William of Orange had a major impact on the history of this city, so I presume it was after him that three streets in Galway were named, Williamsgate Street, William Street, and the one in our photograph, William Street West.
On Logan’s 1818 map of Galway, this area is referred to as ‘Lands of Bohernabradagh’, a term which on the Aran Islands would have translated as ‘The Road of Thieves’ and which in east Galway would have referred to ‘The Red Light District’. At the end of the 19th century this street would have represented the western suburbs of the city (“Back the West” ) and was the main road from the west into Galway. The horse drawn tram from Eyre Square to Salthill ran along here.
The 1911 census tells us that living on the street at the time were Lydons, McEvillys, Reillys, Silkes, Conroys, Kennellys, Boldings, O’Connors, Tobins, Gannons, Gills, Thorntons, Conneelys, Geraghtys, McGowans, McDonoghs, Mullanes, and Smyths.
The building on the right of our late 1970s photograph (which was given to us by an old Galwegian ) is the Hibernian Bar which was owned and run by Des Kelly. It was known as ‘The Hib’ and was where The Blue Note is today. Next door is the remains of what was once Edmund Tierney’s greengrocery shop. The Tierney family lived upstairs.
Beside that was O’Connor’s where Mrs O’Connor ran a drapery shop called ‘Marywear’ which specialised in ladies’ and children’s wear. In 1902, a Cornelius O’Connor of William Street West advertised his business selling tickets on the Royal Mail car for “the conveyance of Mails, Passengers and Parcels” from Galway to Carraroe and points in between. Maybe they were the same family.
Next door was Jordan’s Butcher Shop, this family had a long history on the street. Beside that was Murphy’s Pub which was known as The Baltimore and is called The Old Forge today. It had a lovely snug. The pub beside that at one time belonged to Bill Sammon and next door to that was the butcher shop where Martin Divilly originally set up his business. The shop at the end was a drapery run by Miss Bonnie O’Neill. She was related to Mrs Ryan whose husband Peter was a grocer and provision merchant around the corner in the Small Crane. On an estate map dating from 1876, the Small Crane is called Fahey Beg which translates as Little Square.
The building on the very far left of our picture was the Crane Bar, at one time owned by Michael Coen. It was known in earlier times as ‘The West End Bar’.
The photograph shows how much and how quickly a streetscape can change. There is not a double yellow line to be seen. One wonders where the car park was that the sign on the right is pointing to.
The whole area is much brighter today.