The first reference to Eyre Square, or ‘The Green’ as it was then known, was in 1631 when it was planted with ash trees by Sir Valentine Blake. It was located outside the East Gate of the medieval city. “The square plot at the Green was set apart for the purpose of public amusement and recreation; it was enclosed with wooden rails and handsomely planted around.” The 1651 map of Galway features a row of small buildings which ran the length of the east side of the square.
At the turn of the 18th/19th century, the building of the ‘East Suburb’ of the Green was carried on and all within the walls got the name of the Old Town to distinguish it from the new improvements. It was about this time that the pub we now know as Richardson’s was built.
The pub belonged for a long time to Thomas Walsh and his family; another relation of his, Michael Walsh, owned the pub on the opposite corner of the Square. A man named Tomás Mac Enri married into the Walsh family and took over the running of the pub. He was a solicitor and his practice was based upstairs over the pub. Eventually in 1955 he leased the building to Tim and May Richardson. May was a member of the Turner family from Cloonagasha near Tuam. She had worked as a bookkeeper in Garavan’s, where Tim had also worked.
In the 1970s Tim could see that the advent of supermarkets would probably mean the demise of the corner grocery shop, so he got rid of the grocery and focused entirely on the bar. At one stage, Tim captained Galwegians to a Connacht Senior Cup victory, so the pub became a haunt for members of that club. It would also have been known as a Fianna Fáil pub and politicians such as Bobby Molloy, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and Mark Killilea regularly held clinics there.
In the 1980s, an extra storey was added to the building. Today the pub is run by Tim’s son Tom, and it has no real political affiliations. It does have a very good folk music and spoken word gig every Saturday night. Richardson’s has the finest public collection of old photographs of the Square that I have seen.
The famous song ‘The Lass of Aughrim’, which is associated with James Joyce, was inspired by Michael Furey who lived at the back of the pub. He was Nora Barnacle’s first lover, and next door to Richardson’s was O’Loughlin’s sweet shop which was frequented by Nora and her pals.
Another literary dimension will be added to the pub next Tuesday, April 8, at 1pm when Professor Adrian Frazier will unveil a poem by Rita Ann Higgins carved in limestone on the Prospect Hill wall of the pub. The poem is entitled ‘Men with Tired Hair’ and is part of the Cúirt International Festival programme, which has been placing poems relating to the city on various highways and byways for the last several years. Anyone who would like to attend the event is most welcome.
Our photograph shows Tim Richardson at the door in the 1950s. The woman with him is Kathleen Spelman who used to help out in the grocery. Barely visible in the window on the left are Tim’s wife May, and coincidentally a lady named Nellie O’Gorman who happened to be Rita Ann Higgins’ godmother.