family involvement with the alcohol trade began about the year 1800 when Henry Stratford Persse and Robert Persse established a porter brewery at Newcastle. It was in an ideal location, close to the river, and had a natural continuous supply of water to power the equipment. It was capable of producing 3,000 to 4,000 barrels of porter a month. The brewery was initially successful but sadly eventually went bankrupt. It was purchased by a man named Adams who moved the business to Madeira Island, thus leaving the Newcastle site available for the establishment of a distillery there.

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