A Short History of Rúibín Bar & Restaurant

Prior to the development of the New Docks harbour in the 1840’s the business yards of the local merchants located on Merchant’s Road extended from the businesses to the sea. In that time the harbour, mostly used by small fishing vessels, was centred around Long Walk and Claddagh. The additional docks that can be seen from Rúibín Bar and Restaurant were built in the 1840’s and 1850’s giving rise to the street names “New Docks Road” and “New Docks Street.” These were extended in the 1930’s and deepened in the 1960’s. As well as building the Docks, in approximately 1850 a number of houses and stores were built, including those now forming the bar and restaurant. At that time Captain Neil Delargy, from Cushindall in Antrim, frequently carried cargoes too and from the newly developed harbour. He met and married a widow from Connemara and the family settled in the houses currently no. 1 to no. 5 New Docks Road. The houses become business places as well as residences. As a ships captain Neil Delargy was frequently absent and therefore did not supervise directly the property. Over some years dock related businesses developed in the property. One such business, carried on in the premises beside Rúibín, was a “Seaman’s Home” where seamen who were looking for a berth would lodge temporarily. A second such business was a bar and grocery on the ground floor of Rúibín. In those days there were no distinctions made between bar and grocery business and, until the late 1860’s, no special liquor licence was required. When a licence was required it was obtained and the first extant Custom House record of its granting was 1883. Essentially the premises consisted of a small “snug” where captains transacted business, a stone floored room where goods were sold and a back room where seamen and fishermen drank.

An Irish Language Short Story Writer

Since Neil Delargy was a seafaring captain the bar/grocery was mostly let to tenants. One such tenant was Thomas Conroy, son of Patrick Conroy of Rosmuck in Connemara, who rented the premises in the early 1870’s. The 1870’s were a time of depression in Ireland and many departed to America via Galway Port. Thomas Conroy carried on a business as organiser for the Allen Line Passenger Ships which entailed providing contacts for immigrants to the US. While renting the bar his son, Padraig O’Connaire (Patrick Conroy) was born. Padraig O’Connaire spent the first eight years of his life in Galway where the family, still organising passengers for the Allen Line, declined in wealth. When he was six his father decided to use his contacts in the US to immigrate. Shortly afterwards word was sent back from the United States of his contracting fever and dying. Padraig’s mother also died two years later and, now orphaned, he left Galway to live with his relatives in Rosmuck. There he encountered the Irish language as a “living” language used constantly by his relatives. At that time a cultural renaissance centred on the Irish language and Irish traditions was developing in Ireland as a reaction to the English occupation. Padraig was fascinated by the Gaelic he encountered in Rosmuck and absorbed it readily until he left to pursue a degree in Dublin. A principle component of that degree was French writing which was also undergoing its own renaissance centred on writers like Emile Zola. French would also have lasting influence on Padraig’s short story writing. On graduation Padraig became a civil servant in London – a job he regarded as soul destroying. He became deeply involved in writing and teaching Irish, expressing the belief that Ireland would only become free after it had revived its own language and culture. On returning to Ireland with his wife and three daughters he pursued a full time writing career – a mixture of polemic political essays and short stories illuminating Irish life – with critical acclaim but little financial success. Unfortunately, Padraig slowly began to develop alcoholism and, after a break with his family, took to the road as a traveller, eventually dying in a Dublin hospital.

Captain Neil Delargy, Pilot of Galway Harbour

Meanwhile, Captain Neil Delargy had died leaving the property to his son – also Neil – who became employed by Galway Harbour as Chief Pilot. Since his duties as pilot were substantial the premises continued to be let and eventually in 1916 Joseph Flaherty, from the Aran Islands, became a long term tenant – in occupation until 1952. The Delargy family are recorded as living in the house at the corner (which was then separate from the bar) by the 1905 and 1911 censuses.


James Delargy and the depressed times

In 1935, two years prior to his death in 1937, Captain Neil Delargy, then retired from his position as pilot due to declining health, divided the property between his children, with the bar being given to his 20 year old son James. Since it was rented, James continued to work at the Docks, as a carter. Examination of the large window on the corner of Dock1 will show its unusual size. In fact it was originally a door for admission of the horse and carts then used in transporting goods in Galway. It was during this time that James became known for a dry wit – a trait highly regarded by old Galwegians. On one occasion a bull, due for transport by sea, escaped and ran along the Docks causing panic and no small destruction of goods. It had passed James who was later criticised by the bull’s owner for not attempting to stop it. James dryly replied, “I am a stevedore not a matador,” ending the argument. During WWII – called in Ireland “The Emergency” - the dock (and Ireland) prospered supplying the agricultural products England needed. Unfortunately, once the war was over depression set in. Joseph Flaherty’s tenancy ended and the bar was operated for a short time by James but the decline in dock related business prevailed leading to the bar’s closure and emigration by James to England in 1957. Some members of the family accompanied James while others remained in Ireland. Those who remained looked after the now vacant property. James’ stay in England was lengthened by the development of a heart condition which made it impossible for him to work. Eventually, in 1969, some of the principle Licensed Vintners, desiring to increase the sale value of their licences, objected to the premises not being operated. James returned from England, won the court action
objecting to the licence, and reopened the premises with the aid of others in the family.

A period of renovation and extensions

Unfortunately, James Delargy’s heart problems were compounded by hardening of the arteries and prostate problems. These caused his death in March 1976. He left the premises to his niece, Pauline, and her son, the present owner, Robert. In 1976 they carried out the first of a series of renovations and operated the bar (then comprising the house 2 New Dock Road) till the early 1980’s. At that time a second renovation, now the back lounge and men’s toilets, was attempted but not completed. The Docks had been thriving during the late 1970’s but declined during the 1980’s and early 1990’s from two events. Boat trade moved to the southern harbours of Cork and Fynnes and the fishing boats moved to Rossaveel Harbour, a move which represented for them substantial savings in the diesel costs of reaching their fishing grounds. The bar was again let to a succession of tenants and it was operated between the tenancies by Pauline and Robert. Business once again began to improve in the 1990’s and this led to plans for a third renovation and expansion. The death of Pauline in 1995 delayed this but Robert commenced planning applications in 1999. This was a long drawn out procedure due to the protected nature of the structures, which lasted till 2003, Robert operating the bar fully during the period. The renovation, carried out in 2003, completed the back bar extension commenced in 1980 and extended the bar into the two adjoining houses. Dissatisfied with the way the building trades prices were rising during the boom (and anticipating a local downturn) Robert let the bar and commenced renovating sections of the property himself. An additional development, comprising the first floor restaurant was, however, undertaken in conjunction with a builder in 2007/8. Mixing renovating with periods of letting the premises and periods of operation by Robert continued until Aoife Buckley commenced to run the bar and upstairs restaurant in 2014.

In the summer of 2019 the building was given a new lease of life and was taken over by ALice Jary and Richard Kennan. It is now owner run by the pair and is operating under the name of Rúibín. Rúibín is Irish for small a ruby stone. Alice runs the kitchen while Richard looks after front of house. After years of travel and gaining experience they settled back in Galway to live their dream of owning their own business.