The Galway Observer

Fifty years ago this weekend, on October 1 1966 to be precise, the last issue of the Galway Observer newspaper was published. It was founded in 1881, published on a Thursday (which was a half day in Galway ) and circulated extensively in the city and county. In 1905 it declared itself as the “official advertising medium for the following public bodies – The Galway County Council, The Galway Town Council, Galway Rural District Council and Board of Guardians, Loughrea Rural District Council and Board of Guardians, Gort Rural District Council and Board of Guardians, Clifden Rural District Council and Board of Guardians, Galway Harbour Board, etc, etc.

“Every advertisement inserted in the Galway Observer is seen by all classes of residents in the city and county of Galway. If quantity doesn’t pay — quality does, therefore it pays to advertise with the Galway Observer.” It was (mostly ) a four page broadsheet which concentrated on local news. Sport was a major feature, indeed in the forties and fifties, if you ever hoped to see your name in the papers, the sports columns of the Observer were your best chance. It often took up the alternative cause, so if the Tribune supported Galwegians RFC, the Observer supported Corinthians RFC. It was latterly owned by John Scott and his sister Tilly, who was the only female intertype operator in the country. Their premises were in Upper Abbeygate Street and their phone number was Galway 160.

Old Galwegians will always associate the paper with Johnny McMahon, an experienced journalist who was reporter in chief. One night (the paper was to be published the following day ) there was an urgent call to Cullinane’s Bar from the compositors. They were in a panic looking for Johnny because they had no lead story for the following day, thus leaving a large gap on the front page. The following day the front page was dominated by a large photograph of a film actor and underneath was the legend “Cary Grant, famous actor”, The space was filled.

The earliest reference to a Galway newspaper we found was to the Connaught Journal published by Martin Burke in 1782. Some time later the Galway Advertiser was published, and later again the Connaught Advertiser and the Galway Vindicator. These were eventually incorporated into the Galway Pilot, a Catholic journal which was established in 1840 and ran until at least 1918. Another 19th century Galway paper was the Galway Express.

In Tuam, the Tuam Patriot was being published at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1837, the Tuam Herald was set up, and is still going strong. It had opposition for a time with the Tuam News. In 1909, the Connacht Tribune was founded and still appears weekly. In 1970, Ronnie O’Gorman set up the Galway Advertiser. This was (and is ) a kind of revolutionary paper in that it was delivered to your front door or your business, free! The fact that you are reading this today confirms that it is still very much alive and kicking.

Our thanks to Don Colleran for this photograph.

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