Public Buildings and City Landmarks, Galway
The National University of Galway, Ireland (formerly known as University College Galway or UCG) was originally established as one of the Queens' Colleges in Ireland in 1845 and it officially opened in 1849. The buildings that make up the college proper nowadays were added to the original structure piecemeal, and this serves to enhance the attractiveness of the college.
The oldest and prettiest part of the college (the "Quadrangle") which contained the lecture halls and the old library and is a replica of the corresponding building at Oxford University and the stone from which it is built was supplied locally. Newer parts of the college sprang up in the 1970s and and were designed by architects Scott, Tallon, Walker.
The grounds of the university are open to the public and is well worth a visit. Aras Failte - a public information department was established in 1997 and the staff there will provide you with all the information you need. Aras Failte is located very close to the main Quadrangle building.
The Spanish arch stands at the far end of town by the river. It is probably the most photographed and well known building in town.
Despite the name which is actually only about 100 years old, the arch was built as an extension to the city walls in 1584. It provided safe shelter to unload boats safe from theives.
If you visit it, look for the architectural remains including a matramonial fireplace stored in one of the arches.
The grassy area around the arch by the river is very popular for 'chilling out' in the summer for tourists and locals alike.
Eyre square in Galway is the focal point of the town. The city fathers made a real mess of it in the 1960s, and have had a go at at it again reecently. The plans for the current re-development were as good as far as they went, but they really have missed an opportunity to banish traffic from the area entirely and put in some kind of impressive focal point.
The square is still a place to hang out in the summer and soak up the rays (such as they are in Ireland) with a motley collection of new-age hippies, backpackers, young lovers and drunks taking up all the available green space. In former times it has been the scene of more important events , such as a speech given by JFK a few months before his assassination in Dallas. In 1965 the square was re-named the Kennedy memorial Park, but I've never heard that term being used. You can find a little bust of him next to the Children's playground area.
You can also see a picture of JFK's visit to Galway at the rear of the Tourist information office in Forster street or a bronze of his face at the side of the play park area on the square itself.
UPDATE : SEPT 2004 - the place still resembles a giant building site. During the work some skeletons were found. They carbon tested them, and they are medieval. This means the archaelogists had to have a good dig before the works continue.
UPDATE : AUG 2006 - all re-furishment work is now complete, and it looks fine. But where exactly did those millions of Euro get spent eh ?
On 24 April 2004, a sculpture was unveiled on William Street in the Galway city centre of the famous Irish writer, Oscar Wilde, along with the famous Estonian writer, Eduard Wilde. The sculpture is a replica of the whimsical streetscape image that sits outside the Wilde Irish Pub in Tartu, Estonia. The two Wildes were contemporary Irish and Estonian writers -- and this sculpture imagines their possible meeting in 1892. The sculpture was a gift from the people of Estonia to the people of Ireland.
On 8 March 2009, a public sculpture was unveiled to honor Galway's Magdellan women. The sculpture is made of carved limestone in the figure of a women lifting a veil from her head entitled “Final Journey”. The monument was created by Mick Wilkins, a local artist and stone mason. It also features inscribed poetry by playwright and poet Patricia Burke Brogan, who is internationally known for her award-winning play “Eclipsed” about the Magdalen Women.
The Galway Magdalen Laundry used to stand at the bottom of College Road, across from the Fair Green. It was demolished in the 1990s. It was a notorious institution for women who were considered outcasts of society (prostitutes, unmarried mothers, etc.) where the inmates were forced to undertake hard physical labor.
The scene now moves to the Lynch memorial window behind the church.
The story goes that James led his son, Walter, up a series of steps to the window where a noose stood ready. the crowd who has gathered (nearly all the town) were again shouting for Walter's release. it is said that James turned to his son and said : "For the care of the soul, take the last unhappy embrace of your loving father". As Walter came towards him - he pushed him out of the window ! Walter was swinging on the rope.
The crowd, totally stunned at the scene departed in one's and two's in silence.
What happened to the people left ? James was never seen in public again , he died within two years. Agnes Blake, Walter's intended, died of a broken heart within six months of a broken heart.
