The Sacre Coeur Hotel, the early years

My earliest memory of Jim was of him building his house near us in Salthill. He had a small corrugated iron shed he lived in while working there. We local working men, all of us about six or seven years old, decided he needed a hand, so we went to “help” him, moving sand and mixing cement, etc. We were obviously a complete distraction and a nuisance but he was a gentle man. He would sit us down beside his shed, give us a slice of bread and jam, and then frighten the life out of us telling us ghost stories. A very nice way of getting rid of us at the same time as vastly improving the efficiency level of the amount of work being done on site.

Jim Dunleavy from Kilmovee, Co Mayo, originally came to Galway to work with his cousin Joe, building houses for Michael O’Carroll near the Rio Hotel. He bought a site in Lenaboy Gardens and built a house there which he sold on to the Hynes family. When he finished his building work for the week, he would cycle home to Kilmovee to be with his family. He then bought the site next door from Frank Hallinan, a vacant plot with some barbed wire around it and a path across it leading to the church. Frank Hallinan used it to graze sheep for his butcher shop and the only stipulation in the lease was that Jim Dunleavy would not open a butcher shop.

Jim built a house on this site in 1951 and instead of selling it, as he originally intended, he decided to sell the home place. This he did and moved his wife Agnes (from Tubbercurry, Co Sligo ) and their children Louis, Seán, Eugene, Brendan, Ciaran, Desmond, Doreen, Maureen, Francis, and Michael to Salthill, a major influx of talent to this new growing parish. Agnes and Jim placed a huge emphasis on the education of the children. This move took place in 1951.

Some years later they started a bed & breakfast business which necessitated building on to their own house, squaring it off and adding an extra storey. About 1959/60, they bought the house next door from the Burkes who had purchased it from the Connolly family, it had previously been occupied by the Gatelys. In 1962/63, they undertook major reconstruction work, linking the two houses and developing them into the Sacre Coeur Hotel.

In 1957, Louis Dunleavy became the first priest to be ordained in Salthill Parish.

The house next door to the “Sac” was built by Michael Murray and was later occupied by Garda Boland, and later again became the Sacre Coeur staff house. Next door to that was Gallaghers, then McMenamins, and finally Reids. After that, it was green fields all the way up to Taylor's Hill. The two houses across the road were occupied by the Earls and the Rooneys.

The hotel quickly became very popular with tourist and locals alike. It hosted weddings, sports club socials, dress dances, GAA dinners, all kinds of functions, and the hotel started nightly music singalong sessions during the summer with Gerry Macken and Ronnie Burke. It was always packed during the Galway Races and some great card games played there. They hosted the annual Sports Stars of the Year awards for many years. It was a social hub for many Salthill people.

The family eventually retired from business and sold it as a going concern in 2005.

Our photographs show the family house, built by Jim in 1951, and then its expansion into a guest house c1960.

 

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