History of Galway Races

Galway-Races-historyTo date, The Galway Races has had a long and exciting history. and has become what it now one of the most famous tracks in the world.

The Galway Races holds a very special place in the heart of many race-goers from across the globe, and indeed in the hearts of Galwegians themselves. It has been the subject of many a famous songs and poems.

In the Beginning

In 1764 there was a five-day race meeting at Knockbarron near Loughrea, and exactly 100 years later, the ‘Western Plate’ race was confined to “gentlemen riders qualified for National Hunt Races at Punchestown or members of the County Galway Hunt”. The first racing festival held in Ballybrit was a two-day event with the first race meeting on Tuesday, 17th August, 1869.

Contemporary records show that a staggering forty thousand people turned up to attend the race meeting. To cater for the crowds who arrived into the city in the lead up to the festival, the public park area in Eyre Square was set up as a campsite. The Chairman of the Stewards at the race meeting was Lord St. Lawrence, then M.P. for Galway and a main contributor to Punchestown racecourse. His fellow stewards were also involved in the tradition of hunting and steeple chasing – men like the Marquis of Clanricard, Lord Claremorris, Captain Blake Forster, Henry S. Persse, Pierce Joyce, George Morris and Valentine Black. More…

Papal Visit

Galway-Races_Papal-VisitThe visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Galway on the 30th September 1979 is one of the most memorable moments in the history of Galway and indeed the Galway Racecourse in Ballybrit. It is estimated that 280,000 people flocked to Ballybrit to enjoy the papal visit. There were 77 concelebrants, 200,000 communicants with 800 priests distributing communion and 4,000 stewards.

There was a great air of expectation, excitement and calm amongst the 280,000 crowd awaiting the arrival on the papal helicopter. Flocks of people thronged to the racecourse with layers of clothes on, backpacks, plastic bags of food and flasks. There were lots of people on the side of the road selling stools, large umbrellas and flags of all sizes. More…

Present Day

In over one hundred years of racing at Ballybrit, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength with now in excess of 150,000 poeple attending the week long festival every year. Recognised as the greatest mid-summer festival in Ireland, punters from all over the world visit the famous race track year after year for a great mixture of racing and old Irish craic. When the racing is over they stream into the city to carry late into the night. The Galway Race Course Committee pays tribute to Lord St. Lawrence, the man who started it all.

Important Dates in Galway Races History

Songs and Poetry written about The Galway Races