Peter Greene’s pub

Towards the end of the 19th century Colman Greene came from Carna to Galway to work, mostly as a fisherman. He married Julia McGrath from Newcastle and they opened a pub near the Spanish Arch. They also sold tea and sugar and candles, etc, often as provisions to boatmen going out to fish. They had trawlers and fishing boats of their own at the Claddagh, and were fish merchants also.

Their son Peter was born at the family home in October 1896. He was educated at the ‘Mon’. He became a very active Republican and was a member of the Irish Republican Army. He took part in a number of engagements during the Black & Tan war and spent a lot of time ‘on the run’. He joined the Fianna Fáil party on its formation in 1926, and was a member for the rest of his life. Peter was a keen sportsman and excelled at rowing, winning a number of trophies with Galway Rowing Club. In 1927, he married Mary Kate Egan from Shrule and they had three children, Colm, Breda, and Julie.

In 1934 he was elected to the urban council, and helped to restore the corporation in 1937. He became a member of the county council and the harbour board. He served six terms as mayor of Galway from 1954 to 1960, and was prominent and hugely popular in the city. He owned three boats, The Irishman, the St Peter, and the Shamrock.

In the early days the pub was a sideline to the business of fishing, but gradually under Peter’s management it became something of a Galway institution. It was quite small and very homely and had a lot of character. As you entered the pub, the bar was on the left hand side and there was a long bench on the right . Further back there was a tap room which had forms (long stools ) and a large open fire at the back. There was also a snug in the tap room behind a wooden partition about eight feet high which had its own door and tables and chairs within. There was a hatch between the bar and the tap room. The interior had not changed from the early 1900s until about 1958, when some alterations were made. The pub sold Guinness, whiskey, brandy, and rum, and also Joe Young’s minerals — lemonade and orangeade. The lemonade was good for a cold if you boiled it.

Because of its location it was prone to flooding from high tides and westerly gales. Pub life was not easy then.... all of the empty bottles had to be washed with a brush and have fresh labels stuck on. This was usually done in the back yard which could get very cold in winter. Tapping a barrel of Guinness with a mallet and cold chisel could cost a lot of money if one made a mistake. This pub would open at 10.30am and close at 10.30pm from Monday to Saturday. It was used mostly by Claddagh people and boatmen and was a great house for singing... everyone took a turn including Peter whose party piece was ‘The Queen of Connemara’. He was a very good and amiable host. While he was the mayor there was a steady stream of dignitaries.... TDs and government ministers and American tourists who liked to have a drink poured by the mayor. Brendan Behan drank there, and the Clancy Brothers played and sang there. It was a pub where people celebrated marriages and births, and of course anyone could receive sound advice from the mayor.

There was a joke at the time that the Mayor of Galway was Greene, the Harbourmaster was White, and the Bishop was Browne.

Our first photograph today show Peter behind the old bar some time in the fifties. He always wore his hat when serving. Behind him you can see a sign for Bulmer’s Champagne Cider at 4/6 a bottle. Porter was about nine pence a pint then. The next photograph dates from the late fifties and shows the modernised facade with the name changed from Greene’s to O h-Uaithnín. Note the garden seat outside. Our third picture was taken in March 1960 and shows Peter behind the new bar (which was higher than the old one ) with two of his regular customers, Martin Oliver from the Claddagh and Peter Conneely from Lower Merchants Road.

Peter’s son Colm, who now lives in the UK, will be 80 years old tomorrow, so many congratulations from Galway, Colm. Go maire tú an chéad.


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