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The Hotel Meyrick is the oldest hotel in the City of Galway, Ireland. Under various names (Railway Hotel, Great Southern Hotel and Hotel Meyrick) its history has been intertwined with that of Galway since 1852. It is situated on Eyre Square in the heart of the city.
Hotel Meyrick first opened its doors to guests in 1852, it was then known as the Railway Hotel. It was completed at a cost of £30,000 for the Midland Great Western Railway Company. The company's architect, John Skipton Mulvany, designed both the Galway railway station and hotel. Just over the entrance on the façade of the hotel carries Mulvany’s favourite motif, the wreaths. The builder was William Dargan and it is built of limestone ashlar with a cornice over the heavily rusticated ground floor. The only other building in Galway using this limestone is Galway Cathedral. The ground floor also has recessed and architrave windows and a heavy string course.
The original façade was topped by a shelf like Doric cornice. Among the surviving internal features in the hotel is a fine marble fireplace incorporating a pair of bronze discs, emblazoned with the Midland and Great Western Railway arms and is dated 1845.
One of the first functions held at the hotel was the Galway Subscription Ball, among the organisers were Lady Clanmorris and Lady Redington. Another important ball was held there on October 19, 1855. It was a very notable day in the early history of the hotel during which the famous Galway Militia paraded in Eyre Square for the presentation of the colours by the Marchioness of Clanricarde. To celebrate the historic event, Lord and Lady Clanricarde held a ball at the hotel, with all military ranks from Galway, Mayo, Clare and the King’s County attending. No expense was spared for this event and for many years it was hailed as the most successful ball ever held in Galway.
The future Emperor Napoleon III of France was another guest of the hotel, shortly after landing in Galway docks on board his steam yacht La Reine Hortense. The hospitality that the prince received in Galway and indeed his tour of the country sent shockwaves of fear through the administrative and military circles in both Dublin and London, as there was a growing apprehension of French imperial expansionism.
Hotel In War Time
In 1918, the hotel was requisitioned by the British Army and was later handed over to the Irish National Army after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922. That year, during the Irish Civil War, Renmore Military Barracks was taken over by Republican forces and in July of that year, they abandoned the barracks after setting fire to the officer’s mess and accommodation blocks. They moved into the city where they occupied the hotel.
However, after a short time the Republicans were forced to vacate the building and it then fell into the hands of the Free State Troops. Sandbags were quickly erected at the front entrance and these troops stood guard at the hotel until any threat of occupation ceased. Following the Civil War, normality returned to the hotel and business continued as usual.
Alcock and Brown
On June 15, 1919, Galway got its first glimpse of air travel when the first non-stop transatlantic flight landed at Derrygimla Bog near Clifden. The pilots, Captain John Alcock DSC, and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, were taken to Galway in the Marconi motorcar, where they received a hero’s welcome and were royally entertained in the Railway Hotel.
Both men stayed in the hotel that night and the festivities carried on into the early hours of the morning. Despite heavy rain the following day, thousands of people waited for hours outside the hotel to see the two pilots. The following day a civic reception was held in their honour and was followed by dinner in the hotel with a multitude of dignatories.
In 1925, the hotel was renamed the Great Southern Hotel following the merger of the various railway companies in southern Ireland into the Great Southern Railways Company.
On Monday October 23, 1933, Charles Lindbergh and his wife arrived in Galway after landing his seaplane near Mutton Island. The Lindbergh’s visit to Galway was part of an aerial survey being conducted by Pan Am. They stayed in the Great Southern Hotel, where they met with some local dignitaries.
Business was excellent prior to World War II, but when war broke out, people stopped traveling. During the war years the staff received rations of butter, tea and sugar from the hotel. Although business suffered during the war, the following year, 1946, proved excellent with the hotel overrun with tourists, so much so, that they had to be accommodated in the lobby and any section were people could manage a nights sleep. Córas Iompair Éireann was formed through an amalgamation of railways into public ownership, and subsequently Great Southern Hotels then fell under ownership of CIE.
In June 1952, Brian Collins became General Manager. Brian Collins’ legacy in the city is the Galway International Oyster Festival. Brian Collins and Brendan Allen a prominent local businessman approached Paddy Burke of Clarinbridge and suggested the idea of holding an oyster festival to celebrate the opening of the oyster season. A year later, September 1954, the first Galway International Oyster Festival was held at Paddy Burke’s Pub in Clarinbridge and it has continued to present times. In 1953, Queen Salote of the Tonga Islands stayed during her official visit to Ireland. Queen Salote was a rather large woman and a special sized bed had to be shipped from England in order to ensure her a good nights sleep.
Monogram Hotels renamed the Galway hotel ‘Hotel Meyrick’ as the original name for Eyre Square was Meyrick Square. The Company have also refurbished the hotel's public areas.
Lord Oranmore and Browne would take over the 5th floor for two weeks during the shooting season and his guests included actors, writers and other titled people. Other members of the peerage who stayed at the hotel include Lord Longford and Lord Killanin.
Musicians & Singers who stayed at the hotel include the Furey Brothers, the Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains and Papal Count John McCormack.
Actors who visited the hotel include Siobhan McKenna, Ray McAnally, Rex Harrison, David Hemmings, Bing Crosby and his wife Cathy, Micheal Mac Liammoir, Hilton Edwards, Gabriel Byrne, John Ford and David Lean, Richard Harris, Fred Astaire, Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston, John Huston, Paul Newman (Mackintosh Man), John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, Victor McLagan and Barry Fitzgerald.
- "Galway businessman to buy three Great Southern Hotels". Sunday Business Post. 2006-08-24. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
- "Buyers for Great Southern hotels emerge". The Irish Times. 2006-08-08.