Corbett’s, a brief history

SP Corbett, ironmonger (known as Sam ), opened a hardware shop for business in a premises on Williamsgate Street in 1894. It was a one-stop shop where one could get lost with the extraordinary array of goods, even those on display on the footpath. Inside, one could buy spade trees, ropes, churns, seed potatoes, Fenton’s cutlery, washing boards, kitchen chairs, oil lamps, fowling pieces, portmanteaus, non-poisonous sheep dips, perambulators, mail cars, threshing machines, wallpaper, glass and earthenware, oil paints in colours of every description, Persse’s whiskies, brass and iron bedsteads, hair, fibre and spring mattresses, linoleums, bamboo and wicker goods, guns and ammunition, wallpaper, mowers, reapers and binders, and everything a fisherman might need.

Having recently remodelled and enlarged the premises, Mr Corbett “has spared no expense in providing all classes suitable to the requirements of the public, which will be sold at the most moderate terms.”

In 1904, he “Respectfully begs to direct the attention of the Nobility, Gentry and General Public to his new and up-to-date Stock of Builders’ and General Ironmongery in all its branches”. He began to import coal and timber. By 1915, he was a mineral water manufacturer, inviting the public to drink The City of Galway Mineral Waters made from the celebrated Castle Spring Wells.

Sadly, on a Monday in August 1971, what was probably the biggest fire in Galway’s history razed a six acre city block of warehouses, shops, and offices which included Corbett’s business. All that was left was a blackened smouldering mass of burnt out wood, twisted girders, and cracked masonry. Once the blaze got out of control in McDonogh’s yards at Merchants Road, there was no stopping it, and about an hour after the alarm was raised, these premises in Williamsgate Street were a blazing mass.

The rebuilding started very quickly, and remarkably, in 1975, Corbett’s was back in business when the shop reopened. They redeveloped it again in 1987, having transformed the business into Corbett Court, the first shopping mall in Galway.

This evening at 8pm in Coláiste Connacht in Spiddal, Donncha Ó hÉallaithe will give a lecture on “Mícheál Ó Droighneáin, a bhaint le Cogadh na Saoirse”. Ó Droighneáin was one of the major figures in the War of Independence in Galway. The lecture starts at 8pm and all are welcome.

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