The Spanish Arch from Long Walk

Long Walk was originally built as a wall by the Eyre family in order to construct a mud berth. Among those who lived there around the time this photograph was taken were Tom Gannon, Sarah O’Donnellon, Mrs Hosty, and Pateen Green. There was an entry through a large archway into a courtyard known as Green’s Alley and the five houses there were occupied by the Andersons, McDonaghs, Canavans, Gorhams, and Finnertys. A Mrs McDonagh lived next door in a building known as The Hall and further on lived Mrs Lee, John Folan, Bideen Joyce, Ella McDonagh, Mrs Folan, and Mike Walsh.

The buildings we see on this side of the Spanish Arch appeared on the 1651 map of Galway. They were originally two-storey houses as you can see from the one nearest the Arch. In Griffith’s Valuation, published in the 1850s, they are listed as three boarding houses. In more recent times, a number of businesses have occupied various parts of the buildings. Talbot’s butchers had a sausage manufactory here for a time, Farrell’s Garage were here from 1962 to 1985, A Mr Mullins had a workshop where he did some part-time welding, Tom O’Reilly of Galway Signs was here for a while, as was a motorcycle shop.

Then Alec and Leonie Finn bought it and converted it into a restaurant which was run for a time by Seamus and Kevin Sheridan. It was known as The Blue Raincoat. In 1991, Harriet Leander took it over and called it Nimmo’s. Today it is still a fine restaurant known as Ard Bia and is run by Aoibheann McNamara and Amelia Colleran.

Last week, as part of the Galway Poetry Trail, the Galway City Council sponsored a limestone plaque which was placed on the gable of the building facing us. It is attractively carved by Fahy Monumental Works in Woodquay and on it is an extract from a novel called Priest written by Galway author Ken Bruen which is a beautiful evocation of Long Walk and the atmosphere there. The area is beloved of artists and photographers. It has so many elements, old stone walls and arches, the river, the sea, boats, swans, the old and the new, and it is all captured beautifully in Ken’s words. It is worth walking down there just to read them.

On the left of our picture you can see the Fishery Tower, which was built in 1853 by the Ashworth family as a way of protecting the Galway Fishery which they had bought the previous year. The bridge was the original Wolfe Tone Bridge which was quite a dangerous affair with many loose planks.

This photograph was taken in 1903 by Lillian Bland, one of Ireland’s aviation pioneers.

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