It is not easy to resist the emollients of a city which erects in its main square a statue of a poet – and a little leprechaun of a fellow at that, of whom almost nobody has ever heard. Padraic O’Conaire once wandered around Connemara telling stories and writing tales and poems in Irish; in the pre-television age he was the walking relic of a millennia-old Irish tradition. Galway, with its long cosmopolitan history, delightfully flaunts its civilized values by celebrating a poet whose fame, such as it is, will never add a pfennig to its tourist budget.
The city, named for a Celtic king’s daughter who drowned in nearby Lough Corrib, is exhilaratingly situated in one of the wildest parts of Ireland, at the head of a magnificent bay directly facing the open Atlantic. Originally a collection of huts, it was seized in the thirteenth century by the Normans who colonized it with fourteen families, later to be contemptuously dubbed by the Cromwellians “The Fourteen Tribes of Galway”. Their names were Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne,D’Arcy, Deane, ffont, ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerret, and their armorial bearings still decorate some Galway houses. They soon built it into an important trading port, though they had to contend with repeated attacks from Gaelic clans: an unambiguous inscription over the West Gate reads; “From the fury of the O’Flaherties, the Good Lord deliver us”.
However, the native Irish were not entirely unjustified. Under the Treaty of Windsor Henry II had agreed that all the country west of the Shannon should remain undisturbed in native hands, but no sooner had he returned to France than Norman barons poured across the river and seized whatever choice acres were going a pattern of cynical betrayal that was to be repeated many times in Irish history.
On a tour of Ireland with Ireland Luxury Tours we always recommend a visit to Galway.