The first rowing club to be set up on the river was Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, and shortly afterwards the Commercial Club was founded. The inauguration of yet another club in 1882, The Royal Galway Yacht Club, provided further competition in rowing and yachting. It contributed to regattas locally by fielding crews, being included on committees, and other rowing activities, and it seems to have had a very strong yachting section.
It was situated on the corner of the Gaol River as you can see from our photograph which dates from c1890 and was given to us by the National Library.
The club was so titled in accordance with a Royal warrant granted in 1882 and a letter from the Secretary of State in 1885. The club had a very attractive flag in the shape of a pennant which normally hung from the flagpole you can see on the left of this photograph. It was blue, with a white St George’s cross, the arms of Galway, and a crown. The uniform of the club was a blue coat with gilt or bronze buttons having the badge of the club stamped thereon, a waistcoat with similar buttons, blue or white trousers, and a blue cloth cap with a gilt badge bearing the arms of the club. The uniform of the officers differed from the ordinary one in that it had stars worked on the collar. The officers were commodore, vice-commodore, rear commodore, captain, secretary, treasurer, and 14 committee members. All members of the Royal family were honorary members.
Many of those involved in the club were from a cavalry regiment, the 17th Lancers, who were billeted across the canal. Mr Barnett was the caretaker and some of those who rowed for the club were Geoffrey Palmer, George Maugham who worked for the Bank of Ireland, and a Mr Edmonds who worked for the Congested Districts Board. After five years one could become a life member if one paid a lump sum of £25.
Ladies could be elected as ordinary members but could not vote or be elected as members of the committee. Rule 14 of the club stated that “only gentlemen members may take out ladies (in boats ) who are members”.
This club helped make yachting a rival sport to rowing. A race from the lake to Steamer’s Quay was a regular and popular one. The difficulty of passing the great woods of Menlo added zest because many a boat became becalmed by the shelter from the woods, and only Lady Luck could provide the ‘cat’s paws’ to get past the castle. Philip O’Gorman, the secretary of the Royal Galway Yacht Club, issued a notice concerning the regatta to be held on Galway Bay in June 1894. There were yacht races, hooker races, rowing races, etc. The latter were run under the auspices of the Corrib, Commercial and St Patrick’s Boat Clubs.
Behind the club, you can see part of the Fever Hospital which was opened in 1820 by a committee of six doctors and local gentlemen who became alarmed at a recent typhus epidemic. It had accommodation for 40 patients in four wards but was capable of expansion to hold 60 if necessary. There was another serious epidemic in 1822 during which time there were 130 patients in the hospital, and further outbreaks in 1833, 1834, 1836, and during the Famine. The hospital continued until 1910 when the new fever hospital was built in the grounds of the workhouse. This new facility continued until the 1960s when the need for such a hospital disappeared. The old Fever Hospital was purchased by UCG in 1913.
In the background you can see Beggar’s Bridge, part of the old Gaol and on the right, the Convent of the Poor Clares.