A brief history of Galway trams and buses

An entrepreneur named Mr Berry was probably one of the first people to organise buses in Galway. He had over a dozen horse drawn vehicles that plied regularly between Eyre Square and the Eglinton Hotel. The fare was one penny. Each vehicle was marked to carry a certain number of people and the police were vigilant to see that there was no overloading. In 1868 he bought a new bus that was allowed to carry inside and outside passengers. This could travel on longer excursions, to Barna and Oughterard, etc, but an accident on Knockbane Hill seriously affected his business.

In 1879 the Galway and Salthill Tramway Co Ltd started operating along the Eyre Square/Eglinton Hotel route. They bought out all the horse drawn operators, and by 1885 they were carrying 105,000 passengers per year. They were largely responsible for opening up Salthill as a tourist resort. When World War I started, most of its horses were commandeered by the British Army, and this, coupled with increased motor traffic, signalled the end of the trams.

The Galway General Omnibus Company Limited held its inaugural meeting on July 31 1919. It bought out the assets and business of the Tramway Company. Its objective was a bus service every 15 minutes between Galway and Salthill. There were no bus stops then, one simply held out one’s hand and the bus stopped. Breakdowns were frequent and passengers often had to get out and push. In 1921 the Auxiliaries commandeered two buses which were never seen in Galway again. The company had to borrow funds to replace them.

Eighty years ago, on August 5 1936, the ‘Galway General’ was taken over by Great Southern Railways. At the time, they had a fleet of 15 buses, all single-deckers; three Lancias, one Karrier, seven Commers, three Bedfords, and one ADC. The bodywork on all these was done by local firm Fahy Brothers. The crest on the side panels was the arms of Galway with the company’s full name enclosed in a circle around it. The Irish version appeared in Gaelic script under the windows.

Great Southern Railways became CIE in 1945. It introduced the first double-decker bus in 1956 on the Salthill route. Today, there are bus services to almost every part of the city and county.

Our photograph today (originally given to us by Stephen Devanney ) was taken at a CIE social function and shows a group of men who were (mostly ) well known for being associated with the buses over the years, whether they were drivers or conductors. These were men who provided the bus users with a friendly, personal, service. They knew all their customers. They are, back row, left to right; Fursey Walsh, Vincent Browne, Gerry Lally, Dominic Timothy, Walter Spelman, Jarlath O’Connor, Peter Flood, Fintan Coogan, and Pat Brasil. In front are Johnny Geoghegan, Bert Butler, John Monaghan, and Peter Greene.

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