The Atlanta Hotel

Joseph Owens lived in Glenamaddy with his wife, who was born Annie M Tuohy. They had three children, Dick, Mary, and her twin Joseph (born February 4, 1912 ), who was known to one and all as Josie. The father died very young. Annie remarried, this time to a man named Doorly, and in 1922, the family bought a four-bay four-storey early 19th century house in Lower Dominick Street from Nora O’Donnell and moved to Galway. Annie was a busy woman, she opened a drapery shop where she designed clothes, made them and sold them in her shop, and she kept lodgers upstairs, all as she was rearing her children.

Josie went to the Monastery School and from there to the Bish, He then went to work in Mattie Hynes’ garage in Middle Street and sold insurance on a part-time basis. He married Nelly English from Cahir, Co Tipperary and they had three children, Joseph, Mary and Norita. Eventually, his mother asked Josie to move back with his family and help run the Dominick Street business. He did so, and transformed the drapery shop/guesthouse into the successful Atlanta Hotel. The hotel was family-run and it had a homely atmosphere. Their chief aim was to make the customer comfortable and their stay an enjoyable one. It was associated for many years with Cúirt, the Arts Festival and good parties after Druid openings. It was mostly locals who frequented their small bar, though they did have a five o’clock group of doctors, businessmen and local workers who came in almost daily.

Josie was a close friend of Tommy Nevin who had a drapery business on the street. Tommy also ran The Hangar Ballroom and sent many of the visiting musicians to stay in the Atlanta, people as varied as Mick Delahunty, Van Morrison, Dolores O’Riordan, the Hothouse Flowers, and The Premier Aces. Many visiting actors also stayed there including Jim Sheridan, Niall Tóibín, Anna Manahan, Frank Kelly and Tom Hickey.

Josie Owens was a highly versatile sportsman who competed at a high level in an extraordinary number of sports — rugby, soccer, swimming, water polo, tennis and rowing. He was a founding member of Corinthians RFC and played for them many times helping to win cups and leagues. He represented Connacht 18 times and as you can see from the caricature published by the Irish Independent in 1945, at 5' 8" and 10 stone in weight, he was one of the lightest wing forwards to play for a representative side but worth his weight in gold to any team. He was capped for Ireland in rugby and also in soccer.

Josie was a founder of Galway Rovers Soccer Club in 1937, became secretary of the Connacht FA and served on the FAI Junior Committee. He was prominent in rowing circles and coxed Galway Rowing Club and Commercial Boat Club crews. In swimming, he won the Prom Swim, various Connacht championships and the Galway Regatta Swim. He was a good water polo player, won the Taaffe Shield and competed regularly in Galway Docks.

He was only 19 when he ran as an independent in the local election. He was defeated on the 24th count, but was successful at the following election when he became Ireland’s youngest ever alderman. He was elected Mayor of Galway in 1953-54.

In later years, he took an avid interest in gardening and took great pride in his garden at the back of the hotel. He remained active until his death in 1994. His son Joe, and Joe’s wife Joan then took over the business and ran it until 2004, when they sold the building.

Our first image is of Annie Doorly outside her drapery shop c1930, our second is of the façade of the Atlanta Hotel c1960 and the third is the caricature of Josie published by the Irish Independent in 1945.

 

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