Eyre Square (Irish: An Fhaiche Mhór), also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park) is an inner-city public park in Galway, Ireland. The park is within the city centre, adjoining the nearby shopping area of William Street and Shop Street. Galway station is adjacent to Eyre Square.
The park is rectangular, surrounded on three sides by streets that form the major traffic arteries into Galway city centre; the west side of the Square was pedestrianised in 2006.
History of Eyre Square
Eyre Square c. 1897
The origin of the square comes from medieval open space in front of a town gate, known as The Green. Markets mostly took place in the northern part of the space. The earliest endeavour to formally enclose it was recorded in 1631. Some ash-trees were planted and the park was enclosed by a wooden fence. The plot of land that became Eyre Square was officially presented to the city in 1710 by Mayor Edward Eyre, from whom it took its name.
In 1801, General Meyrick erected a stone wall around the square, which was later known as Meyrick Square. In the middle of the 19th century, the whole park underwent a redevelopment in Georgian style. In the 1960s, a full-scale reconstruction started and iron railings were removed and raised around the backyard of St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church.
In 1965, the square was officially renamed "John F. Kennedy Memorial Park" in honour of U.S. President John F. Kennedy; despite the renaming, the square is still widely known as Eyre Square. Kennedy had visited Galway city and made a speech in the square on 29 June 1963, the first U.S. president to do so during his term of office
Statues and attractions
Fountain depicting Galway Hookers in Eyre Square with Browne doorway in background
Before the most recent, controversial re-landscaping, the park used to house two large cast-iron cannons which were presented in recognition of the service of the Connaught Rangers, an Irish Regiment in the British Army, in the Crimean War. A statue of Irish language writer Pádraic Ó Conaire was erected in his memory in 1935. However, during the redevelopment works, this was removed and it now resides in the Galway City Museum in the Spanish Arch area of the city. There is a portrait bust of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the park, and a statue of Liam Mellows (1892–1992), a hero of the War of Independence, in the car park to the east of the Browne Doorway.
The Browne doorway is also another attraction in Eyre Square; it was originally the doorway of the Browne family's home on Lower Abbeygate Street, but was moved in 1905 from Abbeygate Street to Eyre Square. Recently it has had to be shored up, buttressed and encased in plexiglass due to neglect.