The River Corrib takes its present name from the lake, but its Irish language name – Abhainn na Gaillimhe – recalls its ancient and still-legal name, the River of Galway. The Book of Lecan, written in Irish between 1397 and 1418, tells that the river was named after Gaillimh, the daughter of Breasal, who drowned in its cold waters. It has been suggested that this Breasal was a king of the Fir Bolg, a mythical race of Greek origin that ruled over Ireland for 37 years.
The earliest recorded names for the Gaelic-Irish and Anglo-Norman fortified settlements on the riverbank, where the city of Galway today stands, included elements of her name – Dún Bhun na Gaillimhe and Bungalvy Castle. In time, the town and, later, the county and bay would be called Galway. And so Gaillimh, long before Steve Earle or Ed Sheeran sang of their muses, was the very first Galway Girl!
A famous mid-seventeenth century pictorial map of Galway shows a large rock near the western bank of the river with a note, in Latin, that translates as ‘the rock, where the woman Galva is said to have been drowned, from which the city of Galway was named’. It seems that the rock survived into the 1840s, when some of the townspeople proposed erecting a stone pillar with a bilingual inscription on the rock as a monument to the drowned girl. It never materialised and, it seems, the rock was blasted in the 1850s to make a foundation for the present-day Weir House, or Galway County Club.
To learn more about the local history, legends and folktales of the Corrib come along to Heritage Week 2022 at Galway City Museum. FREE Corrib Talk and Trail events every day from Tuesday 16 August to Saturday 20 August from 12pm until 1pm. BOOK NOW by phoning 091 532460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bain sult as!
Other Corrib related events happening during Heritage Week are listed HERE.