The correct name for this promontory is Blake’s Hill which comprises approximately 30 acres. Gentian Hill was a much smaller area further north, but nowadays the whole area is referred to as Gentian Hill. An extract from O’Donovan’s Letters described it as follows: “Here in Blake’s Hill over the sea, whither the young men of Galway were wont to come on horseback on the third day of their May game, and there dine between the hill and the castle of Barna. Sir Moragh O’Flaherty of Aughamore defeated an army out of Clanricard on the 22nd of June 1564 on the strand at Traybane, Cnoc an Blacaigh.”
The hill, which an early Admiralty map refers to as Mount Blake, is a drumlin and Carragh Hill is a continuation of it. There is a ring fort on top of the hill which recently became evident from aerial photographs.
The first golf club in Galway was a nine-hole course at Renmore Barracks, built by a Colonel Jourdain of the Connaught Rangers. It became so popular that he decided to build another course at Gentian Hill. The land belonged to a Mr Gallagher who initially would not allow anyone to play there unless he was paid an exorbitant rent, but a few letters to the paper generated enough publicity to encourage him to lease the land to Galway Golf Club at £15 per annum. The hon sec was MG Jones of Merrion Lodge in Lower Salthill and the green keeper was Michael Hackett.
The course had very fine views, the distance around was about a mile, and the hazards consisted of boulders and gorse. There was a nice pavilion on the grounds, the greens were smooth, undulating, and of infinite variety; the turf crisp and pleasant, drying quickly after rain. All that was required to make it a very good course was plenty of play.
Among the members was Sebastian Nolan who owned Seamount House. He was a terrible bore and found it hard to get anyone to play with him, so he bought the entire hill. In 1903 he began to disapprove of the interpretation of the rules by the committee... he was displeased and finally turned the members off his land. He put bailiffs in charge of the club and refused to allow anyone to play, except as his guests, so the club moved to a new site on the Barna Road the following year.
Our photograph was taken some 50 years later and shows a number of caravans and tents on the hill. The landscape has changed somewhat since.
The Old Galway Society lecture this evening will take place in the Victoria Hotel at 8pm. The subject is “Old Knocknacarra”. It will be given by this writer and all are welcome.