The first member of the Hartmann family to arrive in Galway was Alphons. His older brother Joseph was already established in business in Limerick. Joseph went back to Triburg in the Black Forest in Germany in 1895 to get married, and when he and his bride were about to return to Ireland, his father asked him if he would take Alphons with him.
Alphons came to Galway and was employed by Faller’s Jewellers. He eventually married Mary Hanley and they lived in Lower Salthill. They had a son, Éamonn, who, when he qualified in 1945, talked his dad into starting up their own jewellery business under the name A Hartmann and Son. They began in upstairs rooms in Hardiman House in Eyre Square. In 1950, they transferred the business to No 4 Mainguard Street.
Éamonn’s son Garry joined the business and in 1976, he opened a branch in the Galway Shopping Centre. Eamonn died in 1978, as he was hooking a salmon while fishing at the Salmon Weir. In 1980 it was decided to close the Mainguard Street and shopping centre shops and amalgamate both in William Street in a premises once occupied by Gilbey’s, later by O’Connor’s Bakery and by Major McNamara who had a dental practice upstairs. Eventually they rented the ground floor of the building next door from Aggie Hill, and opened The Body Shop. Later, they decided to expand the jewellery shop and connect it to what was The Body Shop, thus expanding their retail jewellery area. Today, Hartmann’s has one of the most elegant shop-fronts in the city, and it must be said, their showrooms are very elegant too.
Sadly, Garry died in 1997, but the business was continued by his wife Caths, and is now run by the fourth generation, their son Richard.
In 1964 Éamonn needed another apprentice so he went to Eddie Gibson in the Technical School who sent him 15-year-old Michael Griffin from the Claddagh. He started on October 2 of that year at £2 per week. Initially he was cleaning windows, going to the post, etc, but soon he was sizing rings, doing some engraving, soldering charms on to charm bracelets (a big thing in those days ). Among his fellow apprentices were PJ O’Connell, Ken Moody from Dublin, Eamonn Joyce, Jimmy O’Leary, and Anne Cooke. They sold trophies at the time, and repairing clocks and pocket watches was a major part of their work. Depending on how old and worn the clock was, one could spend a week working on it. It took about seven years for one to be called a ‘watchmaker’. Michael recently retired as a watchmaker and a jeweller having worked for Hartmann’s for 50 years.
Our photographs today are of the Mainguard Street premises c1970, and of Michael at work.
An Taisce will hold its annual lunch on Sunday in The Ardilaun, and this will be followed by a slideshow given by Willie Henry.