The back of the arch
The buildings we see on the left of our photograph were once two-storey houses which featured on the 1651 map of Galway. Some years ago, in this column, we showed a painting of those houses and also the ones across the street which gave the impression of a continental atmosphere to this area. According to Griffith’s Valuation, which was published c1855, the houses on the left were occupied at that time by Dennis Quinn, Patrick Commons, and Michael Derrane, all of whom kept lodgers.
The buildings were adjacent to the river, and indeed, sometimes with high tides, in the river. In olden times ships would have moored here to unload their cargoes of Spanish wines and foodstuffs such as olive oil, spices, tea, coffee, and cocoa. In the earlier part of the last century Aran fishermen would tie up their boats beside this building and sell their herrings, etc, to the business that was located there.
In more recent times, a number of businesses have occupied various parts of the building. At the end closest to the camera, Talbot’s butchers had a sausage manufactory for a time. Farrell’s Garage opened here in 1962 and stayed until 1985, when they moved to Sickeen. A man named Mullins, who worked for the corporation, had a workshop here where he worked as a welder part time, at night, making gates, etc. Tom O’Reilly of Galway Signs was here for a while, as was a motorbike repair shop. As you can see, the writing on the sliding garage door says “We have moved to New Road”.
Eventually Alec and Leonie Finn bought the building and converted it into a restaurant named The Blue Raincoat, which was run for a time by Séamus and Kevin Sheridan. When they closed it in 1991, Harriet Leander took it over and changed the name to Nimmo’s, and it became a favourite haunt of locals and visitors alike. Now she has written a book on her experiences there from 1991 to 2004. The book is a delight, a mixture of anecdotes, nostalgia, a little history, a lot of recipes and beautiful illustrations. It will bring back memories for anyone who ever dined there, and make those who never had the chance envious.
Our photograph was taken by Dutch born artist Marja Van Kampen just after she moved to Galway in 1986. Coincidentally, a book on Marja’s life and her art will be launched on Saturday in the Kenny Gallery. The book, which is beautifully illustrated, is written by Dick Donoghue and it is also a delight. So there you are, two books on women, one Swedish and one Dutch, who have added greatly to the quality of life in Galway since they arrived here.
The Galway Archaeological and Historical Society will host a lecture on Monday next, November 14, in the Harbour Hotel at 8pm. Peadar O’Dowd will speak on ‘The history of the Diocese of Galway from the early Christian times to the present’. All are welcome.
An Taisce will hold its AGM in the Ardilaun Hotel on Wednesday next at 8pm. The annual lunch will take place the following Sunday, November 20, also in the Ardilaun, at 2pm. It will be followed by a slide show by Donal Taheny.