The origin of the place named "Galway" ('Gaillimh' in Irish) is uncertain with many suggested origins, based on both historical facts or folklore. It is known however that among the ancient Irish, foreigners were called 'na Gall', hence the suggestion that Gaillimh was "the place of the foreigners'.
The modest beginnings of Galway were as a fishing village, situated on the east bank of the present site of St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church. The erection of Bun Gaillimhe in 1124 marked the beginning of the development of Galway. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt many times during the following century and eventually yielded to the Norman influence.
By 1270 Walter de Burgh commenced the enclosing of the settlement with walls, and the medieval city grew inside a great encircling wall. Galway became a lone outpost of English influence in the West – "the remotest town of European civilization". The arrival in the 13th and 14th centuries, of a number of Welsh and Norman families who sought protection against the resurgent Irish with in the walls of Galway, heralded the commercial development of Galway as a major sea-port and centre of trade with mainland Europe. These early settlers, the antecedents of the so-called "14 tribes", saw the gradual development of Galway into an independent city state with a merchant oligarchy which controlled and promoted trade contacts all over Europe. Medieval Galway became a powerful city-state. It traded in wine, spices, salt, animal products and fish, and became the next port after London and Bristol. Galway became a Royal Borough in 1396 and when in 1484 Richard the Third of England gave it mayor status.
Early 17th century Galway was a magnificent city. Subsequently besieged by the ruthless Cromwellian forces in July 1651. Blockaded from the sea by units of the strongest navy in the world, blocked from the land and with a population of around 6,000, swollen by refugees fleeing from the advancing English forces, with famine threatening and dissent forming among the merchant families and clerical ranks, Galway surrendered to Cootes garrison in April 1652. Although the terms of the surrender were quite liberal, it soon became apparent that the people had been duped and the Dublin Commissioners had other plans for the fate of the city. The intolerable burden of a monthly contribution of £400, the large scale seizure of women and young girls for dispatch to the Barbadoes, the seizure of goods and confiscation of houses in lieu of the monthly payment and the ceaseless onslaught on all the property and personnel of the church; all these led to an unfavourable disposition. Finally the Government grew anxious about the ruin being wrought in Galway and the sought in 1656 to accelerate the replanting of the town with a Protestant English population. Despite their efforts, and those of Cromwell himself, the plantation did not materialize and Galway was left derelict and in decay.
During the following centuries, Galway did not regain its former splendour. Very little rebuilding of note took place. The town walls gradually decayed and were demolished and there is an absence of Georgian architecture, of prevalent in other Irish cities Dublin and Limerick. Nevertheless, the population of the city increased during the 18th and 19th centuries. Descriptions of the city during this time paint a far from complimentary picture. Louis Mc Niece wrote these lines in the early part of this century; but today Galway offers the enthusiastic Stag an unforgettable traditional Irish experience. With its rickety, cobbled streets filled with street entertainers and cozy pubs or bars playing a mix of traditional Irish and popular music, there is something for everyone. You cannot fail to enjoy the buzzing atmosphere, delicious cuisine and the superb Craic in this beautifully charming city!
Galway pub trivia
famous for: the Oyster Festival, horse racing
famous sons and residents: Ernesto "Che" Guevara Lynch
interesting fact: Galway is the second largest county in Ireland