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Old Galway

THE PENNY DINNERS

by Tom Kenny

The Penny Dinners Committee was a name given to a voluntary group who used to provide free dinners for 40 to 80 impoverished children four times per week in the late 1920's and early 1930’s. In fact the title was a misnomer, in no sense were they penny dinners. The children could not afford to give a penny for them nor could the committee provide a dinner for a penny. The funding for these meals came from the people of Galway and also from fundraising productions they put on, mostly in the Columban Hall.

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THE CLADDAGH RING

by Tom Kenny

The story of the Claddagh Ring, which is made up of a plain hoop attached to a hammered or cast bezel designed as two hands clasping a crowned heart, has so much folklore and myth attached to it that it is hard to know where legend ends and truth begins. The motif of clasped hands is usually referred to as a ‘fede’ or ‘hands in faith’ ring and has been used on love rings since Roman times. The heart, regarded by lovers as the seal of affection, made an appearance on rings at a later date as did the crown which is the distinguishing feature of the Claddagh Ring from all the others.

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A FAIR DAY IN EYRE SQUARE, c.1885

 by Tom Kenny

Two hundred years ago, cattle fairs were held regularly at Fairhill in the Claddagh, then later in the century, they moved them over to Eyre Square where they often spilled over into adjoining streets like Williamsgate Street and Forster Street. They took place in the Square for a long time until they were moved to the Fairgreen.

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AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA, THE EARLY YEARS IN GALWAY

by Tom Kenny

After the truce, the R.I.C. handed over their barracks to the Irish Free State. One hundred years ago this month, the Government set up An Garda Síochána, an unarmed civic police force. Unfortunately, the first group of Gardaí who arrived in Galway by train had no barracks to go to, the Eglinton Street headquarters having been destroyed in an arson attack on the night of July 2nd, 1922. A search began for someplace to house the 23 Gardaí and that evening, they managed to find accommodation in The County Club. They stayed there for almost a year.

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THE RIC IN GALWAY

by Tom Kenny

In the 18th century, attempts at maintaining Law and Order in Galway were poor. Occasional groups of civilian vigilantes were set up, but they were not very successful. Then, 200 years ago, in 1822, the Chief Secretary Henry Goulburn set up the Irish Constabulary. In 1824, Edward Blake from Mary Street became the first Catholic in Ireland to become a constable. In 1825, a decision was made to bring police to Galway. Some time later a barracks was set up in Abbeygate St., then one in Eyre Square (where Giblin’s Hotel was situated later) and one in Dominick St. where An Tobar Nua is today. The force gradually became very organized, were successful in dealing with crime and so Queen Victoria granted them the term ‘Royal’.

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SOCCER IN SALTHILL

by Tom Kenny

The game of soccer in Salthill really began with Christy Gilbert. He formed a club in the early 1940’s called Salthill Crusaders and they played for several years with some success. Some of the players associated with the club were Harry Lupton, Donal Murray, Frank Lydon, Arthur Stephens, Brendan Collins, Tommy Stephens, Billy and Leo Shaw, Donie Kelleher.

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O’BRIEN’S BRIDGE

by Tom Kenny

The Parliamentary Gazeteer of Ireland was published in 1845 and stated that “the old, or west bridge, over the main current of the Galway River, was built in 1342; and till the erection of the new bridge (The Salmon Weir bridge built 1819) was the only passage from the eastern districts of the county to the great peninsulated district of Iar-Connaught. In 1558, a gate and tower were erected at its west end; and afterwards, another gate and tower were erected in its centre; but these were long ago entirely demolished. About 42 years ago, the bridge was thoroughly repaired on its north side, and was pronounced by architects to be strong; but it soon experienced the effects of the neglect which are so generally apparent in the town; and in consequence of dilapidated parapets, narrow carriage-way and the utter want of side-pavements and of lights, it was, a few years ago, a rather hazardous means of crossing a deep and impetuous river on a dark night”.

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THE WEST BRIDGE, A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EARLY YEARS

by Tom Kenny

The City of Galway was known in ancient times as ‘Streamstown’ because the Galway River divided into several small waterways in addition to the main river. The river was much more spread out then and was fordable in some places. The city was placed on the east side of the river which acted as protection against the Irish families displaced by the Norman settlers who took over the area in the early 13th century. The walls of the city provided protection on the east and north side of the city and the various gates allowed access. The river was a barrier to trade with Iar-Chonnacht and so the merchant families began to feel the need to build a bridge to help expand trade, it would provide access to customers from the west, and also allow them to bring in their produce, fruit, vegetables, meat, hay etc. to the various markets in town.

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