Galway’s military museum

Our photograph today was taken in Eyre Square in 1922, and shows the Connaught Rangers parading through the city on their last day in Galway. It is interesting to see them on horseback, on foot, and with bicycles. As you can see in the foreground, there is a long line of soldiers standing in front of the crowd, and there is what looks like a temporary reviewing stand on the far side of the street.

The Connaught Rangers were formed in 1793 by Thomas De Burgh, afterwards known as the Earl of Clanricarde. They were so-called because they were recruited in the province. Their motto was “Quis Separabit”, and their original uniform was red with yellow facings until the introduction of the universal khaki. They acquired the nickname “The Devil’s Own” for their dauntless bravery. They fought in Flanders, in the West Indies, in India, in South America, in the Peninsular War, in Canada, in the Crimea, in the Boer War, and in World War I. In June 1920 mutiny broke out among the 1st Battalion at Jullundur and Solan in India following reports from Ireland of Black and Tan atrocities. Two of the mutineers died at Solan while attacking the armoury. Sixty nine men were court-martialled; 14 were sentenced to death, but only the ringleader, Private J Daly, was executed. In July 1922 the regiment was finally disbanded.

The main depot for the Rangers, and for the Royal Irish Fusiliers, was Renmore Barracks. It had originally been built in 1852 but it was inadequate and much of the barracks as we know it today was built in 1880, and it was occupied by the Rangers. On August 20 1914 the 5th service battalion were mobilised under the command of Major Jourdain and went off to fight in the Dardanelles. The 1916 Rising made little impact on the barracks — it was occupied for a time by a company of the Munster Fusiliers. During the Black and Tan War the Suffolk Regiment were in occupation together with the Rangers, and the barracks was used as an interrogation and detention centre, with a number of court martials taking place there.

In February 1922 a local battalion of Irish troops took over the barracks. A subsequent fire destroyed much of the original building, and it was rebuilt in 1936. Because Galway was the capital of the Gaeltacht, it was decided to set up an Irish speaking unit in Renmore. The nucleus of the unit was set up in the Curragh in June 1924, and they moved to Galway on April 22 1925. “An Céad Cath” has been based at Renmore since. During the war, the unit was 1,000 strong.

Much of the history of the barracks is on display in a very good military museum there. It is curated by Sergeant PJ Maloney, viewing is normally by appointment, but, on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 of this month, there are organised tours at 10.30am and 3pm each day. Children must be accompanied by an adult and booking is essential. These guided visits are part of an exciting heritage programme put together by the Galway Civic Trust from August 20 to 27. This festival has a number of highlights including tours, guided walks, and lectures about various aspects of our city’s heritage. Programmes of events are available in many locations around town, or you can log on to www.galwaycivictrust.ie The trust’s phone number is (091 ) 564946 or you can email [email protected]. The trust is based in the Hall of the Red Earl in the Custom House, Druid Lane.

The same group have just published a calendar for 2012 with the title ‘Love Your City — Love Galway’. It showcases images of Galway by 12 young artists from national schools in the city and it is a delight, a wonderful gift for any Galwegian, especially those living abroad. They do not have a price, but you are invited to make a contribution of from €3 to €5 to the trust, but really, it is worth a lot more than that, and you are supporting a good cause. Highly recommended.

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