Galway vintners

During the reign of Edward VI, when the Puritans controlled Galway, it was provided that “No man should keep an Ale House without being licensed, under penalty of three days imprisonment and a fine of twenty shillings”. It was added: “But because many Ale House keepers in those days were not able to pay that Forfeiture, and it was seldom levied by reasons of poverty, which made people unwilling to prevent the offenders.” Therefore a further punishment was added by statute during the reign of Charles I which not only inflicted the forfeiture of 20 shillings to the use of the poor, to be levied by the constable or church warden, by warrant of a justice before whom the offence was proved, and which distress may be sold three days afterwards; but it provided that if no distress could be taken, the justice should deliver the offender to the constable to be whipped. For the second offence, the offender was to be committed to the House of Correction for a month. A married woman who kept an ale house without licence made her husband liable for punishment.

The laws have changed since though the mind boggles a bit to think what it would be like today to see a few Galway publicans lined up for a whipping by the gardaí. One of the reasons for change was the setting up of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, and one of the first things they managed to get changed was the six day licence. Pubs which had that licence were not allowed to open on Sundays, though it was not unheard of for customers to be smuggled in or out on that day.

The first chairman of the Galway Vintners was one of the founders, Sonny Cooke, 1950-51. Stephen Carty, another founder, took the chair from 1951-52; then followed Bobby Gilmore, 1952-57; Stephen Carty, 1957-59; Murtagh Rabbitt, 1959-60; William Sammon, 1960-61; Harry O’Brien, 1961-62; Philip Coyne, 1962-63; Murtagh Rabbitt, 1963-65; Stan O’Reilly, 1965-67; Frank O’Leary, 1967-68; John P O’Carroll, 1968-69; John McGinn, 1969-70; Peter Cooke, 1970-71; John McGinn, 1971-73; Oliver Sammon, 1973-75; John P O’Carroll, 1975-77; Stan O’Reilly, 1977-78; Oliver Sammon, 1978-80; Billy Lawless, 1980-82; Sammy Lynn, 1982-83; Frank Morrissey, 1983-84; Ethel McGuire, 1984-85; Dave Lonergan, 1985-86; John P Rabbitt, 1986-88; Billy Lawless 1989 (he sold that year and stepped down ); John P O’Carroll, 1989-90; John P Rabbitt, 1990-92; Odran O’Leary, 1992-93; Michael Kenny, 1993-95; Terry Tyson, 1995-97; and Val Hanley, 1997-2000.

Our photograph today shows a group of Galway Vintners on a visit to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin in 1979. They are, back row, left to right: James Shaw, Guinness sales director; Frank Smith, the Kincora, Salthill; Tom Feeley, Guinness; Padraic Higgins, the Tavern, Eyre Square; John O’Carroll, Ely House, Woodquay; Sean Dunleavy, Sacre Coeur, Salthill; Tim Richardson, Richardson’s, Eyre Square; Michael Murray, the Salthill Hotel; and Jimmy Ward, Guinness.

In front are Kevin McDonagh, the Rendevous Bar, Galway Shopping Centre; Gerry Higgins, Twiggs, Salthill; Ollie Sammon, Sammons, Eyre Square; Michael Hallinan, Oslo Hotel, Salthill; Odran O’Leary, O’Leary’s, Salthill; Ethel McGuire, McGuire’s, Raven Terrace; Bobby Gilmore, Gilmore’s, Eyre Square; Billy Lawless, the Gallows, Eyre Square; and Dave Lonergan, Lonergan’s, Salthill.

Birdwatch Galway is organising its first talk of the season tomorrow, October 9, in the Anno Santo Hotel, Threadneedle Road, at 8pm. It will be given by John Carey and will describe his experiences of birdlife and folklore during his visit to South Africa. The title is ‘Birds of the Bushveld, a witchdoctor’s account of tall tales and taxonomy’, and all are welcome. Admission is free but contributions will be appreciated.

On Monday next, October 12, the Galway Archaeological & Historical Society will host a lecture by Dr Jim McKeon in the Harbour Hotel, starting at 8pm. The title of the talk is ‘The Dominican Friary of Athenry in the High-Medieval Period’, and all are welcome.


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