St Bride’s nursing home

St Bride’s was situated on Sea Road and was opened in 1916 by Dr William AF Sandys. He was soon joined by Dr Michael O’Malley and by Dr Joseph Watters, who was the anaesthetist. Both doctors Sandys and O’Malley lived in the Crescent, so it was very convenient for them. It was a private nursing and maternity home accepting medical, surgical, and maternity cases. Generations of Galwegians were born here, and many more would have had their tonsils out or their appendix removed here.

Bill Sandys was medical officer to the Port Authority and to the RIC and Crown Forces, but his sympathies were with the Republicans. He used his authorisation papers to pass British roadblocks on his way to assist injured IRA men. Both he and surgeon O’Malley gave unequivocal evidence at the inquest on Fr Michael Griffin in November 1920, and they drove out together to render assistance in Clifden when it was burnt by the Black and Tans on March 17 1921, and where people were injured and killed. On at least one occasion, Republican and Black and Tan patients were in adjoining rooms in St Bride’s, each unknown to the other.

In 1920, there were nine nurses on the staff as well as the three doctors. Sister Coffey was the matron and later Kay Brennan took over that post. Conor O’Malley, on his return from postgraduate training in London, later joined the staff and carried out eye and ENT surgery, and also acted as radiologist, the nursing home having acquired at a cost of £400 a Newton-Wright X-ray apparatus which was quite advanced at the time. In the 1950s, St Bride’s became a limited company, and among others who worked there were surgeons Eoin O’Malley and Tommy McHugh, Dr Bat O’Driscoll, and Dr Joe McHale.

Bill Sandys retired in 1950 and died in 1964. He was succeeded as the major owner of St Bride’s and in his extensive practise by his son Robert, an outstanding athlete and sportsman who played rugby for Connacht and was captain of Galway Golf Club. He retired in 1964, and that is when St Bride’s closed. Calvary Hospital had just opened and would have been serious competition.

The nursing home extended from the Columban Hall to the last of the tall buildings in our photograph (which was originally taken by Paddy Lyons in the late 1930s ). The last house was occupied by Reggie Connolly and later by Charlie McCormack. The next six houses as we go towards the Jes were slightly lower and were known as Ely Place. The first house we see was Commins’, and going right, there was Brennans’, Frances Geoghegan’s, Byrnes’ (one of whom was Tomás Ó Broin, later professor of Irish in UCG ). Next was Egans’ who had a vegetable stall in Shop Street, and finally Miss Corcoran’s who kept lodgers, some of whom, like Frank O’Malley and Proinnsias Mac Aonghusa, would have been sent in from Connemara to go to the Jes.

Notice the beautiful car, a Packard, an original limousine which was open at the back and covered in at the front. The bishop had a car like this.

Next Saturday at 2pm two exhibitions open in the Galway City Museum, one a national craft show, and the other an important collection of Jack B Yeats’ paintings. As part of the opening, Hilary Pyle, the outstanding authority on Jack B Yeats, will give a talk on the painter. Highly recommended.

An Taisce’s AGM takes place on Wednesday next in The Ardilaun hotel at 8pm. All are welcome.


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