The Galway volunteer memorial committee

This committee, also known as Coiste Cuimhneacháin Óglach Condae na Gaillimhe, was set up in the late 1940s, and represented all shades of political opinion. Its objective was to erect a memorial gateway to the memory of all the men and women of Galway city and county who suffered for freedom during the years 1916 to 1923. The chairman of the committee was Louis O’Dea and the joint honorary secretaries were Mrs T Dillon and Mr John Hosty.

They commissioned the distinguished Cork sculptor, Seamus Murphy, to come up with a design which is what we illustrate today. The monument was to be erected on O’Brien’s Bridge and would open on to the bank of the middle river, thus making the walk available to the citizens. It was proposed to call the walk The Liam Mellows Walk.

The design was a simple but elegant one of an archway in Galway limestone. Seamus Murphy was to carve the bas-relief panels and the remainder of the work would be completed by local craftsmen. The wrought iron gates were to be made by Galway smiths. The following inscription was to be carved on the arch: “Doibh siud de mhuinntir na Catahrach agus an Chondae a d’fhuiang ar son na saoirse d’ár tus 1916”. “To the memory of the Men and Women of the City and County of Galway who suffered for the Freedom of Ireland during the year 1916 and onwards”.

The town planner approved the plan as did the county manager and the corporation.

All that remained was to collect the funds. People from Galway and abroad contributed and fundraisers were organised. Among those was a production of The Rising of the Moon with a cast of Arthur Shields, J Fitzsimons, C Fitzsimons, and Barry Fitzgerald, held in Seapoint in July 1951. The introduction was by John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara sang, and there were further introductions of stars such as Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond, Eileen Crowe, and Noel Purcell. They were making The Quiet Man at the time.

The committee wanted to erect this dignified memorial in a very short time so that as many as possible of those who took part in the fight might be present at the opening ceremony.

Unfortunately a split occurred within the committee with some people objecting to the inclusion of people killed in the Civil War being included on the monument, and they decided to leave with whatever monies they had collected, and so the project faltered and was eventually abandoned.

It was a shame, but now that we are approaching the 1916 centenary, maybe it is time to revive the project. It would add greatly to the artistic and historic features of the city. Obviously the River Walk site can no longer be considered at the O’Brien’s Bridge end, but what about the Newtownsmith end? There are plenty of alternatives which would suit. As Seamus Murphy is deceased, an arrangement would have to be made with his family to select another sculptor, but I think his elegant original design should be retained.

A new book just published is a model for any group considering publishing a parish history. The Parish of Clonthuskert, Glimpses Into Its Past is the title. It was compiled by the local heritage group and edited by Joe Molloy, and it is a remarkable record of this east Galway parish from the earliest evidence of human history to the latter half of the 20th century. It is a very fine production, profusely illustrated and full of information. Clonthuskert should be very proud. Highly recommended.

Finally, I would like to thank all who have contributed to this column over the past year. I am most grateful for all your support and contributions. I wish you all a happy and a healthy New Year.

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