The Connacht Tribune, one hundred years

The first issue of the Connacht Tribune was published on May 22, 1909. The newspaper was housed in Market Street, originally known as North Street (the Tribune side was known as North Street West ). We know from the 1651 map that the site it occupied was originally part of the Athy Castle, also the castle belonging to the French family and part of the convent occupied by the Poor Clares. There was an underground passage from the convent running under Market Street and branching underground to St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. This enabled the nuns who were and are an enclosed order, to attend services in the church, and to use the tunnel as a hiding place in times of persecution.

Griffith’s Valuations, published in 1855, tells us the site at that time was occupied by a Patrick Lynch and also by the Augustinian nuns. When the Tribune took it over it was being used as club rooms. It was adapted to provide editorial rooms, offices for general and commercial use, and a printing department. Tom ‘Cork’ Kenny (yes, he was born in Cork ) was the editor and Sam O’Reilly was the manager. Two years after its establishment control passed from these two men to a limited company. It was incorporated on April 8 1911 with William O’Malley MP as chairman. Also on the board were William Duffy, Michael Crowley, PJ Conway, Tom Kenny, and Sam O’Reilly. Also in attendance at that first meeting were HMA Murphy, solicitor, and HJ Molloy, auditor.

This gave a new impetus to the work of the paper. There were financial problems but they were not too great for men of courage, initiative, and ability. The Tribune quickly established itself as one of the best in the provinces and it had a number of ‘firsts’ to its credit. In November 1920 trains were being delayed because railwaymen refused to carry armed troops. This meant that the daily papers did not reach Galway until after 6pm, so the Tribune was produced daily in miniature tabloid form, a rare feat in Irish journalism, and it carried as much news as it could about the War of Independence.

In 1921 it produced a special boxing bulletin on the famous Dempsey-Carpentier fight for the world heavyweight championship. Before 9pm on the night of the fight, a Press Association telegram arrived at the paper with news of Dempsey’s win and a special one-sheet edition of the paper was run off. A more detailed edition appeared the following day.

Tom ‘Cork’ was the first journalist to reach the airmen Alcock and Brown after their plane crash landed in a bog near Clifden, and his by-line appeared on that epic story in newspapers all over the world the following day. In 1925 the paper expanded with the launch of the Connacht Sentinel which soon became famous for its publication of original short stories by Padraic Ó Conaire. In more recent times it has added a third title, The City Tribune, to its stable.

Tom ‘Cork’ died in 1940 and he was followed as editor by JA Power 1940-45; Dan O’Connell 1945-50; Jack Fitzgerald, Sean Fahy, and John Cunningham, and the current man is Dave O’Connell. The paper has covered the enormous social, political, industrial, and commercial changes in the region for the last 100 years, keeping readers in touch with developments as they happened. It has produced many famous journalists and photographers, too numerous to list here. For its centenary, it is bringing out a major supplement which will reflect many of the events and people of that period, so if you have any photographs or stories relating to the Tribune, they would love to hear from you.

Our photograph today shows the Tribune staff and directors in 1958. Included in the back row are Tony Flaherty, Bohermore; Michael Geary, St Joseph’s Terrace; Tony Kavanagh; Frank O’Dea; Joe Fahy, Paddy Long; James McAnespie sr; Tommy Mitchell; Johnny Bowen; Paddy Donoghue; Con Bowen; Liam Tyrrell, Palmyra; and Sean Duignan, Fr Griffin Road.

Included in the middle row are Joe McAnespie; Paddy Clune; Angela Hannon; Joe Greaney; Rita Mannion; Noel O’Connor; Mary Kitt; Sean Fahy; Maureen Clune; Mary McHugh; Una Downey; Jimmy Walsh; Eamonn Mitchell; John Hickey; and PJ Dowling, works manager. Among those in front are Jack Fitzgerald, editor; Mr Duffy; Gerry Naughton; Joe Costelloe; and Nellie O’Reilly.

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