© Donal G. Burke 2013
From the Anglo-Norman conquest of Connacht in 1235 Loughrea served as the principal seat of power of the de Burgh Earls of Ulster and Lords of Connacht in the latter lordship. After the decline of that lordship as a unified entity in the fourteenth century Loughrea continued as the seat of power until the seventeenth century of their descendants the Burke chieftains of the territory of Clanricarde, which would form a large part of the later County Galway.
Established in 1861, the Loughrea Town Commissioners discussed the subject of a coat of arms relating to the town on a number of occasions in the mid 1970s. At a meeting of the Loughrea Town Commissioners in April 1976, the Board of the Commissioners discussed a letter received from the office of the Chief Herald of Ireland, stating that there was no record of town arms for Loughrea. Having looked into the matter in advance of the meeting, the then Town Clerk advised those present that he had solicited the advice of Rev. Patrick K. Egan, Parish Priest of Portumna and author of a respected history of the town of Ballinasloe in the matter. At a subsequent meeting of the Board, it was agreed that a grant of arms would be sought from the Chief Herald of Ireland and, to that end, design suggestions provided by Fr. Egan would be forwarded with the application to the Chief Herald’s office. A preliminary sketch produced by the office of the Chief Herald was approved in November of that year and, once agreed, a motto was settled upon.[i]
The arms of the town of Loughrea, County Galway would compose of ‘Barry wavy Azure and Argent, on a cross Gules a lymphad Or at centrepoint’ and for motto ‘Dia d’ár Stiúrú.’
With regard to the symbolism of the elements, the bars of Azure and Argent graphically represent the water of Lough Rea, from which derives the town name and which played an important part in the commerce of the town. The cross Gules is a reference to the arms ‘Or a cross Gules’ commonly associated with the de Burghs while the lymphad is said to recall St. Brendan the Navigator of Clonfert, the town being the diocesan cathedral town.
[i] Galway County Council, Archive Collection, LTC/1/Minutes of Loughrea Town Commissioners 1909-2006, 2008, p. xxiv.