The following are some of the fires that occurred in the city in the last century.
1902: A thatched house in Salthill belonging to 85-year-old Barbara Molloy, known as ‘Babs of the Baths’, in which Babs sadly died, was burnt out.
1910: The fire which destroyed Menlo Castle.
1915: Messrs Cloherty & Co, ironmongers, seed, oil and ammunition merchants.
1921: St Patrick’s House, a Sinn Féin hall (where the Union Hall was later ) was set on fire (and gutted ) by the Black and Tans. The fire spread to a row of thatched houses across the street but the locals managed to save these by dousing the roofs with water and wet sacks all night.
1928: Two thatched houses at the Grattan Road end of Fairhill were destroyed. The wind blew the flames away from the other houses in the vicinity.
1932: Villa Maria in Salthill, property of Miss O’Brien, was destroyed. The fire brigade saved adjoining buildings.
1934: The Connaught Buildings in Mainguard Street belonging to Connolly’s was badly damaged. A number of people escaped from upstairs apartments and Hennigan’s fruit and vegetable shop, and the first floor tailoring business of the McDonnell brothers was destroyed.
1951: The four-floor Hygeia building on Nuns Island was gutted in three hours. Firemen succeeded in saving McDonogh’s Milling & Trading Company and a timber store belonging to Galway Foundry, though they were badly hampered by sulphur fumes.
1952: Brennan’s in Shop Street, and Commins & Greaney next door, destroyed. In that year also there was a fire in Murray’s Wholesalers in Victoria Place. Firemen confined the blaze to that building and saved the rest of the block. They had just returned to the station when they were called to another blaze in the Galway Woollen Mills, Newtownsmyth. Jimmy Conneely, the coffinmaker from next door, had to evacuate his family, but they were able to return when the fire was brought under control.
1964: The Sancta Maria Hotel on St Mary’s Road was gutted with the loss of three lives.
1967: A major fire in Mainguard Street destroyed O’Neill’s Boot Shop, O’Donnell’s Pharmacy, the Genoa Bar, and Hollands Newsagents.
1971: What became known as McDonogh’s fire was probably the most devastating fire of the century, levelling a huge section of the city between Merchants Road and Williamsgate Street, including Corbett’s shop and a lot of old warehouses. Many of these were built of wooden struts and had felt roofs, and as they contained 3,000 tons of timber and 5,000 tons of coal they represented a nightmare for the fire services. They, however, managed to contain the conflagration which threatened to jump streets and destroy even more of the city centre.
Our photograph today shows some of the fire still blazing in McDonogh’s yard as a lot of people are wandering around assessing the damage. It is, in fact, a still taken from a Super8 film, which is to be screened in a Super8 festival that is running in Galway all of this week. It includes a Galway Wonder Years evening in Nimmo’s at 6pm this Saturday during which they will show a number of 8mm films shot in Galway. It should be of interest to those who used to shoot film (or had parents or grandparents who did so ). It will also have a strong appeal for younger film makers, students, artists, and film enthusiasts who will be inspired by the 8mm filming heritage of Galway and the west of Ireland. It is also a ‘bring your own reel’ evening — you are encouraged to bring your own films if you have them and to share your memories. It sounds very exciting, a different look at old Galway. All are welcome. Details can be had from Julien Dorgere at (087 ) 904 0522.