Set In Stone:
For the tribes of Galway, marriage was quite literally set in stone, as a new discovery of a historic marriage stone at the site of the former Jury’s Inn hotel, now the Leonardo hotel has been unveiled. Workmen taking down a partition during recent renovation works of the bar unearthed the distinct stone carving of two crests celebrating the union of the dynastic Lynch and Browne families.
This alliance between two of Galway’s powerful 14 merchant families, who dominated the political, commercial and social landscape of the city up to the 17th century is shrouded in mystery, thanks to this latest finding, which according to Galway Walks raconteur and tourism professional Brian Nolan, is suspiciously located in the wrong place.
A Galway Tradition:
Marriage stones are unique to Galway. During the medieval period, when a couple married, an elaborate stone etching would be created with the year of the marriage and the couple’s initials. Many bore the family crest alongside Latin phrasing and artwork. Traditionally, this would be placed outside the home of the residing couple or above their fireplace.
According to Nolan, there are 28 surviving stones across the city, including this latest discovery at the Leonardo hotel. Dating back to 1645, it is the most recent example of a marriage stone.
“The Nolan and Skerritt marriage stone on Abbeygate Street dates back to 1641 and it has been pipped by this discovery,” says Nolan. “It’s amazing these have survived, they are 400 years old, and it’s just astonishing.”
The Plot Thickens:
This celebration of the Lynch and Browne nuptials between the bride, with the initials IP, and the groom, with initials TL, has captured the imagination of Nolan as he looks to unravel the secret behind the final destination of the stone.
“There was no Lynch or Browne house at that end of town!” says Nolan.
“The mystery starts there and the plot thickens. I haven’t solved it and I am highly suspicious! “Somehow, it ended up out of context, in the wrong building and I want to figure out where it came from. I have named the bride Isabella Browne and the groom Thomas Lynch, but I want to find out who they really were.”
The Last Stone:
As it was crafted in 1645, Nolan believes this is one of the last marriage stones to be created in Galway. Following the siege of Galway during the Cromwellian conquest from August 1651 to May 1652, the city was “completely destroyed”.
“All of the buildings were in a terrible state of decay,” he explains.
“Luckily some of the stones were rescued from the derelict buildings. While many were badly damaged and weathered, some were kept indoors and ended up as trophies – albeit a big, heavy trophy. They were regularly stolen and moved to different locations.”
The Quest Continues:
For Nolan, the building of the partition in the 1980s at the then Jury’s Inn Hotel over the site of the marriage stone may have been to quieten the restless ghostly ancestors of the Lynch and Browne clan. With his inimitable wit, he says they would “never have been happy to be placed so close to Blake’s Castle.”
Now, he quips that the rebranding of the Leonardo hotel could be their way of saying they are “happy that Leonardo has come to town” and they “suddenly decided they wanted to be seen”.
Whatever the truth behind the tale, he is on a quest to solve the secret, while also hoping the finding will lead to a new name for the hotel bar in honour of this historic romantic pairing of the Lynch and Browne clan. To find out more, or to take part in his highly entertaining and informative walks of the city log on to galwaywalks.com