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Galway honours centenary of first County Librarian

Galway Public Library service is 100 years old this year – and the first public centenary celebration was to honour the man who was to the forefront when it all began.

Samuel James Maguire was Galway Public Libraries’ first librarian, the man who established, developed, and managed the county’s public library service for 31 years, from 1924 to 1955.

That was why the centenary commemoration began with a graveside commemoration and wreath laying ceremony at his resting place in Rahoon last week.

In attendance was the Mayor of Galway City Cllr. Eddie Hoare, the Cathaoirleach of the County Cllr. Liam Carroll, members of Samuel’s family – including his grandchildren Fergal Pettigrew, Brendan and Cliona Ball, and son-in-law Captain John Ball – as well as former County Librarians and current library and archives staff.

MC for the event, Galway County Council Archivist, Patria McWalter said that the event ‘marked not only the centenary of Galway Public Libraries, but most especially honours its first librarian, Samuel – better known as Sam – James Maguire’.

“Having members of Sam’s extended family with us today makes this an extra special event – we welcome you to our library family and thank you most sincerely for being with us to mark the occasion,” she said.

Tributes were led by the Mayor of the City who spoke of the prominent role Samuel Maguire played in the early experimental library schemes in Ireland.

“Prior to coming to Galway, Maguire was the library organiser for the Carnegie Trust, establishing public library schemes in counties Derry, Donegal, Sligo and Fermanagh and in recognition of his prominent role in the experimental library schemes he was declared, the father of the whole county library service, a huge honour indeed,” said Cllr Hoare.

Samuel Maguire began work in Galway in 1924 on behalf of the Carnegie Trust and was appointed County Librarian in 1926 when Galway County Council assumed control of the service.

During his tenure, Maguire managed over 300 book lending centres and branch libraries in Abbeyknockmoy, Athenry, Ballinalsoe, Ballygar, Carraroe, Clifden, Dunmore, Glenamaddy, Headford, Killimore, Loughrea, Moylough, Oughterard, Portumna, Spiddal, Tuam and Woodford – most of which were open ten hours a week.

Caption: Samuel Maguire’s grandson Fergal Pettigrew speaks of his grandfather, watched attentively by (from left) Galway County Council Archivist Patria McWalter; Interim County & City Librarian Jo Vahey; Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Cllr Liam Carroll, and the Mayor of Galway City, Cllr Eddie Hoare.

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