The American Hotel, Eyre Square, c1940

The O’Sullivan family first came to Eyre Square in 1765. They took over a thatched house which had been rented by a family named Glynn from their landlord, who was one of the Eyres. The premises has been in the O’Sullivan family since. They set up a bar and grocery business, and it seems they always had rooms to let. By the time this photograph was taken c1940, they also had a travel agency which represented the Holland America Line, the Cunard White Star Line and the Greek Line (there were not too many commercial flights then ). It was obviously the reason why they called the premises ‘The American Hotel’. It turned out to be an astute choice of name as they always had a lot of American guests.

John Henry O’Sullivan is mentioned in Griffith’s Valuations of c1855 as the proprietor, and the JJ whose name is on the door was descended from him. JJ was a republican, and when in 1907 Bailey’s Hotel in Eyre Square advertised in a local newspaper the fact that their premises had “The Best Rates and Value for Gentry and Clergymen”, JJ responded by advertising the following week in the same newspaper that his hotel was a “House frequented by Farmers and Republicans”. Liam Mellows stayed in the American a number of times when he was on the run, often disguised as a woman.

At that time the hotel porter was sent to meet incoming trains at the station and incoming boats at the docks, to meet prospective customers and carry their luggage.

As we look at the photograph, the door on the left led into the bar and grocery, the hall door led into the travel agency and hotel, and the large garage door led into a yard where horses could be stabled. Notice the shafts of a cart in the bottom right hand corner, and also the two parked bicycles. The weighbridge was almost opposite the front door, so this was always a busy house on fair days and market days, but it was also a great ‘local’ frequented by nearby residents and business people alike.

There is an interesting array of bottles in the left window and a John Power bar mirror in the middle window. On the first floor, the three windows on the right lit the dining room and the two on the left were in the sitting room, which was for residents only. The picture must have been taken in summer to judge from the men sitting outside. The man on the right was Cammy Brennan. This was the last house on Eyre Square, the plaque on the building next door (Lydon’s Bakery ) said ‘Number 1, Prospect Hill’.

JJ had four children, three boys all of whom died very young, and one girl, Elizabeth or Lizzie, who was the last of the O’Sullivan line. She married Willie Geraghty and they had a daughter Mary who carried on the business. She is married to PJ O’Flaherty, and in February 2000 they redeveloped this building. Today it is occupied by Boylesports on the ground floor, a dental practice on the first floor, and apartments overhead.

Just arrived is the latest volume of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society Journal, edited by Diarmuid O’Cearbhaill. In recent times this journal has been published annually while maintaining very high standards. This issue (Vol 60 ) contains a wide variety of articles including a fascinating study by Desmond Travers of Soviet military mapping of Ireland during the Cold War, with particular emphasis on the Galway region. Of particular interest to city dwellers is a well researched piece by Peadar O’Dowd on ‘The Holy Wells of Galway City’ which combines history, archaeology, and folklore. This volume is profusely illustrated and available in good bookshops at €30. Better still, if you join the society at €20 per annum, your subscription includes the journal and invitations to their lectures and outings. Kieran Hoare is their secretary and he can be reached at (091 ) 524111, extension 3636. He would love to hear from you.

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