Galway Bay, song and map

Galway Bay is a significant feature on Ireland’s west coast. It has featured not only on many interesting maps but also in song.


It was made famous as a song when recorded by the late Bing Crosby during the 1950s. The author of Galway Bay, Dr. Arthur Colohan from Leicester, England had died before Bing Crosby’s recording propelled it to become an international item.

There is also another more traditional song of this name, which was recorded by Galway singer, Dolores Keane. Many other songs make reference to Galway Bay.

And map

Various maps have helped provide pathways towards an understanding of the coves and inlets dotted along the coastline which stretches from the Cliffs of Moher to the south and the Connemara coastline on the northern shores, with the three Aran islands guarding the entrance to Galway Bay.

As the momentum built towards a revolution in France c 1780 a map of the Galway/Clare coastlines was provided in 1785 through the work of a French admiralty crew. Later two Martello towers were installed on the Galway Bay coastline, one at Finnavarra and another at Aughinish, constructed by English admiralty engineers, to repel a possible French invasion, before Napoleon diverted his gaze towards Russia.

The recent exhibition of Irish items at the Art Institute of Chicago (see also an earlier post), included an 1811 map of Ireland showing Galway Bay and the primary nautical land-points along the Galway/Clare coastline. Today, two hundred years on, some of those place-names are no longer present within the local vocabulary, although primary sites such as Black Head at the entrance to Galway Bay and Corcomroe Abbey are listed. This map, held in the Art Institute’s OBrien Collection, consists of a hand-colored engraving on paper, laid down on linen; each section 94.6 x 73.7 cm and there are four evenly divided sections/quarters.

Another earlier map of Galway Bay.

The map shown above is not the 1811 map, but an even earlier chart from a Maritime Survey of Ireland by Murdoch Mackenzie in 1776.

During our international Clan reunion at Ballyvaughan, September 2010, Tom OLoughlin, Nottingham university, England provided an enthralling presentation on the role played by maps since the arrival of the medieval period.

The Art Institute captured it well in the slogan for their Irish exhibition:

It’s music for the eyes

About BrendO

Musician in Canberra Australia
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