In January 1893 the board of guardians of Galway Poor Law Union decided to establish a technical school, but the plan ran into immediate difficulties. The Local Government Board objected because they had not been consulted, and it took a year for the matter to be sorted out. The moving spirit behind the project was Father PJ Lally, who succeeded in getting money from the Government and secured a premises in Dominick Street (where Áras na nGael is today ).
The aim was ‘to furnish instruction in the principles of science and art applicable to industries’. Classes began in January 1894 with courses being given in mathematics, theoretics and physiography, machine construction, building and woodwork. Initially, 35 young men were enrolled as students. When the school re-opened after the summer break, new courses were available in dressmaking and cookery. Soon typing and shorthand were introduced and, as a result, the student numbers were growing and the premises were not large enough to accommodate everyone. So the cooking and weaving classes were moved to Miss Cullinan’s in Prospect Hill and other rooms were rented in the Model School.
Still there was not enough space. The school authorities tried to buy the site in Eglinton Street where the Savoy was subsequently built, but their offer was rejected. In 1933, the Department of Education finally approved financial assistance towards the building of a new school. Construction commenced on a site on Father Griffin Road, and the building was completed in 1938. The formal opening took place in September of that year. For its size it was described as ‘one of the best laid out schools in Ireland. The bright airy workshops, laboratories, kitchens, and general classrooms are furnished with the most up to date equipment and apparatus, and a healthy progressive atmosphere is conveyed throughout’. Most departments in the school were booked out very quickly. A special feature was the navigation and seamanship department where those who fancied the sea as a career were trained and educated.
The construction firm employed was MJ Gleeson of Lenaboy Estate in Salthill. Today we have for you some photographs of the building of the school. These were originally taken by Tom Kennedy who was the clerk of works on the job.
The first is taken from Fr Griffin Road and shows some of the foundations being laid. In the background you can see the newly-built houses of Father Burke Road in the Claddagh.
The second is looking towards Lower Salthill. You can see the side of O’Flaherty’s Garage on the far right. The white building next to it was the newly built B&B owned by Margaret and Pat McDonagh on the corner of Whitestrand Road, and you can just make out some of the thatched cottages along Whitestrand.
Our third photograph is taken from Fr Burke Road and shows work progressing on the site. The houses in the background on Fr Griffin Road were (from the left ), Keegan’s, later Miss Heavey’s; Sergeant O’Hanlon’s; Peter and Madge Stewart’s; Duignan’s; Hogan’s, later Wilson’s; Lally’s, who opened a toy shop every summer; Lally’s grocery; Caulfield’s, later McCaffrey’s; and Garvey’s drapery.
Our final image is of the almost completed school building.
‘The Tech’ is now formally known as Galway Technical Institute, or GTI. It has had a profound social, economic, and political influence on Galway. Thousands of Galwegians have passed through its doors, and today it is also a major player in the field of further education with a wide range of day and evening classes.