The tall building in the centre of our picture of New Docks Road taken in 1903 was known as “Gas Tank” Flaherty’s pub. We presume he got his nickname because of the gasworks across the street. It was here that the distinguished English painter Augustus John lived for several weeks in 1914. He did a lot of painting and drawing around the city and especially the docks area, but when the World War I started, he began to worry that the locals would regard him as an English spy, so he went back to England.
According to a report in the October 2, 1920 issue of the Connacht Tribune “On Thursday (September 24 ) night, uniformed men broke into the public house of Mrs Margt. O’Flaherty, New Docks, Galway, and looted a considerable quantity of liquor. An entrance was affected by smashing the upper half of the half door. The taps of porter barrels were turned on and the liquor was allowed to flow. Nobody was on the premises at the time”. Obviously, they were about to print the paper on the Friday when the report of the raid the night before came in, so that paragraph was all they had time to print.
The following morning, a motor lorry containing a number of the RIC Auxiliary Force stationed at Salthill called at the offices of the Tribune, accompanied by Mr PJ O’Flaherty and his brother who were brought along to identify whoever had written the paragraph. The editor, Tom ‘Cork’ Kenny (my own grandfather ) was not on the premises and the lorry was despatched for him while the auxiliaries remained in the Tribune offices. When the editor arrived, the commanding officer presented him with a statement which, he said, had been signed quite voluntarily that morning by Mr O’Flaherty.
“This is to certify that the article under the heading “Attack at the Docks” which appeared in the Connacht Tribune, Saturday, September 25 is purely fictitious. Not a barrel or bottle was touched in my shop; neither were any goods taken away. The only damage done to my premises was the breaking in of the back and front doors. PJ O’Flaherty, Proprietor, New Dock-St.”
The commanding officer, who had been in charge of the raid, said that he and his men very much resented the suggestion that they had been looting. “We are called the Black and Tans and a great deal of misrepresentation and exaggeration has gone abroad regarding us …. We have joined the RIC proper; we are the auxiliary force and set independently. All our men are ex-officers and I hope, gentlemen …. We are not here to shoot people but to restore order. We are obliged to take certain steps to do this ….. the police could not walk abroad in certain districts until we came. Peaceable law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from us”.
Only a couple of weeks before, the Auxiliaries had put Tom ‘Cork’ Kenny up against a wall and threatened to shoot him after they caught him taking photographs of what was left of “The Galway Express” offices in Eyre Square after all the furniture and printing machines had been wrecked by the Tans.
O’Flaherty’s pub later became known as Brennan’s Pub.