Many people will remember ‘Shoots’ as one of the most lovable and delightful characters on the streets of Galway. He was a small man with a big moustache, big glasses, and a big personality. His real name was Michael Tuite. He was reared in Artane in Dublin but came to live here at a time when it was mostly cowboy pictures that were shown in our cinemas. Michael was a fan and began to act as if he himself was a cowpoke. Galwegians gradually changed the greeting “Howya Tuite” to “Shoots”, probably with a little help from the man himself.
You would see him coming towards you on the street, and suddenly he would stop and take up a stance like a cowboy challenging you to draw, to go for your guns. His shooting prowess became more legendary as his name became more popular, and more and more people challenged him to draw. As this ability improved, he graduated from imaginary six-guns to imaginary machine guns — that was the trouble, you never knew which gun he would use. He frequently took his victims by surprise, attacking them at enormous speed from his High Nelly bicycle using both hands to ‘fire’ his machine gun. He was a natural on that bike and the loud vocal accompaniment added greatly to the performance.
His vocabulary was straight out of a John Wayne movie – Go for your guns! Ambush! Gotcha covered! Injuns! Boot Hill! etc. I saw him once flying down William Street on his bike happily machine gunning away, when the bike went from under him. He skidded along the street and then lay prone without moving. There was a pause as all the onlookers stopped thinking “Oh my God, he’s dead”. Then as they started to rush to help him, he slowly raised himself up on one elbow, produced a ‘hand grenade’ from his pocket, pulled the pin and lobbed it at the would-be helpers who were now helpless with laughter.
His finest hour was undoubtedly when a South American cardinal whom nobody knew came to Galway to receive the Freedom of the City. All the city schoolchildren were made to line the streets between the station and UCG where the ceremony took place, and were told to cheer and wave flags when His Eminence passed. A distant sound of cheering that gradually got nearer and nearer seemed to indicate the approach of the cardinal, but no! It was Shoots taking full advantage of the situation to ‘plug’ half the citizens of Galway, and they all shooting back. His Eminence followed a few minutes later to a much quieter reception.
Another major exploit was to single-handedly capture ‘Devious Des Collins’ in the middle of a ward in the Regional Hospital. Shoots was one of the stars in a variety show known as The Bum Show which was produced by a student who called himself ‘Alan Sea Breeze’. It had a sell out run in the Union Hall on Prospect Hill. He was known as ‘The Very Reverend Canon Ball’ in that production. Later in life he was banned from some cinemas while there was a western on as he would jump up and start shooting all the characters on the screen. He ended his days in the home in the County Home in Loughrea and died there on October 22, 1971. He was deeply mourned by all who lived there.
We had a number of ‘characters’ in Galway then, people like Mowleogs, Sweet Sixteen, Johnny Fortycoats, Cup and Saucer, Bacon and Cabbage, Mate, Sir James, and so on. They added a lot of colour to city life and brightened up our lives.
Our photograph was taken in Market Street c1951 and shows Shoots on the right. In the foreground is Hugh Watson and behind him is his cousin Jim Watson from County Antrim.