On Friday March 27th 2015, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins officially launched the Fishery Watchtower Museum just off Wolfetone bridge, Galway and afterwards attended a special launch event held in Jurys Inn.
Inland Fisheries Ireland, owners of the Watchtower, in collaboration with Dúchas na Gaillimhe - Galway Civic Trust were responsible for the restoration and safe access to the tower and in delivering this very worthwhile project. Both organisations were acutely aware of their responsibility to preserve the Watchtower, a protected structure, and to ensure that a suitable end use was found for the tower, which is now a dedicated Museum to the Galway Fisheries.
The Watchtower was acquired when the Galway Fishery was purchased by the State in 1978. At that time the tower had a very practical purpose and in addition to monitoring salmon movements was also used to ensure that no untoward activity (poaching) occurred on the adjacent section of the Corrib as well as acting as a base for a salmon draft net station. Of course following the purchase by the State netting of salmon ceased. From 1997 the Watchtower was operated by Dúchas na Gaillimhe – Galway Civic Trust as a tourist attraction, under a licence agreement with the Wesrtern Regional Fishery Board which was subsequently subsumed into Inland Fisheries Ireland and proved popular with tourists and locals alike up until the access bridge became dangerous and was forced to close in 2007.
With safe access to the tower no longer available, pressure came on for the bridge to be replaced and the work of Delo Collier of Dúchas na Gaillimhe – Galway Civic Trust, the Natural Enviornment and Waterways Special Policy Committee of Galway City Council, and the City Councillors were instrumental in bringing about the provision of the new bridge and refurbishment works. Caroline McNeill, Supervisor with Dúchas na Gaillimhe – Galway Civic Trust supervised the internal refurbishment and was responsible for the design and the layout of the Museum with the dedicated help and work of her Community Employemt Scheme. Seamus Hartigan, Fishery Manager was also key to bringing the tower back to life.
The total cost of the project (design, archaeology, removal of old bridge, construction and installation of new bridge) came to approximately €170,000
The old collapsed bridge which had stood for 160 years since the Watchtower’s construction in the mid-1800s was removed by IFI personnel in June 2012. The personnel who undertook this job are to be congratulated as it was not an easy undertaking given its location and dangerous condition.
The new replacement bridge was designed by local architects Simon J Kelly & Co. and blends in seamlessly with the pedestrian walkway on the upstream side of Wolfetone Bridge which it abuts. The new bridge was installed by Ward & Burke Construction Ltd in March 2013 and engineering and advisory services were provided by ARUP.
Following the installation of the new bridge, Dúchas na Gaillimhe – Galway Civic Trust and Inland Fisheries Ireland again had easy access to the tower and work began in partnership to refurbish the building which had deteriorated over the previous number of years. Anyone who has the opportunity to visit the tower will be impressed with the work done, the museum exhibits and of course the unobstructed panoramic views of Galway Bay and the lower Corrib.
Since the Watchtower’s “unofficial opening” in late summer 2014 almost 4,000 have visited the Museum and the comments in the visitors book have been very complimentary. The Watchtower will continue to be a key attraction in Galway city for both visitors and locals alike. Dúchas na Gaillimhe – Galway Civic Trust were delighted to be involved in this most important project and it reflects the work of the Trust in relation to protecting & enhancing Galway’s natural, cultural & built heritage
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4.45pm. Monday and Saturday 11am to 3pm. Free guided tours available. Donations are welcome.
Dúchas na Gaillimhe - Galway Civic Trust
Committed to protecting and enhancing Galway's natural, built and cultural heritage