Michael Madden came to Taylor’s Hill from the Ballinasloe area c1898. His family had been in the nursery business there since the 1830s, and in Laurencetown before that again. He leased the land in Taylor’s Hill from Colonel Courtney. In 1902, his brother James and his wife Elizabeth came to live there also, and a few years later, on Michael’s death, they took over the running of the nurseries.
This was not the first nurseries business in Galway, Clarke’s had one in Shantalla, but Michael Madden did build the first glasshouse in Galway, for Louis O’Dea in Fort Lorenzo.
Maddens quickly built up the ‘carriage trade’ and it was not unusual to see a long line of carriages parked outside the gate while their owners shopped. They would buy a lot of fruit, such as raspberries and strawberries, and also the more fancy vegetables such as beans and peas which they found hard to grow themselves. They would also buy the fruit trees and bushes as well as the fruit when they were developing their own gardens. Not many shrubs were sold in those days.
During the War of Independence, the Black and Tans were stationed across the road in Lenaboy Castle, and they often walked into Maddens and simply took (stole ) whatever they wanted, be it fruit, tomatoes, vegetables, etc.
In later years there was an extensive array of glasshouses on the property, and in addition to fruit and forest trees, they were also selling ornamental shrubs, roses, pot plants, and flowers. They also made wreaths and bouquets on the premises. In 1936, their phone number was Galway 87.
The business eventually passed on to James’ sons, Willy and Charlie. Willy and his wife Molly occupied the front section near Taylor’s Hill, and Charlie and his wife Mary Jo lived and worked in the back section.
It has been replaced by an estate of houses and apartments aptly called ‘The Nurseries’.
The Old Galway Society is hosting a lecture this evening in the Victoria Hotel at 8pm. The title is “Galway’s Distilling History” and it will be presented by Michael Quinn, the development officer with the Galway Civic Trust. All are welcome.