Madden’s garage, 1936

The Madden brothers came originally from near Ballinasloe. They emigrated to the US and when the depression happened, one of them, Jackie, made up his mind to remain in America, but the others decided to return to Galway and set up in business. Two of them, Willy and Charley, developed the nurseries on Taylor’s Hill, Miko opened a garage in Woodquay, and Jimmy built this garage at Nile Lodge with the help of his brother Willy. It was on a terrific location, situated on a junction of the two main roads from the city to Salthill.

The garage had just been built when this photograph was taken. You can still see the scaffolding at the back, left there for O’Brien the painter who was painting the building at the time. Most of the construction was done between May and September 1936, and much of the sand was drawn from Grattan Road. Jimmy Madden can be seen standing in the foreground of our photograph. The sign says “Maddens Auto Engineering, Complete Machine Shop Service, General Repairs” and the legend underneath reads ‘Ignition, Welding, Greasing, Celluloseing, Simonizing’. In those days all of the business was in car repairs and petrol. The petrol pumps are marked TEXACO and MEX. The telephone number was Galway 283.

The first agency Maddens got was for Alder cars. Then in the early fifties, they became the first agents outside Dublin for Volkswagen and also for Mercedes Benz. Later again, they were selling Audis and Mazdas. They would have a regular stock of about 30 used cars as well as the new models. The black door we see inside the main door was for toilets which were erected on the outside of the main building. Subsequently, more offices were constructed on to the right of the garage and in the sixties, more stores were built on at the back, so by then it incorporated a garage, workshop, showroom, and service station with a staff of 18, which included Jimmy’s sons Gerry, Seán, and Jimmy. Gerry ran a funeral business from here. Michael Heenan was the workshop foreman and Mary Quinn was the company secretary.

This was a green field site before the garage was built. The sea came right up to this spot. In the fifties, when Maddens were installing a new petrol tank, they first dug the pit, then poured in the concrete, lowered in the tank, and then immediately filled it with petrol. This had to be done at low tide. The tank had to be filled so that the weight would keep it in place when the tide came in. An empty tank would have floated to the surface.

Maddens sold the business in 1984.

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