Galway’s first taxi rank?

This photograph was taken about a hundred years ago and shows a number of side-cars lined up in the Square while waiting for custom. I am not sure when hackneys became taxis, but a century later they are still lined up in the Square. They had less traffic to compete with then.

The building on the left in the background was known as the Pilot House and was occupied by Frank Leonard, a drapery shop that specialised in Irish manufactured goods... a 1921 advertisement suggested, “You require no pilot to find Frank Leonard. The Pilot House, though recently opened as a first-class drapery house, is now one of the best known drapery establishments in Galway. Why? 1, Because I dropped the high prices of drapery goods when I opened, which accounts for the popularity of my house. 2, The quality of my goods and the extraordinary low prices cannot be beaten. 3, I am offering the most surprising reductions ever made in the drapery line in Galway. If you have not already availed of my exceptional bargains you should inspect my stock before purchasing elsewhere”.

This building had once been occupied by the Galway Express newspaper, one of the oldest Conservative papers in Ireland, the only Unionist journal in the west. They described themselves as having ‘the best advertising medium in the county with an enormous city circulation’. It was read mostly by the nobility and gentry.

The building next door was occupied by, as an advertisement in another Galway paper, The Vindicator, on August 6 1867, publicised, “Hair-Cutting Rooms, Eyre Square, (next the Bank of Ireland ). Thomas Hayes McCoy has opened the above establishment, and begs to return his thanks to the Nobility, Clergy, and Gentry of Galway and its great County, for their kind patronage; and hopes by strict attention to business to merit a continuance of their support. Perfumery and Fancy Goods. Wigs and Fancy Hair Work etc”.

Next door was the Bank of Ireland which was purpose built on the site of an old market house. The staff first moved in there in 1830. It is a building with a classical symmetrical facade fronted by 50 perches of open ground on which building was prohibited. It was therefore a place where they held many different fairs and markets — cattle, pigs, sheep, turf, horses, hay, etc, and for this reason the bank erected the railing in front of the building to protect it from the animals.

To the right of the bank was the County Club , another establishment for the nobility and gentry, and next to that was Leonard’s, Fallon’s, Sullivan’s Hotel, Hynes’ Clay Pipe Manufacturing, Caulfield’s, and an RIC Barracks.

To the left, out of picture, was Burke’s Posting Establishment where one could buy or rent cars, open carriages, or landaus. This building was later occupied by Ward’s garage.

An Taisce will host a lecture in the Harbour Hotel on Wednesday next, September 17, at 8pm. It will be given by Dr Ann Byrne and the title is Stories from Letters, which sounds very intriguing and interesting. All are welcome.

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