Our trip to Ireland with Belmond Grand Hibernian was extensive. Each stop was very well organized and no detail was left unattended. Galway we had an excellent guide who gave us a good view of the city and its history. Vikings, Pirates, Spaniards, English, Cromwell and the Civil War, always interesting but complex, we had a great lunch Ard Bia at Nimmos a beautiful restaurant by the River Corrib (Irish: Abhainn na Gaillimhe) in the west of Ireland flows from Lough Corrib through Galway to Galway Bay. The river is among the shortest in Europe, with only a length of six kilometres from the lough to the Atlantic.
Our lunch started with a glass of champagne and oysters on the half shell. It was in an old stone building pictured above, it was at least 700 years old. We had Nan Tom Teaimin to sing some old Irish songs to us. She is a National treasure in Ireland, a very great artist and a great voice. She was not introduced to the group and no one knew who she was, it was somewhat embarrassing to discover afterwards that we had been entertained by such an artist.
Nan Tom Teaimin singing at Ard Bia at Nimmos, Spanish Arch in Galway.
Ard Bia at Nimmos, highly recommended for its food.
Merchants Rd. Galway old town.
At the Kings Head tavern we came upon this plaque at no.15 High Street.
A very interesting story about the Kings Head, with the fall and execution of King Charles I (Stuart) of England in the yard of Whitehall Palace in London, Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector of England. In 1651 the English parliamentarian army gathered its forces around the fortified city of Galway and a long siege lasting nine months ensued after various truce offers were turned down by both sides. A Colonel Peter Stubbers had been appointed Military Governor of Galway and on the 12th of April 1652 after the great siege he led the Cromwellian army as they marched triumphantly into the city. Two years later in October 1654 the last tribal mayor of Galway, Thomas Lynch, was forcibly removed from office and replaced by Stubbers who now became the first protestant mayor of the new order in Galway. Stubbers also took over the mayor’s house at No. 15 High Street. While Governor and then Mayor of Galway Stubbers initiated and enforced a brutal puritan regime on the town and peoples of Galway. Stubbers had all priests rounded up and marched off to prison to the sound of beating drums and blowing bugles. He also made frequent nightly raids throughout the countryside rounding up over 1000 Irishmen for transportation to the West Indies where they were sold as slaves.
The town also witnessed the more excessive elements of Puritanism in the despoiling of the churches and tombs both within and outside the town walls. They went so far as to break open the tombs and root out the bodies in search of treasure, usually when disappointed they left the carcasses uncovered so that they were often found mangled and eaten by dogs. After their desecration the town churches were used as stables for the horses of the Cromwellian soldiers. Stubber’s reign of terror, however, came to an end with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. Upon this event Stubbers suddenly and mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
Stubbers was to be the only member of Cromwell’s inner circle to escape any form of punishment. Very little is known of him after this period, but it appears he fled to Germany. Stubbers had at least one son Edward, who had also acquired property in Galway and the building at 15 high street was actually in the Stubbers family until 1932 when it was finally sold. The building was later turned into a public house and was appropriately named the Kings Head.
We also visited a fascinating little Church, St-Nicholas Collegiate Church, built in 1320, it is the oldest medieval parish church still in use in Ireland. The church is dedicated to St.Nicholas of Myra (aka Santa Claus). It is said that Christopher Columbus worshipped in the church in 1477. It is an Anglican church today and the Russian and Romanian Orthodox communities also worship there.
We departed Galway by entering into an old railway hotel, The Meyric Hotel on Eyre Square. This was another neat thing about this railway trip, usually if you depart Galway by train you go straight to the railway station. However in our case Belmond had arranged for us to pass through the hotel and bypass the train station all together, like in the old days when patrons of the Meyric went through a private door opened only for them which gave unto a private platform where our train was waiting, how very nice.