The Claddagh — the old and the new

This photograph was taken in the 1930s and illustrates the huge difference between the old thatched cottages in the Claddagh and the new houses that were being built to replace them. Even though the area was a building site with the new houses going up, people were obviously still living in the old houses if we are to judge from the line of washing we see hanging on the gable in the centre. The two thatched roofs look as if they are about to cave in. The woman and child we see on the right look very forlorn... could it be that their house was the next to be knocked and cleared? It may have been small and not very roomy, but it was home, probably to a number of generations of the family, so it cannot have been easy to see it flattened.

The large loose blocks of stone in the left foreground are from cottages already knocked and you can see why, when a house became derelict, people would eventually remove the stone to help build a new cottage in another part of the village. In this way the street patterns of the old Claddagh often changed, which accounted for the unusual haphazard streetscapes.

The cobbles in front of the cottage on the right indicate the surface of a street. The right hand gable of this house is much higher than the left, suggesting that the house next to it (now gone ) was higher up a hill, as do the bits of the wall you can see next door.

In 1927, 255 Claddagh houses were surveyed, 51 were classed as ‘poor’, 69 as ‘bad’, and 106 as ‘very bad’. The village was declared “an unhealthy area” that year, so it was inevitable (in spite of many objections ) that it would be completely rebuilt. Our photograph was taken while that process was going on. The new houses we see in the background are the backs of what is Claddagh Avenue today. There are no gardens yet in evidence so the houses are brand new, though curtains on some windows would seem to indicate they were occupied already. You can see part of the Claddagh Hall on the far right.

This image is one of the many in Sean Sexton’s extraordinary book Ireland in Photographs, which was published some years ago.

We had a nice note from Jackie Mannion who lives in Framingham, Massachusetts, pointing out that we got the date wrong on one of our photographs of Galway Rowing Club last week. We showed the 1949 crew that won the Junior 8s Championship of Ireland with Jackie Mannion rowing at 2, but we titled it “The crew that won the Maiden 8s in 1948”, which had Jimmy Ellwood rowing at No 2. Our mistake. Thank you Jackie.

A fascinating book entitled An ‘Antiquarian Craze’, the life, times and work in archaeology of Patrick Lyons RIC, written by Máire Lohan, was published at the weekend. It deals with a lot of field monuments in south Mayo and north Galway documented by this policeman and is well illustrated with a lot of photographs taken by him. Much of the material is published for the first time and is a wonderful addition to our knowledge of that area.

Another title published at the weekend is Western Wings, the story of Galway Flying Club by Bridie Egan-Mitchell. It is a lively and entertaining account, well illustrated, of Galway’s long association with aviation and with the club in particular, which is about 70 years old. All of the proceeds go to the flying club. The irrepressible Peadar O’Dowd has published another delightful collection of short stories entitled Final Tales of Galway which adds to the two previous such books of his... pure Galway nostalgia in good bookshops. Finally, watch out for West United Soccer Club’s calendar for 2009 at only €3 — it has an interesting collection of Old Galway photographs.


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