At the beginning of the last century, the Prince of Wales would have been one of the most famous personalities known to most Irish people. He had been to County Galway on a few occasions hunting, but when it was announced he was going to make an official visit, it aroused very mixed emotions. There were a lot of objections locally, led by an umbrella group known as the National Council. They disrupted preparatory meetings by shouting and heckling. Nationalists were not impressed either and other objectors included Edward Martyn, WB Yeats, Maud Gonne, and George Moore.
However the Urban Council decided on a majority vote to go ahead with the visit. Local businessmen were not content to leave all the preparations to the council and they set up a committee to build up a fund to pay for flags, bunting, and viewing stands. They hired people to do the work but ran into a strike situation as these workers demanded more money (and got it) before the deadline.
On January 1 1984, President Patrick Hillery officially launched the Quincentennial, a year long celebration of 500 years of civic independence unique in western Europe. In 1484, a number of Galwegian merchants persuaded King Richard III to grant the city a charter which made the town a mayoral city. In the same year Pope Innocent VIII granted them the power to nominate their own warden and priests.
The Quincentennial happened because of the vision of two men.
The Prom has been much in the news in the last few days. In Victorian times, our ancestors used to advertise the Promenade as a place unrivalled in the country, where a person could take the healthy invigorating air like nowhere else. In those days, it was just a narrow crooked roadway, very rough and untarred, and it extended from Palmer’s Rock to Blackrock. There were no shelters or flower beds, indeed there was hardly any beach, just rocks and shingle and seaweed. The cleaning up process started when breakwaters and piers were built, so there is a lot more beach now than there was 60 years ago. There were no large boulders to strengthen the Promenade, and flooding from the tide was far more regular than it is today – with the experience of this past couple of weeks excepted.
There was another section closer to town, known as ‘The Tenpenny Road’, or Grattan Road, but it was not linked to Upper Salthill along the seashore until the ‘new’ prom was built. Since then the path has been developed along the shore at South Park, and also along the shore at the golf club, making this one of the finest walks in the country.