Within the Walls of Medieval Galway

Rome boasts sev'n hill, the Nile its sev'n-fold stream,

Around the pole sev'n radiant planets gleam;

Galway, Connacht's Rome, twice equals these;

She boasts twice sev'n illustrious families*.

The town of Galway was established by the Anglo-Normans. Previous to their arrival, there was a Gaelic settlement on the banks of the Corrib, called Dún Bhun na Gaillmhe ('the fort at the mouth of the Gaillimhe', now the Corrib), which was built in 1124 by Turlough Mór O'Connor (1088–1156), King of Connacht and High King of Ireland, with opposition.

In 1232, Dún Bhun na Gaillimhe was captured by Richard Mór de Burgh, 1st Lord of Connaught, who established a stronghold on the east bank of the river. A town developed about the castle, which prospered as a result of trade. The de Burgos collected taxes for the building of the town walls, which eventually enclosed and fortified an area from modern-day Eyre Square to the River Corrib (see map).

In 1484, Richard III granted Galway a charter, permitting its citizens to form a corporation and to elect a mayor, thus freeing the town from the control of the de Burghs. For the next two hundred years Galway was ruled by an oligarchy of fourteen merchant families, who became known as the "Tribes of Galway". The town flourished as a result of international trade, and became the principal Irish port for trade with Spain and France. Although Galway remained loyal to the English Crown, its geographical isolation from other loyalist settlements led to the development of a virtually independent city-state ruled by merchants.

Political upheavals in England in the late 17th century had disastrous consequences for Galway and the City fell into a long period of decline, from which it did not fully recover until the late 20th century.

*Verse found in the margins of the 1651 Map of Galway (Hardiman, 1820, 25).


Page link: Medieval Galway:
Medieval Galway:
An Introduction
Page link: By-Laws of Medieval Galway:
By-Laws of Medieval Galway:
"That neither O, ne Mac, shoulde strutte ne swagger, throughe the streetes of Gallway"
Page link: Schedule of Tolls:
Schedule of Tolls:
"The king to the bailiffs and good men of Galvy in Ireland greeting"
Page link: The Tribes of Galway
The Tribes of Galway
Athy, Browne, Bodkin, Blake, Darcy, Deane, Font, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris & Skerret