The Galway sheep is one of the oldest breeds in the country being around for approximately 300 years. It was the major breed in the huge landlord estates which existed up to the beginning of this century.
In the year 1922 the then Minister of Agriculture, a Galway man, Mr Paddy Hogan in consultation with breeders and officers from his department decided to preserve the breed. Out of a selection of 6,000 ewes and 200 rams approximately
600 ewes and 20 rams were admitted to the flock book. Thus the foundations of the pedigree breed was laid on the principle of selection to a chosen standard.
Following this a number of people from the county set about the formation of the Galway Sheep Breeders Society on the 5th November 1922 at Athenry Agricultural College, now Mellows College.
Members from the parish included: Willie Fahy, Moyvilla; Pat Sice, Boyhill; Jim Somers, Newford; and Thomas Higgins, Athenry.
In September 1923 the first show and sale took place at Newford farm and continued there annually for some time.
Exhibits arrived by horse- drawn carts from a distance of 25 miles. If such a scene were to happen today it would hit the national headlines. It would definitely be on the front page of the Irish Farmers Journal.
In the year 1927 the Society began to exhibit at the Royal Dublin Society’s Spring Show and continued each year with a display. Later on many others from this parish joined the Society.
Among these were: Paddy Healy, Greethill; Thomas Keane, Derrydonnell; John Fahy, Moyvilla; Joe Higgins, Castle Lambert; Michael Hession, North Gate Street, James Burke, Binn.
Indeed some of them hit the headlines with their prize-winning sheep at many Agricultural Shows
City Tribune – Galway Sheep Breeders 49th Annual Show at Athenry Mary September 21 1972. Holding sheep 4th from right – Sice, Joe Hynes, Tommy Sice and Festus Conroy.
Galway sheep are white in colour with a long fleece of close and fine texture. The Galway wool commands the top price and is regarded as the premier wool in its range.
Role of Galway Sheep
As well as being an excellent pure-bred the Galway Sheep has tremendous potential to offer as a cross—bred. It is an excellent choice on hill breeds to produce cross- bred ewes noted as good fat lamb mothers and is also widely used in crossing with Suffolk and Texel rams. A hardy breed it can readily adapt to different climatic conditions.
We are aiming to have the Galway Sheep included in the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Our recent show and sale which was held on the 18th September last was a great success with buyers attending from Northern Ireland and resulted in five registered Galway hoggets making 120 guineas each.
The Galway Sheep Breeders Society extends congratulations to Joe Healy on his election as National President of Macra na Feirme. As the Healy name has deep roots in the Society we hope he will extend the love of the Galway Sheep from the Fields of Greethill to many within the Macra fold.
In conclusion I would like to express our sincere thanks to Dermot McNamara of Teagasc and Henry Hughes from the livestock office in Galway for their many years of dedication to the Galway breed and to Paul and Maud Thompson, Old Church Street, Athenry who provide us with meeting accommodation. I would also like to thank the Athenry Parish Journal for publishing this article and I wish it every success.
Feature Photo – Tom Feeney, Michael Conneely, Tom Murphy, Paddy Broderick, Sean Kilkelly, Henry Hughes, Michael Maher, Padraig Niland, Michael Melia with prize winning ram lambs at the Galway Sheep Breeders Show and Sale in Athenry 2014
Written by E Sice
Published here 09 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995