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Old Galway

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST THE KING

by Tom Kenny

Around the year 1930, there were about 400 residents in Salthill and it was attracting large number of visitors and tourists who came in the summer. There was provision at the time for the building of some one hundred homes. The population was growing but there was no church in the area. Any resident or tourist who wished to go to mass had to travel into the Jesuit Church or St. Joseph’s, or out west to the chapel in Barna.

And so, in June 1934, a meeting of residents was convened in the Hangar Ballroom to consider the necessity of a church in Salthill. It was felt that Salthill required a moral influence and a church would provide that. Canon Nestor said a church would attract many people to Salthill, especially old people and invalids who would be sent here by doctors. Canon Davis suggested the placing of collection boxes in hotels and lodging houses in the district. They seemed to give the impression that tourists would pay for the construction, whereas it was the locals who actually did so.

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THE KING OF THE CLADDAGH

by Tom Kenny

James Hardiman, the Galway historian, wrote the following in 1820, “This colony has from time immemorial been ruled by one of their own body, periodically elected. This individual, who is dignified with the title of Mayor, in imitation of the head municipal officer of the town, regulates the community according to their own peculiar laws and customs, and settles all their fishery disputes. His decisions are so decisive, and much respected that the parties are seldom known to carry their differences before a legal tribunal, or to trouble the legal magistrates”.

In the 1840s, Mr. & Mrs. Hall published a book of their travels in which they wrote about this officer of the Claddagh as follows: “This singular community are still governed by a king, elected annually -- at one time this king was absolute – as powerful as a veritable despot but his power yielded like all despotic powers so now he was more like the Lord Mayor of Dublin”. This book was very popular and so the idea of a King of the Claddagh became widespread. Before that the king was known as The Admiral (of the fleet) when he was at sea, and as the Mayor when he was on land. Owen Concannon, who later was given the title of King said “There was never a King of the Claddagh, away back in the old days, there was a man named Owen King fishing out of the Claddagh and he was the best man in the boats or at the nets or for racing or for working and when those writers heard about King of the Claddagh, they thought, God help them, that it was a real king that was in it”. Owen preferred to be called the Claddagh Chieftain.

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WALKIN’, TALKIN’ AND TOUCHIN’

by Tom Kenny

‘Mate’ Lydon was a Galway original, a character, a champion salmon snatcher and a great judge of porter. He was born in Rope Walk in the Claddagh in 1908. His name was Martin Lydon, but because he spent much of his childhood in his grandmother’s house, he was known locally as Máirtín Harte. He attended the Claddagh National School. He loved hurling, became a very good soccer player and was a regular on the famous Claddonians team which won the first ever Schweppes Cup in 1937. Our first image shows that team; seated Joe Flaherty, jack O’Donnell, Martin Lydon, Bob Cantwell, Gus Flaherty,Thomas Lydon. Standing are Jimmy Connell, Martin Connell, Paddy Cubbard, Dick Ebbs, Jack Connor, Frank Fitzgerald & Eddie Cloherty. Mate usually played full back, and opposing forwards often found they had to take ‘the long way round’ to the Claddonians goal.

He worked for about fifteen years in the foundry in Mill Street. A very good ironworker, making beautiful gates was his speciality. He subsequently worked on the docks for about twenty years. In the meantime, he put in a lot of practise at the art of salmon snatching. This often resulted in a visit to ‘Limerick University’, ie. Limerick Gaol. When he got to know the lads (wardens) they got him to do an odd small job around the place. One day they asked him to sweep up the leaves outside the prison. He finished the job and knocked on the prison doors to be allowed back in. Nobody answered, and as he had a few bob in his pocket, he went to the nearest pub. When the publican and his clients heard Mate’s story, they stood him several drinks. He went back to the prison and spent 20 minutes banging on the door shouting “Let me in before I’m robbed out here”. It was not given to many to be locked out of jail.

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O’FLAHERTY’S GARAGE

by Tom Kenny

Patrick O’Flaherty bought an old thatch cottage in 1901 and converted it into a two-storey house which would become numbers 15 and 16, Upper Dominick Street, part of which became a small shop operated by his wife Aggie (née Staunton) and part became O’Flaherty’s Garage. They operated a hackney service and advertised “Galway’s leading hire service in luxurious charabancs and motors (touring and saloon). All tours through beautiful Conemara radiate regularly from O’Flaherty’s”.

