Sunday Thoughts – The Galway Years

A bit of a different direction with this blog post. I’m not usually one for reminiscing but sometimes I look back and delve into this box of memories in my head and thought I may as well write about them.

My parents were both born in Galway and moved when they were in their early 20s to the UK where I was born. This was before the days of cheap flights and Ryanair so planning a visit back to Ireland was like a military outing. My dad couldn’t sit still when we came back so there was always a building project or other tied in to the visit – much to my Nans horror.

My dad would scour car boot sales for DIY stuff to bring over and he’d fill his car top to toe with it – inside the garage. On one occasion we were rushing to catch the ferry and dad went like the clappers reserving and took the bloody garage door with him. That got sorted about after what seemed like weeks of driving around the Welsh Mountains we arrived at the ferry port. We must have look a bit of a sight; a laden down car, ladders, wallpaper and half a garage door hanging off the roof-rack. The customs decided to look in the car and found clear packets of a white substance….so dad was marched off for a ‘chat’.  I suppose no would understand that it was wallpaper paste bought from a car boot sale…….

Onwards to Galway along the lumpy, bumpy roads at the time, tired and miserable and when we arrived was there a welcome? No my Nan was at mass. In fact most of the time she was at mass.

One Christmas when I was quite young my mum decided we’d spend Christmas with my Nan so that ‘Santa’ would visit. It’s probably the strangest Christmas I ever had. Santa left the presents but I could open them because Nan was mass, when she came home her sister went it mass….the day continued like this with some kind of relay to the Church. I was thinking they must have been very religious but in the evening they took out little notebooks and swapped information on who was there, who was the priest, what was said etc etc… I finally got my presents at around 7pm after quite a long day of a turkey and salmon boiling together on the range cooker (ew).

My Nan lived right in the centre of Galway, in a little terraced house, there were very little mod cons, just a range for heating, no bathroom, an outside toilet and a scullery. There was no fridge and no television. One year we took over a tiny black and white television into the house which she called the devil and didn’t want it put on..or so she said until she found out about the news. The telly was a firm fixture after that.

If, and it was a very rare occasion, she wanted a bath the tin bath was pulled out in front of the range. Most times she preferred TCP – it covered a multitude of sins.

She was happy in her ways though and I think she’d have been happier if she was left to her own devices instead of being made to have all these ‘new-fangled’ gadgets  such as a fridge.

I liked going to visit Galway, it was like travelling back in time compared the UK. I was able to hop and a bike and go cycling for miles around narrow lanes with stone walls and holy shrines. You knew all the people in the area, I even got invited to a birthday party – that was a bit of an eyeopener – tomato sandwiches and the death notices on the local radio….but that was the way it was done. No cake, no party hats or pass the parcel, very different.

I remember the excitement when the roller disco opened, I think it was somewhere near the GPO. I spent many, happy, hours there. All on my own  but skating away to the disco music. I also remember when Quinsworth (now Tesco) opened at the Galway Shopping Centre. They used to have a make your own pizza section – it was brilliant! It made such a nice change from boiled salmon.

I remember splashing about at Salthill, the sun always seemed to be shining, I’d have my packed lunch which by the time I got round to eating it tasted sweaty and covered in sand.

I remember the congregation of stray cats that would gather on the landing window and feeding them when no one was looking.

I remember sharing a bedroom with my great aunt and having to pretend I was asleep when she needed to use the chamber pot in the middle of the night.

I remember trying to hide the Sacred Heart picture by hanging my dressing gown over it. The blood trickling down his face used to frighten me. I also remember trying to get my Nan to like me. She never did. She didn’t like my mum either. We weren’t lads you see. She only had time for the lads. My dad or my brother could do no wrong in her eyes but I suppose that’s what it was like for a lot of people back in those days.

My Nan had a hard life, she got married young to a man who was 13 years older than her. I heard my Granddad was a lovely man but he died before I was born. He fought in the First World War and spent much of his life after that working in the barracks in Renvyle. My Nan had 6 children, one died after birth, one at the age of two, one at the age of five, one at 32….how do you recover from that? She never spoke about them except for Paddy who was the 32  year old and Teresa who was 5 when she went on holiday to Connemara and never came home. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

My Nan died when she was 89.

So that’s a bit of a walk down memory lane for me today.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Thoughts – The Galway Years

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  1. Wow, didn’t realise you had a Galway connection Val. I’m originally from Galway myself. What part of Galway city was your nan living in? Bohermore? Can you remember the name of the street? I remember the roller disco and Salthill was great. I remember Quinnsworth well. Do you get to Galway much now? What was your nan’s name if you don’t mind me asking? I’m guessing you were there around the 1970s?

    1. Small world James. My dad’s family all lived in Bohermore, they were O’Connors/Farrells.
      My nan lived in O’Donohues Tce, Woodquay. She was McDonagh but Coyne before then.
      I was there in the 70s and 80s

  2. My mother’s side of the family were O’Brien in St. Brigid’s Terrace. My father was Casserly in Water Lane. We surely must have walked past each other a few times then.

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