Discover the treacherous tale of the execution of the King of England, the unmasking of his executioner, and the executioner’s reward… the finest tavern in Galway…The Kings Head
The Kings Head Pub is located on High Street in the heart of Galway’s Latin Quarter. This landmark pub has earned a fantastic reputation for live music and comedy, good honest hearty food and great craic over three floors. Owned and managed by the Grealish family for over 20 years, The Kings Head now adjoins the award-winning Malt House Restaurant.
800 years of history
The Kings Head dates back over 800 years with research showing the building in existence since the 13th century. Speed’s famous map of Galway – drawn in 1651 – shows 15 High Street as one of the tallest and most prominent buildings in the town with the impressive Bank’s Castle adjoining it to the rear.
City of the Tribes
The building has several links to the 14 Tribes of Galway; above the two fireplaces you’ll find marriage stones from the Martin, Bodkin and Lynch families.
The Kings Head, however, is forever linked to the Lynch tribe given that the building was the home of the Mayor of Galway, Thomas Lynch Fitz-Ambrose in 1654.
Execution of King Charles I
Following the execution of the King of England Charles I on 3rd Jan 1649, Cromwell’s army came to Ireland to assert their authority. Lead by one of Cromwell’s most loyal and trusted henchmen, Col. Peter Stubbers, they laid siege to Galway.
Stubbers seizes the Mayor’s city, his office and his home
After Galway’s surrender in April 1653, Stubbers became the town’s military Governor and when the Mayor and Corporation objected to the outrages being perpetrated on the citizens of Galway they were forcibly removed from office in 1654. To add insult to injury Stubbers not only replaced Lynch Fitz-Ambrose as Mayor but also seized his splendid house in High Street, now home to The Kings Head Pub.
Price of Royal Blood
In Search of the Executioner
When Richard Brandon, Executioner for the City of London refused involvement in the execution, emissaries were sent to Ireland, Scotland and Wales in search of a volunteer. Stubbers’ neighbour to the rear of 15 High Street was the executioner “prime suspect” Richard Gunning. Legend had it that Gunning was given the property as payment for his part in the execution of King Charles I – the ‘Price of Royal Blood’. Unmasking the Executioner Legend has it Gunning was heard to boast in the Taverns of Galway that his arm “had felt the muscles on the neck of the King of England” but it’s more likely that the man behind the mask who wielded the axe was in fact… Stubbers. Research by Galway historian Jackie Uí Chionna directly links Stubbers to the execution of the King. Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II introduced the Act of Indemnity that pardoned those who conspired against his father. However, he specifically exempted Stubbers from this ‘pardon’ and this, along with his ‘swift exit and subsequent disappearance’, makes it extremely likely that he had a real case to answer. A case, then, of ‘right legend, wrong man!’ Recent Discovery While conducting research in Oxford University in England in 2011, Jackie Ui Chionna discovered exciting new evidence. A document in the Bodleian Library there appears to confirm Stubbers involvement in the Execution of Charles 1. A letter hand written by King Charles II identifies Stubbers as ‘a Halberdier (an axeman), that assisted at that execrable murder of our Royal Father.’
What’s in a name?
From Mayors to Executioners the building’s rich history lives on in ‘The Kings Head Pub’… well what else were we going to call it!
A Window to the Past
The Kings Head is a true piece of living history; you can touch it, feel it and taste it. During renovations in 1996 and 2005 several discoveries were made. The modern plaster work was removed to reveal two medieval fireplaces, several cut-stone windows and the medieval walls of Bank’s Castle. The fireplace inside the front door, dated 1612, celebrates 400 years in 2012, but history aside, it’s a great place to leave your pint. The Kings Head gratefully acknowledges the advice and support of Jim Higgins (Heritage Officer for Galway City), Jackie Uí Chionna (Historian), Paul Gosling (GMIT Archaeologist) and Galway Civic Trust.
Execution: Take 2
A ‘Macnas style’ spoof re-enactment written and directed by Galway based Actor Rod Goodall has been performed on a number of occasions outside The Kings Head. It recently featured on TV in ‘Wogan’s Ireland’ on BBC when Sir Terry Wogan visited the pub. The history of The Kings Head also featured recently on RTE’s ‘Nationwide’ programme. Both clips can be viewed on The Kings Head youtube channel KHTV.
Today The Kings Head is a great place to eat fresh wholesome food, to catch a live gig or to enjoy a pint or a cocktail.