Peter Greene, volunteer and mayor of Galway

Peter Greene was born in Galway city in 1895, the youngest child of Colman Greene from Carna and Julia McGrath from Newcastle. He was educated in the ‘Pres’ and the ‘Mon’, where his teacher Brother Ambrose was a major influence; “Boys, I hope none of you will ever wear the red coat.”

He went to a British army recruiting meeting with a friend in Eyre Square and both were on the point of joining up when a woman in the crowd started to sing, “Never till the latest day/ Shall the memory pass away/ on the gallant lives thus given for our land/ But on the cause must go/ Amidst joy or weal or woe/ Till we make our isle a nation free and grand”. The boys realised they were in the wrong place and left.

In 1917, he joined the Thomas Ashe Sinn Féin Club in Galway. He decided to learn Irish and went to night classes in the Mon given by the Gaelic League. Within a few months he was fluent, and Fr Michael Griffin pinned the Fáinne to his coat. He worked as an organiser for the league. He was a member of the Volunteers but was unimpressed by the way things were being run.

In 1919, a regatta was held on the river under the auspices of the Sinn Féin club and Peter took part and became a keen oarsman with Galway Rowing Club. He had a purpose in doing this as all the regattas at the time were controlled by the ‘Shoneen’ element, who always had the Industrial School band who played ‘God Save The King’, so Peter and his crew used to sing ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ before the band could play. That year they got to a final at Galway Regatta and when they rowed up to the start, they saw a Union Jack flying from the judge’s boat. They refused to row until it was removed, and when the judge refused to do so, his crew withdrew.

Peter was a good friend of Seamus Quirke and of Fr Griffin. He was convinced that the young fellow who called to Fr Griffin’s house to entice him out on a sick call was William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw ), as he was a fluent Irish speaker educated by the Jesuits.

Peter was arrested in a round-up late in 1920 and brought to Galway Gaol. He was kept there for about three weeks and then marched with a friend to Earl’s Island where the 17th Lancers were stationed. They were badly beaten there, but eventually released by a sergeant with a revolver who was obviously hoping they would make a run for it so that he could shoot them “while trying to escape”. Peter slowly walked but the other fellow ran and was shot. Peter was practically on the run until the truce, always sleeping in different places.

In 1927 he married Mary Kate Egan from Shrule and they had three children, Colm, Breda, and Julie. He joined the Fianna Fáil party on its formation, and in 1934 was elected to the urban council and helped to restore the corporation in 1937. He served six terms as mayor of the city from 1964 to 1960. He inherited the family business which was a pub near the Spanish Arch. He was a genial host and his regulars were mostly boatmen and fishermen.

Peter Greene is the man in the foreground of our photograph, which was taken of an Old IRA-Easter Sunday parade in Shop Street in 1954. Another man in the group was Luke Connor, a tailor from Prospect Hill. Our thanks to Dermot Greene for today’s photograph.

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