Monday, August 18, 2014

Minutes and moments in Galway History - Galway Urban District Council Archives

As part of the Local Authority Collections of the Hardiman Library Archives, the minutes books of  Galway Urban District Council, ranging from 1899-1922, cover a key period in the development of Galway city and its environs. The Urban District Council was set-up after the 1898 Local Government Act, it replaced the Board of the Galway Town Commissioners. As an 'Urban District Council' rather than a 'Corporation' the body was subordinate to Galway County Council, in administrative terms this put Galway City on the same level as towns such as Athlone and Clonmel.

Galway Urban District council was responsible for the upkeep of Galway'’s roads, street lighting and the collection of tolls. Unlike it predecessor body the Galway Town Commissioners it was also responsible for the provision of 'social housing'. During the period covered by this collection a number of housing schemes in Galway city were undertaken by the Urban District Council, including the construction of 'working class' homes in Henry Street. The period covered by this collection also saw the replacement of the tram service to Salthill with a bus service.

The minute books of the Galway Urban District Council also include a number of references to political events of the time including The First World War, The Conscription Crisis and the War of Independence. One such entry on 18 July 1918 sees a request for assistance made to The Galway U.D.C. from the Irish Recruiting Council, regarding recruitment into forces fighting in the First World War. The Galway U.D.C minuted that they were willing to meet and hear the request from the Irish Recruitment Council. A following meeting, dated, 1 August 1918, notes that Colonel Arthur Lynch M.P. addressed the meeting on behalf of the Irish Recruitment Council and explained the necessity of having voluntary recruiting carried out in order to obviate the necessity of conscription.

18 July 1918

A resolution passed on 17 June 1920 explicitly stated that the Urban District Council recognised "the authority of Dáil Éireann as the duly elected Government of the Irish people".
17 June 1920
So much economic, social and political evidence can be gleaned from such documents. When considering one of the duties and responsibilities of the Galway U.D.C. was upkeep and maintenance of roads within the district, even details regarding condition of the roads can steer researchers toeards information regarding population growth, increase in number of vehicles in Galway City at the time and even the impact the First World War was having by increasing military traffic in the region. An entry from Aril 1919 gives reasons as following for degrading of road conditions:

 ". . . .That the traffic from the County districts over the roads within the Borough boundary has been considerably increased in recent years, and that to this has been added a large volume of Army motor traffic which resulted in increased expenses in the repair and up-keep of the roads."

17 April 1919
All these images are from volume LA4/3 and are from just one volume of a series of four which are a vital and unique resource for a study of the period of key development in Galway and indeed nationally at the time. A full description can be seen here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Creative Collision from the Beginning - The Galway (International) Arts Festival Archive

At the half-way point in this year's Galway International Arts Festival, it is a good time to catch a breath after what has been such a packed week of the festival. This year being the first 'International' Galway Arts Festival (though of course it always was International!) it is a good opportunity to open up the archive of the Galway Arts Festival and look back at some of the hits and big events from over the years.

We are proud to hold the archive of the Galway Arts Festival here at the James Hardiman Library. It is a rich resource of history, great memories, major names and acts from all spectrum of the Arts and a record of just how the Arts Festival has grown and developed over the years, where today it stands as one of the great international arts festivals.

Here we open up some of the archives to see just how strong the programming was from its early years in the 1980s. Theatre names such as Druid of course stand out, along with Footsbarn Theatre Company and also a version of Waiting for Godot by Jim Sheridan . Literary names are full of heavy-hitters like John McGahern, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Kilroy and Paul Durcan to name a few. Art exhibitions from Robert Ballagh, Brian Boske, Patricia Burke-Brogan and others filled the visual art programme. Music from Padraig O'Carra, De Dannan, Doloros Keane, again to just but a few, were among the musical acts.

We hope you enjoy just a few highlights from the Galway Arts Festival Archive. The Archive catalogue can be viewed in full here and any queries please be in touch! Email -

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Life in NUI Galway, 110 years ago

A set of 20 photographs, mainly from 1904, the Anderson Family Photographs refer to Alexander Anderson and his family, and show life in Galway University at a time of transition both for the family themselves and society as a whole.

Anderson was the first person to suggest the existence of black holes and the first to speculate about what would happen if a star collapsed under its own gravity.  He was a great man, whose ideas were ahead of his time.  Anderson was a teacher and researcher in Experimental and Mathematical Physics as well as being an able University Administrator.  He devoted much of his life to University College Galway. 

Originally from Coleraine, Anderson began his career at Queen’s College Galway in 1877.  He graduated in 1880 with a gold medal for his BA.  He then took first place in an open scholarship to Sydney Sussex College in the University of Cambridge where he studied Physics and Mathematics and came out as sixth wrangler in 1884.  He returned to Galway in 1885 and shortly after, succeeded Joseph Larmor as Professor of Natural Philosophy.  He was also president of Queen’s College Galway for thirty-five years.  Anderson’s interest in the practical applications of physics is illustrated by the fact that his department was providing a medical radiography service in Galway from 1898.  He was also involved in industrially sponsored research.  Around 1899 the Eastman-Kodak Company provided a fellowship for the study of X-ray photography.  Unfortunately the tissue of a child was damaged and scarred by an X-ray exposure.  This activity attracted worldwide attention, as it was the cause of probably the first instance of litigation on the injurious effects of ionising radiation though the verdict was in favour of the College. (Details of the case are available from one of our small collections, P61, at ).

