Images of a more innocent GalwayAugust 10, 2012 - 8:48am
PHOTOGRAPHS, especially old ones, can transport us down memory lane which is why their nostalgic qualities are so powerful.
An American tourist visiting Galway City in the summer of 1953 took a number of photographs while she was here and recently sent them to us.
They show a different city, a quieter one obviously with less traffic on the street, few pedestrians and buildings which have long since been demolished and replaced with new developments.
One photograph gives a clue to when they were taken and that image is of Queen Salote of Tonga being escorted out of a black Rolls Royce and up the steps of the Great Southern Hotel, which is now the Meyrick.
Her visit to Galway was in June, just days after attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in London where she got international press attention for the way she sat in an open topped carriage waving and smiling at the crowds who lined the streets in the rain.
She is wearing a mid-calf full skirted dress which was fashionable at the time. She was a tall woman who travelled with her own bed to accommodate her big frame of 6’ 3”. She had spent a few days staying in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin before she came to Galway, possibly as a guest of a member of the English royal family who enjoyed fishing in Connemara.
What is noticeable from all the photographs is the fine weather and one in particular shows four young boys, possibly aged no more than eight years walking across the Wolfe Tone Bridge, two of them barefoot. The other two are wearing what look like homemade slippers.
Wisely for them, they are walking along the footpath as there are horse and cow droppings in the middle of the road. The boys are wearing breeches with buttoned fronts, no zippers and check shirts. But, one thing’s for sure, they look very happy, very comfortable walking the city streets.
In the background is the Arch Garage, now home to the Townhouse Bar and only one vehicle, possibly a Morris or an Austin, is parked in the area.
Those four boys, if they are still alive would be in their sixties now and the American tourist wondered if they could be identified.
Another photo shows High Street which then had two-way traffic but, again, the street looks quiet with few people or cars on it.
The Stella Cafe is prominent in the image, a hostelry which was popular with the Aran Islanders and which was one of the first places in the city to serve late night food, though in those days it was more likely to be greasy crubeens (pigs feet) than a burger!
Kennys bookshop can be seen and there are bolts of cloth outside what must be Sonny Molloy’s drapery. What it doesn’t show is the Connacht Mineral Water company, which was based on the street and which was one of the bigger employers in the city at the time.
For more of these fascinating photos see this week’s Tribune.