George Nicolls (Seoirse Mac Niocall ) was born in Dublin but his professional career brought him to Galway town, where he worked as a solicitor and coroner for the West Riding District of the county. A committed nationalist, he became involved with Sinn Féin in 1907 and also served as president of the county board of the GAA. Nicolls was the IRB Centre for Galway town. On November 31 1913, he presided over a meeting in the Town Hall, for the purpose of formally establishing the Irish Volunteers in the county, and subsequently chaired the ‘monster public meeting’ in the Town Hall on December 10, at which 600 individuals signed up for the Volunteers. Nicolls also established a pipe band (Cumann Píobairí na Gaillimhe ), where all but three were IRB members. It toured the county, playing at events such as GAA matches and concerts, which provided opportunities to recruit new members.
In the lead-up to the Rising, a rebel plan for Galway town was prepared at Nicolls’ house at 2 University Road. He was arrested in Galway on Easter Tuesday, before the town Volunteers could be mobilised. He spent most of the period from 1916-1921 in jail in England. While still in jail, he was returned as Sinn Féin TD for Galway in 1921. He was re-elected to the second Dáil as a pro-Treaty Sinn Féin TD and was assistant minister for home affairs in 1922; In 1923 he was elected as a Cumann na nGaedheal TD, and was parliamentary secretary to the minister for defence (1925–1927 ). Refusing to stand for re-election in 1927, he was County Registrar from 1928 until 1941.
Nicolls was probably the most important participant in Galway city in the lead-up to the Rising and as such deserves a prominent place in the current exhibition on the ‘Revolutionary Decade’ which currently hangs in the Galway City Museum. It is a fascinating collection of photographs, storyboards, contemporary newsreels, interactive touchscreens, etc, but it is the artefacts on show that really impress. When you find yourself looking at Fr Griffin’s biretta and ordination candle; Pádraic Pearse’s gun and other personal effects; Éamonn Ceannt’s piper’s cap; Liam Mellows’ glasses, and the pipe he was smoking the night before he was executed; you really feel that some of the history of Galway is touching you. This collection should not be missed, it is highly recommended and you have the bonus of an exhibition on Galway in the Great War beside it. Every schoolchild in the county should be brought to this experience.