Murty Rabbit’s, Galway, Established, 1872

With origins dating back to the California Gold Rush of 1849, this Galway bar, is one of the oldest watering holes in Galway city and when I say it’s worth its weight in gold - I mean it! The pub was bought in 1872 with gold from the 1849 San Francisco Gold Rush by Cormac Rabbitt.  

Sparked by the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill on the American River in 1848, hoards of people from across the globe set sail for California in order to try their luck in the Gold Rush. Amongst these men who would go on to become known as the ‘Forty Niners’, was Cormac Rabbitt. A Galwegian with a strong work ethic, Cormac made the courageous journey from coast to coast and his bravery was certainly rewarded. Cashing in his gold and returning home just over ten years later, he came back with enough gold to plant the seeds of a new business empire in Galway. Rabbitt opened up a flour milling business on Quay Street in 1860. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go according to plan - at least not at first.

As fate would have it, the building went up in flames some time later but as the old saying goes, “when one door closes, another opens’. In putting the last of his Gold Rush money into the establishment of a bar and grocery store, Cormac Rabbitt was to open the doors of a premises which became a venerable Galway institution passed down through the Rabbitt family for several generations.  

Its floor sprinkled with sawdust to soak up the muck from their wellies, the pub became a focal point for cattle drivers and farmers selling to the nearby Fairgreen market and abattoir. The pub had a special early morning exemption licence allowing them to cater to the early market traders. Murty Rabbitt’s bottled their own special whiskey here using John Jameson and Wedderburn’s Jamaica Rum.  

Murty Rabbitt’s has left an indelible mark on local and, indeed, Irish history. One of the leaders of the Oranmore Volunteers, Joe Howley, sought refuge here from British soldiers who were in 1916, on the hunt for rebel Irish forces. Joe Howley hid in Murty Rabbitt’s after the Rising in Galway but was eventually arrested on the premises, imprisoned and later shot dead by the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1920. A monument was erected in his honour and it can be found standing proudly in Oranmore to this day.