As someone who is absolutely fascinated by the subject of history, it is rather inexplicable that in my five and half years of living in Galway that the only real historical fact I knew about the county was Mayor James Lynch Fitzstephen hanged his own son Walter for murder and thus came the term lynching. So when the opportunity to read The Little Book of Galway presented itself, I finally had a chance to bring my Galway history knowledge up to scratch and it did not disappoint.
Composed by Helen Lee, a Fáilte Ireland recognised Galway tour guide, The Little Book of Galway explores the city and county's history, literary heritage, its cathedrals and castles, its festivals and fairs, and its famous men and women from 3000BC to 2019, providing readers with some superb titbits of information from the most obscure references to the funniest facts.
Broken into eight chapters, the book is laid out in such a way that readers can pick and choose their sections that spark their interests if they so wish without having to follow a lineal line of reading; handy for those who are only interested in a specific area of history as opposed to a general one. The opening chapter The History of Galway: A Timeline is great for those who are looking for a little crash course in the county's history without exploring the key events more thoroughly. But don't worry if you like your history with a bit more meat on the bones as the other sections explore topics such as The People of Galway, The Arts of Galway, and Battles, Wars, and Disasters provide more information to whet the the appetite for further historical investigation.
For me, my favourite part of the book is the little quirky and entertaining gems that pop up throughout the book. It reveals wonderful characters such as Richard 'Nimble Dick' Martin who managed to keep his lands despite siding with the Jacobite Army thanks to his nimble tongue, or Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen of the West, who met Queen Elizabeth I in London despite being in conflict with the monarch to negotiate the release of her son Tibbot and her lands. The book also revealed facts about events which I knew about such as the Battle of Aughrim being the the bloodiest battle ever to take place in Ireland and that Galway would have been the birthplace of the GAA had Bishop Duggan of Clonfert's health not been failing and ergo advised Michael Cusack to meet Archbishop Croke of Cashel and Emly which resulted in the meeting at Hayes's Hotel in Thurles.
The Little Book of Galway is a simple but wonderful reference guide to the history of Galway which casual and serious amateur historians can enjoy as well as being a useful ally in the next quiz you may undertake.