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Old Galway

Higgins’ Garage

by Tom Kenny

In 1912, WP Higgins, working from his base in Athenry, went to Cork city to meet Henry Ford to ask him for the Ford dealership. It marked the start of a great business partnership between a business legend and Higgins' Garage.

Meanwhile, in Galway, Bertie Simmons had owned and operated a garage in a little alley off William Street called The Corrib Motor and Engineering Works. Bertie was a mechanical engineer and he painted a Model T silver with a red cross on each door and drove this ambulance to France to support the Allies' cause. While he was in France, his father, a photographer, tried to manage the business but it declined and it was decided to sell it. WP Higgins bought the garage and all the tools and lathes for £100 in 1917 and so was able to move his Ford dealership into town.

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THE SACRE COEUR HOTEL, THE EARLY YEARS

by Tom Kenny

My earliest memory of Jim was of him building his house near us in Salthill. He had a small corrugated iron shed he lived in while working there. We local working men, all of us about six or seven years old, decided he needed a hand, so we went to “help” him, moving sand and mixing cement etc. We were obviously a complete distraction and a nuisance but he was a gentle man. He would sit us down beside his shed, give us a slice of bread and jam and then frighten the life out of us telling us ghost stories. A very nice way of getting rid of us at the same time as vastly improving the efficiency level of the amount of work being done on site.

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A NEW SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IN GALWAY – WOOLWORTHS

by Tom Kenny

The expansion of the Woolworth chain in Ireland in the early 1950’s proceeded smoothly except in one location, Galway. A number of city councillors, supported by some local retailers were against bring new business into town. Eventually, Woolworths purchased the site of the old Royal Hotel in the Square. The hotel was demolished and a brand new purpose built retail store in its place. When they advertised for staff, more than 500 girls applied. Officials of the firm were very taken aback and it took several days to complete the interviews. The weekly wage offered to the girls, £4 7s 6d was very good for the time. About fifty people were initially employed.

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CHURCH LANE

by Tom Kenny

On a 1625 map of the city, this lane is referred to as ‘Crooked Lane’ and a little later in that century, it was commonly known as ‘Céim Cam’. In 1708 it was referred to as ‘Church Lane’ and on two documents dated 1824 it is down as ‘Bohercranmore’ (the Lane of the Big Tree) and also as Church Lane, sometimes called Lána an Teampaill. During the last century it was locally known as ‘O’Gorman’s Lane.

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NORA BARNACLE

by Tom Kenny

Nora Barnacle was born on the night of March 21st/22nd 1884 in the maternity ward of the workhouse, part of which served as a hospital. At the time her family were living in Raleigh Row. Her parents were Thomas Barnacle, an illiterate itinerant baker whose heavy drinking kept the family in poverty and Annie Healy, a member of a family of substance who believed in education and hard work. They married in 1881 and for the next 26 years, led a nomadic life as they moved from tenement to tenement almost with the birth of each child. They had 8 children in all, one of whom, John Patrick, died in infancy.

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THE DAY THE WAR CAME TO GALWAY

by Tom Kenny

On September 3rd, 1939 at 11am, many Galwegians listened to the British Prime Minister’s broadcast declaring war on Germany. Very early the following morning, the following dramatic radio message came through to the Harbour Office, “Norwegian Motor Vessel ‘Knute Nelson’ picked up 450 shipwrecked people, proceeding Galway. Due tomorrow morning, Tuesday 5th. Please arrange tender for landing same. Also notify pilot on Aran Islands. Please have medical supplies ready, From Master, September 4th”.

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GALWAY’S FIRST FREEMAN

by Tom Kenny

On August 31st, 1939, Dr. Douglas Hyde, President of Ireland, signed his name in Irish in a small leather-bound book as the first Freeman of Galway.

He had travelled to the city the day before, stayed at the Eglinton Hotel and attended performances of some of his own plays in An Taidhbhearc. At 11am the following morning, he was driven in an open motor car through flag-bedecked streets to University College. The pavements along the route were lined with citizens and visitors from all parts of the country. He carried a bouquet of flowers which had been presented to him by seven year old Rita Curran from Salthill.

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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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