The homes of Woodquay

As we pointed out last week, much of what we now know as Woodquay was under water until the funnelling of the various streams that came down from the Corrib into the river that we know today began in the mid-19th century. As part of the project, the lands of Woodquay were gradually reclaimed. The people living in the area in those early years were mostly small farmers and fishermen. Their houses were very basic, single story, and for the most part, thatched and built of crude stone. There were of course some landmark houses but things began to change generally around the turn of that century with the construction of terraces of new slated houses around the broad space of Woodquay as we know it today, mostly built by the Urban District Council.

For such a small area, Woodquay has a lot of street names – Corrib Terrace, Waterside, Riverside, St Bridget’s Place, St Bridget’s Court, St Brendan’s Avenue, Court Avenue, Court Lane, St Vincent’s Avenue, St Anthony’s Place, O’Donogue’s Terrace, Walsh’s Terrace, etc.

St Vincent’s Avenue (A ) was typical of these terraces built at the end of the 19th century. Our photograph was taken in the 1940s and as you can see, everyone’s transport is parked outside their front door. The large house, third from the left with two sets of windows on either side of the door, was known as Woodquay House. It was later redeveloped and reopened as the Salmon Weir Hostel.

Corrib House (B ) is a late Georgian townhouse dating from c1830 on the corner of Waterside and Courthouse Square. It was originally a small private hotel. Charles Cooke and his wife Sarah Anne rented the building from their friend Annie Lally and in 1929, they purchased the house and made it their family home. Today, it is a very popular tea house.

Corrib Lodge (C ) is one of the oldest buildings in the area and dates from 1730. It was owned by the Governors of Erasmus Smith Schools. It was rented by Walter and Mary McDonagh from 1880 to 1933. In 1933, Winifred Horgan, known as Una, bought it. She married Michael Horgan and they had one child, Mary who eventually married Michael Naughten and they had two children, Eileen and Una. Mary was the author of the wonderful book The History of St Francis Parish which was published in 1984.

Pádraig Puirséal’s shop (D ) is typical of the buildings along Woodquay Street. Some of the residents converted part of their ground floors into small shops, as did Pádraig. The lady in the picture talking to the guard was Bridget Rabbitte from Sickeen who was an extra in a German film being shot in Woodquay at the time, 1958-9.

One of the few places in Woodquay that has not been named is the park between Corrib Terrace and Riverside. I have heard a discussion recently where it was suggested that it might be called ‘Taheny Park’ after the distinguished local historian Donal Taheny, who lived facing the park. Food for thought.

All of these images and information come from a recently published book by William Henry entitled Woodquay, An Ancient Heritage. It is full of local history, folklore, traditions, and characters associated with the area. There is a great sense of civic pride evident in this book, which has a huge number of illustrations. It is an important contribution to any Galwegian’s library and especially to any Bárr an Chaladh person living abroad.

Finally, I wish all of our readers a happy and a healthy Christmas. Nollaig shona daoibh go léir.


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