History of Hotel Meyrick
Since its establishment in 1852, the Railway Hotel - later known as the Great Southern Hotel and in recent years as Hotel Meyrick - has been a by-word for exquisite luxury and excellence in Galway. It has been intrinsically tied in to the history of Galway since the mid-nineteenth century and many notable and historic figures have been welcomed across the threshold from heads of state, kings and princes to adventurers, soldiers, writers and actors.
In 1670, a Cromwellian Officer named Edward Eyre acquired by lease a number of properties, among them the area now known as Eyre Square, lease for 99 years at a yearly rent of £3. He also acquired the house of Robert Martin, which was located approximately on the site of the present day hotel. Fast forward to the mid-nineteenth century and a block of tenement houses which occupied the site had to be demolished to make way for the hotel. The build was completed at a cost of £30,000 for the Midland and Great Western Railway Company. The company’s architect, John Skipton Mulvany, designed both the Galway railway station and hotel.
The Railway Hotel was opened to the public on the 16th of August 1852 at a total cost of £24,960.1s.10d. One of the first functions ever held at the ‘Railway Hotel’ was the Galway Subscription Ball organised by Lady Clanmorris and Lady Redington and held just 10 days after opening. It was the event of the year and all acknowledged the hotel as being the lap of luxury. A correspondent from the Railway Times in September of 1852 found the hotel already full to capacity!
The first royal visitor arrived in July 1857 when Prince Louis Napoleon of France visited for lunch, shortly after landing in Galway docks on board his steam yacht La Reine Hortense.
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. Following the Civil War, normality returned to the hotel and business continued as usual.
Alcock & Brown
On June 15th 1919, Galway got its first glimpse of air travel when the first non-stop transatlantic flight landed at Derrygimla Bog near Clifden. Aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight when they flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber for 72 hours from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden in Connemara. Both men stayed in the Hotel Meyrick that night and the festivities carried on into the early hours of the morning.
Great Southern Hotel Group
1920s – 1950’s
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 Railway Company.
On Monday October 23rd 1933, Charles and Annie Lindbergh arrived in Galway after landing his seaplane near Mutton Island. 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 over-run with tourists, so much so, that they had to be accommodated in the lobby and any section were people could manage a nights sleep. CIE 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 2006 the Great Southern Hotels group was sold and the Galway Hotel was proudly bought by the rapidly growing Monogram Hotels group. The Monogram Hotel group portfolio consisted of the g hotel in Galway, a five star property which was designed by Philip Treacy, and the d hotel in Drogheda and five star Ashford Castle in Cong, Co. Mayo. Monogram Hotels re-named the Galway hotel ‘Hotel Meyrick’ in order to maintain a link to its historical background. Eyre Square was once named Meyrick Square, so this was the perfect choice. To celebrate this new ownership Hotel Meyrick underwent a refurbishment programme which commenced in May 2007 and was completed in April 2009.
Famous Past Visitors of Hotel Meyrick
For many years 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.
Presidents included Sean T.O’Kelly, Eamon de Valera, Erskine Childers, Patrick Hillary, Cearbhall O’Dalaigh and Mary Robinson visited for lunch, as did President Charles De Gaulle of France and the current President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins was welcomed to Galway on the steps of Hotel Meyrick.
Na Taoisigh (Irish Prime Ministers) included John A. Costello, Sean Lemass, Garret Fitzgerald, Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern.
Sports Stars included George Best, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, John Aldridge and Irish rugby hero Tommy Bowe.
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 McNally, 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.
Writers who stayed at the hotel include John B. Keane, Brendan Behan and Liam O’Flaherty. Liam O’Flaherty stayed at the hotel over long periods of time during the late 1940s. He was extremely friendly with Tom Flanagan, who supplied him with pots of coffee well into the night as he worked on his books. In fact one of his books, was actually written in the hotel.