The end of the tramline

This photograph of the sleepy village of Salthill was taken about 100 years ago. In the mid nineteenth century, the village was very small and occupied mostly by fishermen, some lodging houses and a few pubs. The area was much changed and improved by the building of the Eglinton Hotel in the mid 1860’s. This up-market establishment was on a much grander scale than any other building in the vicinity, and it attracted a different kind of tourist. It is on the left of our picture, with the small bar in front.

The really major change for the area came in October 1879, when the tramway opened between Salthill and the city. These horse drawn vehicles carried 36 passengers evenly divided between the saloon and the upper deck. There was a service every 10 minutes if the traffic demanded, otherwise every 20 minutes in summer and 30 minutes in winter. The western terminus was more or less where this photograph was taken from. The summer tram had an open top, the winter tram was a single decker which protected passengers from the weather.

The service made the resort very accessible to the visitor and local alike. Day trippers would come to Galway by train, hop on the tram and be in Salthill (for twopence ) in a short space of time. However, the company was plagued by labour troubles, and when the British Army commandeered most of their horses for the First World War, there was a serious decline in fortunes, and eventually at an AGM in 1918, they decided to wind up. The following year, there were petrol buses on the route. Before the trams, people travelled to Salthill by horse bus.

The building we see on the right was at various times a police barracks, a restaurant, and amusement arcade and a private dwelling. On the other side of it was the famous ‘Lazy Wall’, a favourite meeting place for the ‘Fámairí’. This was the name given to visitors to Salthill, mostly from an agricultural background, who came when the harvest was saved. They usually rented out rooms, brought their own food and used the cooking facilities in their lodgings. They would congregate at the Lazy Wall , often meeting friends they had made the previous year, and exchange gossip and stories.

Next to the Eglinton was the Atlantic Bar, said to be the oldest pub in Salthill. At the turn of the century, it was owned by a Mr. Connolly. Then in 1903, Martin Donnellan, who was working with the Union Pacific in Colorado, told his brother-in-law Mr. Madden, that he was coming home, and instructed him to buy the pub. In fact he bought three house in the terrace as well, and when Mr. Donnellan came home, he called it Atlantic Terrace, and the pub he named the Atlantic Bar. The building looks exactly the same today and is called Lonergans. Next door was Finans, later to become Killorans, the facade of which has been changed since. The gable further down was that of the Grand Hotel.

Notice the rough surface of the road, the gas lamp in front of the Eglinton, and beside it ( a sign of modernisation ) a lone electricity pole. The empty field we see in the left foreground was part of the garden of O’Malley’s house, which is occupied by the Garda barracks today. The sea wall on the right was a necessary, though not always effective, protection to these buildings from flooding.

On Thursday of next week, the 24th of November, the Renmore History Society are hosting a lecture in the USAC lecture hall in Renmore Barracks. It will be given by Ronnie O’Gorman on the subject of “Lady Gregory, 1852 – 1932”. Because of limited spaces, it is advisable to book in advance. You can do so by calling 085 729 8831 or by email at [email protected]


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