It was Patrick who did the funeral arrangements for Fr. Griffin in spite of warnings from the Black and Tans. They later caught him and killed him. In 1927, a local newspaper stated that “The enterprising motor garage proprietor Michael O’Flaherty (son of Patrick) was the proud possessor of a fleet of modern omnibuses and charabancs. His principle, which might well be emulated by those desiring to encourage local manufacturers and traders, was to purchase engines and chassis and get the bodies built to his own design at home. He was the first in Galway to give an order for a motor body to the local firm of Messrs. Fahy Brothers, Coach Builders, Forster Street, and since then, they have built 17 bodies for him, including motor hearses”.

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BIANCONI IN GALWAY

by Tom Kenny

Charles Bianconi is generally regarded as the man who put Ireland on wheels. He developed a network of horse-drawn carriages that became Ireland’s first integrated transport system, building on the existing mail roads and coach roads that were already there. There was a general tax on coaches at the time which precluded the middle classes from using theirs, and a relatively peaceful period after the battle of Waterloo meant that a great many horses, bred for the army, became cheap on the market. His system offered connections with various termini, his prices were cheap and so he was well patronised, in spite of the discomfort felt by passengers. Often, when going up a hill, some passengers would alight to make the carriage lighter for the horses.

Weather was an important factor in the journey. A Prussian historian was the only person on board on one of those trips who had an umbrella. “The two young girls crouched down at our feet while the other four moved their faces so close to the shaft of the umbrella that their noses were almost touching. The old woman rested her head on my right shoulder while the gentleman on my right rested his head on my left shoulder. Through this ordeal by water, we had, within a short time become friends and acquaintances and I received much praise for my considerations and humanity”.

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PEADAR O’DOWD, THE PASSING OF AN OLD GALWEGIAN

by Tom Kenny

Peadar O’Dowd’s credentials for writing about Galway were impeccable. One of four children, Nono, Willie, Martin and Peadar born to their parents John and Bridget, he grew up in Bohermore and was always grateful for the fact. He lived his life there and throughout that life would celebrate the area and its people in hundreds of articles and interviews he published in various newspapers and journals.

He was educated in St. Brendan’s in Woodquay and in St. Mary’s College where he spent ‘five of the happiest years of his life’ and later completed a Commerce degree in UCG. Having graduated, he taught for a year in “The Mon”, then went to teach in St. Benin’s Vocational School, Glenamaddy where he also managed to coach the camogie team to win the County Schools championship in 1969. He eventually moved on from there to join the staff of The Regional Technical College as a lecturer in Business Studies. He was fortunate to meet and marry Mary Langan from Cross, Co. Mayo.

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THE MERRYWEATHER

by Tom Kenny

Moses Merryweather and his son Richard lived in Clapham, London and they worked with the engineer Edward Field on putting his design of a vertical boiler onto a horse-drawn platform. They successfully applied it for use in their steam fire engine thus improving water pressure and making it easier to use, once steam had been got up. It was reckoned that the engine could get up enough pressure to pump within ten minutes of a call out. The fire could be started before leaving the station so there could be enough pressure by the time they arrived at the scene of the fire. In 1899, Merryweather produced the first successful self-propelled steam fire engine. Appliances were available in small sizes suitable for a country house pumping around 100 gallons per minute. A common size, popular with Borough Fire Brigades was the double vertical boiler that could pump between 250 and 400 gallons per minute.

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THE LITTLE SHOPS OF BOHERMORE

by Tom Kenny

There were a few little shops at the top of Prospect Hill leading up to Bohermore -- Kelly’s shop was where you got the thickest penny ice cream between two wafers. There was McInerey’s, Mary kate Mahon’s and Lohan’s chemist. Almost next door was Tom Duffy, the tailor. On the other corner of Biddy’s Lane was Molloy’s little shop – neat as a pin.

Across the road from Water Lane was a small shop which later became Sharkey’s. I vaguely remember a fish and chip shop and even a small laundrette along that row. Mr. Cloonan, the carpenter, had a coffin shop along there also. He was a very friendly man. If his door was open when we were passing, being children, we were afraid to look in in case there might be a fully occupied coffin looking out at us.

Crowe’s Bar, Paddy Hogan’s Pub were close to each other and Luke Doherty’s Pub was directly across the street. The three proprietors would stand at their doors after last mass on Sundays, hoping to attract customers to their house. They were known locally as ‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost’ – I never knew which of them was which.

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