During his career in Galway, Anderson ensured that the Physics department had state of the art equipment including the then newly invented X-ray and radio apparatus and cathode ray tubes.  It is said of Anderson that his primary interest lay in teaching and that he was rarely content to give a piece of theory from a textbook without first improving or simplifying it.

He married Emily, daughter of William J. Binns of the National Bank in Galway; they had a son and three daughters. Mrs Anderson was active in reform organisations and, with her daughters, attended local suffrage meetings; they were founder members of the Connaught Women's Franchise League in Galway in January 1913. Their daughter Emily was educated privately before entering QCG in 1908; she won a literary scholarship after an exceptional performance in her first-year examinations, when she placed first in English, French, German and Latin; in 1909 and 1910 she held the college's Browne scholarship, and in 1911 graduated BA. She specialised in German, and undertook postgraduate work at the universities of Berlin and Marburg. She was professor of German in UCG from 1917 till her resignation in 1920, when she moved to the Foreign Office in London. She was awarded an OBE for intelligence work in the Middle East, and translated and published The letters of Mozart and his family (1938) and The letters of Beethoven (1961). With her mother she was a founding member of the Connaught Women's Franchise League.

Their only son, also Alexander, enlisted in the 4th Connaught Rangers Battalion as a lieutenant, and was attached to the Royal Flying Corps. He was reported missing on 23 November 1916 and ended up as a Prisoner of War. He was awarded a B. Sc. (Honoris Causa) in 1917 and later appears on the Army List for the Connaught Rangers from 1918-1920.

The photographs are part of the research material gathering by the late Dr. Tom O’Connor, Department of Physics, for work he did on a history of that department. They give us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Anderson family who grew up on the grounds of University College Galway.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Picture Perfect? Some Postcards from Galway in the early twentieth century

With the summer in full swing, and Galway all set for the Arts Festival and Race Week, we thought it would be a good time to mention one of our recently acquired small collections, a set of 18 postcards from the Galway area ranging in date from c.1900 to c.1950. Postcards of Galway, in common with the rest of Ireland, grew with the evolution of tourism in the early twentieth century, with tourist venues like Salthill and Conamara featuring heavily. Begun by a number of English companies, local photographers also go involved. For more on the evolution of postcards of Galway see Paul Duffy's recent publication "Postcards of Galway".

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Emergency: Ireland in Wartime, 27-28 June 2014 - Conference at NUI Galway

The Emergency: Ireland in wartime, 27-28 June 2014

A great conference upcoming here on campus at NUI Galway, coming at the 75th anniversary of World War II, will focus on it's place in an Irish context, known as 'the Emergency'. With renowned international and Irish keynote speakers including Robert Fisk, Brian Girvin, T. Ryle Dwyer, Mervyn O'Driscoll and Michael Kennedy, as well as a wide range of academics and scholars, it promises to be a really interesting two days. For full conference details click here

Friday 27 June

Coffee and Welcome

Panel 1:   “High Diplomacy”
10.00 – 11.30

·         Dr Paul McNamara (NUI, Galway)
·         Mr Steven Murphy (University College Cork)
·         Dr Barry Whelan (NUI, Maynooth)

11.30 – 12.00

12.00 – 13.00

·         Dr Mervyn O’Driscoll (University College Cork)

13.00 – 14.00

Panel 2: “Wartime shortages in an international context”
14.00 – 15.15 (Room G010)

·         Dr Bryce Evans (Liverpool Hope University)
·         Dr Peter Rigney (Trinity College Dublin)

Panel 3: “Exiles in Ireland
14.00 – 15.15 (Room G011)

·         Dr Gisela Holfter (University of Limerick)
·         Ms Neasa McGarrigle (Trinity College Dublin)

15.15 – 15.30

15.30 - 16.30  

·         Prof. Brian Girvin (Glasgow University)
Film screening
17.00 – 19.00

·         The Enigma of Frank Ryan
·         Q & A: Prof. Des Bell with Dr Fearghal McGarry

Conference Keynote
20.00 – 21.30

·         Dr Robert Fisk (venue: Radisson Hotel)

Saturday 28 June

Panel 4: “A land of opportunity”?
09.45– 10.45

·         Dr Jackie Uí Chionna (NUI, Galway)
·         Dr Bozena Cierlick (University College Cork)

10.45 – 11.00

Panel 5: “Britain’s war in an Irish context”
11.00 – 12.30
(Room G010)

