The first steamboat on Galway Bay

The Citie of the Tribes was the name given to the first steamboat to sail on the bay. She was built in South Shields and registered on December 24, 1872, for the pioneering Galway Steamboat Company and her arrival here was hailed as the precursor of the new shipping millennium, the era of steam.

There was not another steamship to be seen in the harbour and the old sailing salts worried about the advent of the “iron ships and wooden men” as opposed to the great sailing days of the “wooden ships and iron men”. She was a paddle tug about 96’x18’x9’ and was involved in towing barques and other sailing vessels to and from Galway Port, often going many miles west of the islands with outbound vessels.

Otherwise, she was originally used for excursions to Kinvara, Ballyvaughan, the Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, and occasionally, to Kilkerrin.

A July 1875 advertisement informed us: “The new, powerful and swift paddle steamer is intended (weather permitting and with liberty to tow vessels ) to sail to and from Ballyvaughan in connection with the Lisdoonvarna Spa and County Clare every weekday this month except Wednesday – this day set aside for excursions when circumstances will permit. Tourists can be booked from Broadstone, Dublin, in connection with the steamer at a reduced rate. When the steamer leaves Ballyvaughan at or before 2.30pm, passengers will reach Galway in time for the 4.15 train to Dublin.” The advert was signed John Cooley, secretary to the Steamboat company.

In 1891, the Congested Districts Board paid a subsidy to the company to provide a regular steamer service to the Aran Islands in the hope that the service to the mainland would encourage the fishing trade on the islands.

The Citie of the Tribes sailed on Galway Bay for 30 years. Our photograph (which we show you courtesy of Chetham Library in Manchester ) shows her moored at the docks c1875. She was replaced by the SS Duras in 1903. This ship was also built in South Shields especially for the Aran trade and was named after the residence of the chairman of the Congested Districts Board. It in turn was replaced by the Dún Aengus in 1912. In 1958 the Naomh Éanna took over the route and later it was the turn of the Galway Bay.

The building in the photograph was a ship’s chandlers at the time.

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