County Galway (Gaillimh)


Galway is the second largest county in Ireland. Physically it divides into two distinct parts; the eastern two thirds are flat, with many small lakes and rivers, while the western part of the county includes the area known as Connemara, with its rocky bogs, fjords, and magnificent mountains. The west of the county has the largest remaining Irish-speaking population of any county in Ireland.

Before the advent of the Normans in the twelfth century, the west of the county was a separate territory, in the possession of the O'Flahertys. In theory, these were dispossessed by the granting of the region to the de Burgos, ancestors of the Burkes, in the thirteenth century, but they retained their power more or less intact down to the final catastrophe of the seventeenth century.

One area over which the Normans gained decisive control was Galway city. After the building of the town walls around 1270, a strong trading and seafaring tradition developed, which saw Galway merchants travelling as far afield as Spain and the West Indies. Traces of Spanish influence can still be seen in the city. In recent years it has undergone an explosive growth in population, and has become one of the major cultural centres in Ireland.

Surnames associated with the county include Burke, Conneely, Madden, O'Flaherty, Egan, Joyce, Kelly, Mannion, Lally, McDonagh, and Hession,