·         Dr Pat McCarthy (Military History Society of Ireland)
·         Dr Steven O'Connor (Trinity College Dublin)
·         Mr Joseph Quinn (Trinity College Dublin)

Panel 6:  “Employment options – Ireland and the United Kingdom
11.00 – 12.30
(Room G011)

·         Dr Mary Muldowney (Trinity College Dublin)
·         Dr Jennifer Redmond (NUI, Maynooth)
·         Ms Mary Hawkins (NUI, Galway)

12.30 – 13.30

13.30 – 14.30

·         Dr T. Ryle Dwyer

14.30 – 14.45

Panel 7: “Neutrality Discourses”
14.45 – 16.15
(Room G010)

·         Dr Bernard Kelly (Edinburgh University)
·         Dr Karen Devine (Dublin City University)
·         Ms Lili Zach (NUI, Galway)

Panel 8: “Activists and the news agenda”
14.45 – 16.15
(Room G011)

·         Dr Leo Keohane (NUI, Galway)
·         Dr Kevin McCarthy (University College Cork)
·         Mr James O’Donnell (NUI, Galway)

16.15 – 16.30

Keynote (followed by concluding remarks)
16.30 – 17.30

·         Dr Michael Kennedy (Royal Irish Academy)

Monday, May 26, 2014

From Galway to California and Back Again - the Galway Civic Sword and Mace

Spotted on the online film archive of British Pathè recently is this gem of a film regarding the return of the historic mace and sword of Galway City. The sword and mace, both beautifully crafted by local silversmiths in the early 17th Century and early 18th Century respectively, with the great mace being presented to the town of Galway by Edward Eyre, Mayor of Galway, in 1712.

When Galway Corporation was dissolved in 1841, and as the Pathè film recounts, the then Mayor of Galway was owed considerable salary in arrears and he was given the two insignia." The items were later sold to an art dealer by the daughter of the Mayor and the mace and sword were eventually bought by American newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hurst. The mother of Hurst, Phoebe Elizabeth Hurst, neè Anderson, was of Irish lineage with her family having connection to Galway.

Prior to this transaction of sale of the mace and sword, it was noted in the Galway Observer, January 28, 1933, that: "It is learned that the Galway Urban Council has been in communication with a Government Department and has represented to the latter the necessity for purchasing the Sword and Mace of the Old Galway Corporation and housing these in the National Museum. The Government reply, while non committal is couched in sympathetic terms.

Through the recent reports in the public Press in reference to the discovery of the Sword and Mace of Galway Corporation and their presentation probably when recovered to the National Museum, the epithet "Blakes of Galway" has come again into popular prominence says the "Tuam Herald" the student of history may remember these historic emblems occupied at one time their allotted positions in the local Council Chamber, until 1841, when through the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act the Corporations of Galway was dissolved. At the time financial stringency was so acute that the salary £8,000 due to the Mayor, Mr. Edmund Blake was liquidated before the Corporation went out of office by the handling over of the Sword and Mace to the Mayor. When Mr. Edmund Blake died in 1905 the sword and mace came into possession of his daughter, Miss Anne Blake, who decided to dispose of them a few years after. The Civic Emblems were then sold to Mr. Louis Wine, art dealer, of Grafton Street, Dublin, who now possesses them."

The mace and sword were purchased in 1938 by Hurst and did end up going to America to reside in Hurst Castle, San Simeon, California and there they remained until 1961 when they were returned to Galway by the Hurst Corporation, following the death of William Randolph Hurst in 1951, as a gesture to the city and people of Galway. The ceremony to mark this event was attended by a large crowd and took place at the Aula Maxima here on campus of then University College Galway. The ceremony was attended by Taoiseach Sean Lemass and Mayor James Redington of Galway.

Press coverage of the return of the mace and sword from the Milwaukee Sentinel can be read here and Here.

A wonderful and in-depth article on the history of the Galway civic mace and sword, written by past Professor of History here at NUI Galway (then U.C.G.) Prof. G. A. Hayes-McCoy, "The Galway Sword and Mace" and is published in the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 29, No. 1/2 (1960), pp. 15-36. (For those of you with Jstor subscriptions it is available to read here)

Today and since their return, the Galway Civic Sword and Mace reside here in Galway and are in the Galway City Museum. Great to have them here at home!

For more and related collections here at the Hardiman Library, you may be interested in Galway Corporation (1485 - 1818); Galway Town Commissioners records (1836 - 1899);  Galway Urban District Council records (1899 - 1922) ans also the archive of Prof. G.A. Hayes-McCoy.

for more on the Archives and Special Collections of the Hardiman Library, click here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Small Nations and Colonial Peripheries in World War I: Europe and the Wider World

Here are details of a great upcoming conference being organised by the Department of History, NUI Galway. "Small Nations and Colonial Peripheries in World War I: Europe and the Wider World". The conference will provide a forum of debate for transnational and comparative approaches to the history of small nations and Europe's colonial peripheries in World War 1 in the context of the epochal changes brought by the collapse of large imperial states.

Details as follows:

For more details see: