The Commercial Rowing Club was set up in May 1875. The Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club had been in existence since 1864, but as it was the only such club on the river, there was a distinct lack of competition for its oarsmen. Commercial provided that competition.
In July 1880, the Galway Vindicator reported that: “A spirited and well contested rowing match took place between the clubs. The Corrib crew challenged their Commercial counterparts to race them in four-oared outriggers from Menlo Castle to the Wood Quay. After an exciting race attended by hundreds of spectators, the Corrib crew won by five lengths, the explanation offered that they had a new boat with sliding seats whilst the Commercial had a very old boat, fixed seats and weighed 50lbs more than the Corrib boat.”
‘Rowing matches’ were by then firmly established and with the advent of the Royal Galway Yacht Club in 1882, The Temperance Club (also known as St Patrick’s ) in 1885, and The Ancient Order of Hibernians Club in 1910, the level and standard of competition increased. Regattas were organised annually.
Prior to the opening of the canal, transport on the lake was confined to row boats and hookers. The canal allowed steamers access to the lake, the first one being the O’Connell, a small paddle steamer that once acted as a tender to transatlantic ships in the docks. Soon there were a number of steamers plying between Cong and Galway as tourists especially found this a most convenient way of entering on their tour through Joyce Country and Connemara.
Facilities on the river improved further with the erection of the Clifden Railway embankment. The Railway Company also constructed the stone-faced Steamer’s Quay and this allowed even more traffic.
Numerous excursions took place from Galway and were very popular. Bands accompanied excursionists so that on June 12, 1898, we read “The band of the Parnellite Independent Association played some enlivening airs during the journey to Cong.”
Another newspaper report on June 1909 stated: “Close upon 100 Galway folks, owing to the enterprise of a few city commercial men and their lady friends, enjoyed a delightful trip up the Corrib on Sunday. The venue was the Hill of Doon and the S.S. Fairy Queen, commanded by Capt. Walsh, left Steamer’s Quay at 9am. It was a charming sail up the lake and the promoters of the excursion having provided excellent music, the excursionists danced all the way. Luncheon was admirably served by Mrs. Walker of the Galway Restaurant Co. at the foot of the Hill of Doon, and in the afternoon The Fairy Queen conveyed the excursionists up to Castle Kirk, and thence home, tea having been served on board. Mr. Williams rendered some capital songs during the trip and as the boat came home, about 10pm, lusty cheers were sent up for the promoters of the splendid day’s outing.”
Our photograph shows members of the Commercial Club getting ready for their excursion to Cong in 1915. Most of the above information comes from Maurice Semple’s book Reflections on Lough Corrib.
Galway City Museum will host an illustrated talk this weekend entitled ‘The Galway – Passchendaele Connection’. As many as 500,000 men died during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. In his memoirs of 1938, Lloyd George referred to it as ‘one of the greatest disasters of the war ... no soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign’. On the centenary of this military campaign, join historian and author William Henry as he discusses the role of Galwaymen in the conflict. The talk will take place in the museum on Saturday August 12 at 2.30pm.