Stop! This is The Bal

This pub was one of Salthill’s landmarks for over a century. It was a post office originally until Joe Crehan from Ballinasloe bought it at the end of the 19th century and converted it into a pub, grocery, and guest house. The name Ballinasloe House was quickly shortened in Salthill to ‘The Bal’. At the time Salthill village ran from here to Seapoint with a few houses further west.

One of his early advertisements boasted, “The first house you see entering Salthill and the last you want to forget.” He was a dab hand at PR, “This is the home of the Gaels. English spoken and understood if you cannot understand your native language.” “If you stay at the Bal, you will enjoy Salthill.” His greatest slogan was the one he painted on his gable end: “Stop! This is The Bal.” It is etched in the memory of generations of Salthillians. It was so effective that Mrs Scallan next door, where O’Connor’s is today, was forced to retaliate with “Don’t Stop! Keep going to Scallans, the Salthill House”.

Joe Grehan was a Gaeilgóir and a Republican and his pub was regularly targeted by the Black and Tans. The Irish Times of September 17, 1920, reported Joe as saying: “An attack was made on [the] house on Wednesday night at 22.30 by armed men who he alleges, arrived in motor lorries. Seven bullets were fired through the front shop window and two bullets and a bomb were thrown through a taproom window at the back. A servant sleeping in a back room had a narrow escape, the bomb blowing a hole through the floor and shattering the ceiling.” He claimed £5,000 compensation and was awarded £145.

In the 1940s, a special room was set aside for a group of regulars. This became known as ‘The Senate’ where the problems of the day were discussed and probably solved as well. Mr Hartmann was the chairman, other members included Liam Kelly, Mick Hennessy, Mr Gallagher, Ned Ashe, the McCulloughs, Bill Donnelly, Mr Costelloe, and sometimes Joe Grehan himself. Gerry Glynn and Des Kenny were junior members. They each had their own stool and you dared not occupy it. They used to arrive at the same time every night, and the barmaids, Nora and Margaret, would be polishing their glasses as they came through the door.

Another group of regulars used to meet in the back lounge. They were known as ‘The Dáil’ and were not quite as exclusive as the Senate. Apart from the debates here, they used to play a lot of cards.

This was a great ‘local’ in Salthill and had a garage space on Beach Avenue when this photograph was taken c1920. The pub was sold in 2002 and later demolished and replaced by the present structure.

‘The Bal’ is one of the pubs which will feature in an illustrated talk, the Annual John Monahan Lecture, which will be hosted by the Old Galway Society in the Victoria Hotel this evening at 8pm. It could be described as “A Pub Crawl Around Old Galway” and will be given by this writer. All are welcome.

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