James Hardiman, in his history of Galway, mentions a spring well that was reputedly 1,000 years old. He described it as “A Chalybeate spring of the same class as the celebrated Scarborough Waters, outside the East Gate was in great repute here. A spa house has been erected over it by a Mr. Eyre (who sailed with Columbus when America was discovered ) and is much frequented.” Hardiman attributed to the tonic qualities of the water the numerous instances of longevity which he observed in the district.
The earliest analysis of the water was done in 1751 by John Rutty MD, who reported it was being “chiefly ferrungious, as well as iron it contained salts which rendered it a sweetener of acids”. It was prescribed by medics of the period, with satisfying results in cases of disorders of the blood, anaemia, etc. In 1931 an analysis by Dr Walshe certified it free from all contamination, containing a negligible amount of organic matter, and suitable in every way as a safe foundation for first class mineral water. “The soda water is bright and sparkling in appearance, free from deposit and highly impregnated with purified carbonic acid gas.” A vinegar making business was carried on at the place in the mid 19th century.
The 250 feet deep spa was part of Thomas Tracey’s mineral water works and licensed premises in Mary Street at the end of the 19th century. On the death of Mr Tracey, Joe Young was appointed manager. He later married Mrs Tracey’s niece, and on the marriage, the business was signed over to Mr Young. He later acquired the Eglinton Street frontage after a law dispute with Mr John Forde (whose pub can be seen to the right of our photograph ). Notice how the tree outside the pub softens the streetscape.
A 1902 advertisement described Joe Young as a “Mineral Water Manufacturer, Wine and Spirit Merchant and Family Grocer, also sole agent for The Irish Balloon Yeast”. In 1925 he built this structure in Eglinton Street and installed new equipment, making his factory the “Largest and best-equipped factory of its kind west of the Shannon”. He also bottled wines, whiskies, beers, and stouts, and if the 48 barrels of Jameson at the footpath are anything to go by, this was a major part of the business. His aerated waters were known locally as Joe Young’s “windy waters”.
His brother Sandy became a major in the Black Watch and was awarded a VC in the Battle of the Somme.
In the 19th century, there was a Dooley’s Mineral Water Works, but it folded on the death of James Dooley and his only son. The premises were later bought by Mr Kinneen.