Michael Newell, The ‘Bicycle Man’

Michael Newell was born near Headford, and went to school in Roscrea where he played rugby for the school. He emigrated to New Zealand for a while before returning to Galway to take over a premises on Sea Road that had been occupied by Dan Whyte the barber, and his daughter Rita, who taught Irish dancing there. He set up an ice cream parlour that became a great haunt for local teenagers. He made his own ice cream and ice pops but the biggest attraction was the novel (for the time ) milk shakes that he made, and then topped them off with strawberries or raspberries or some other fruit. “It was almost impossible to look in the window without feeling a huge need for an ice cream.” He would roll up a piece of paper into the shape of a cone, put a twist on the end of it and pop a measured number of bulls eyes into it, a process which always fascinated the children. He was ahead of his time but he was not really a businessman.

There were little alcoves around the wall and the decor, the walls, and seats, were blue and white, Michael wore a white jacket and cap which would have been described as ‘cool’ in those days. About the only thing missing was a juke box. He also did teas and sandwiches and was much frequented by Jes students at lunchtime. Some parents used to run a lunch tab there for their children.

There was a lot of sadness locally when he decided to change the business to a bicycle repair shop. A lot of new continental type bikes were being imported at the time and it was not always easy to get parts, so he used to store up any parts that were brought in. The shop was full to the ceiling with all kinds of bikes, tyres, wheels, saddles, etc. Eventually it seemed as if the floor was covered in tar because of all the oil. He would cut a part from an old bike and weld it to a new one. In the end, he had to work outside on the footpath as there was literally no room to work inside. He kept a note of everybody’s bike in a copybook.

Michael was very well read, an enlightened man who was a great people person, always chatting while he repaired bikes. He was very religious, a great supporter of the Legion of Mary. He helped to set up and maintain its house on Fr Griffin Road.

In 1999, he decided to retire, so he sold the shop and went to live in Highfield Park (he stored a lot of the bikes in his flat ) and later moved back to near Headford, where he died some years ago. Today, there is a pizza takeaway where his shop used to be.

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