And the moral of the story ? The only reason Gomez went to the Blake's house that fateful night was because Agnes' father wanted to have a Spanish lesson. So the moral is : never learn a foreign language.
The only problem with this story is that if the story is true it certainly did not happen on these stones - they are a 19th century fabrication. The world's first tourist trap, in fact.
This sculpture in the city centre was a gift from the Estonian city of Tartu to Galway in 2004. It is a replica of a sculpture in Tartu. It shows the Irish writer Oscar Wilde and the Estonian writer Edvard Vilde sharing a bench and conducting a conversation about who knows what. If you want, you can sit between them and find out!
Still widely known as Eyre square and used on most maps (and Google) the square was re-named in 1965 in honour of the American president, assassinated in 1963 a few months after his visit to Galway in June the same year. The Saturday we were there the pubs were full, loads of Mums pushing prams, it seems that the locals enjoy the spot and use its open spaces to a maximum.
There is a portrait and plaque of Kennedy on the eastern side of the park, whilst the Browne doorway and the statue of a Galway hooker (no no, this is a type of sailboat)are close to the Tourist information centre on the north side of the square. For those in need there are also toilets just by the side of the TO.
The Browne doorway is part of the former residence of the Dominic Browne, Sherriff and then Mayor of Galway in 1609. It dates from 1627 and was moved here in 1905.
to continue our story of Walter....
Spurned by his fiancee at the ball, Walter wants to keep a close eye on this swarthy Spaniard, Gomez. The very next night he observes him entering the Blake family home and departing about an hour later. You can imagine what he must have thought.
Donning a disguise and calling out in a strange voice, he begins to chase Gomez through the backstreets of Galway, eventually ending up in the port area somewhere near the area where Spanish Arch now stands.
In one swift move he approaches Gomez from behind and runs a sword straight through him, kicking his body into the water's edge. He makes a sharp exit.
Very soon, some of the men find the body Gomez (including James Lynch, Walter's father) and a white scarf, which was only worn by members of the Lynch family.
Walter is pursued on horseback up into the hills that surround the town. When he is captured, he says quite a strange thing :
"Can you direct me to the prison". This was rather odd, as he lived next door to it.
What happens next... ? We will find out in Part 3
to return to the story of Walter....
Walter in now held in the dungeon of the jail next to his home in Lynch's castle. It is said that most of the town (about 3,000 souls) thronged the streets. They demanded that Walter be set free. James Lynch was certainly the mayor, but the job also meant that he was the chief magistrate and executioner. During the summary trial he found his own son quilty of murder.
The mob shouted that they would kill James if he went ahead with the execution. Many people think that this is the origin of the term 'Lynch mob'. It seems to fit, but it is in fact a Galway myth - the term has American origins.
It is said that on that night James descended into the dungeon.
Walter asked "Father do I have anything to hope for ?" to which the reply was :
"No my son, your life is forfeited by laws, at sunrise you must die".
What happens next ? Find out in part 4
While I was there, Eyre Square was undergoing a serious facelift. It looks like it is going to really fit in well for the city once it's finished. The artist rendition of the final look is posted on the northside. There are also some monuments in this are to have a look at. There is also a dedication to JFK.
The center square of Galway is next to the bus and train stations. It contains a few sculptures, but (although it’s praised by all the guide books) for the most part it is just a grassy area that people take a break and relax.
Located in a brand new building behind the Spanish Arch (the old one was adjacent to it). The museum is free which was just as well as I was slightly disappointed. For a city with such a wealth of history and character I expected a bit more. Still, it's new, so I hope things will improve. I did like the specially built Galway Hooker and the exhibit about The Claddagh.
Now a branch of the AIB bank, Lynch's Castle (actually a fortifed townhouse) is a lovely piece of medieval Galway.
There is an interesting story about one historic resident. In 1493 the Mayor of Galway was James Lynch. His son murdered a love-rival, but the Lynch clan was so feared and powerful nobody was willing to carry out his execution. So his own father did the job! This is sometimes suggested as a source for the expression 'lynch law'.
Located along the Corrib just north of the city (follow the river). Built in 1845, the university has a student body of about 15000. The main building is nice, but there isn’t much there unless you want to be a student.