The area we know today as Highfield Park was originally a place of green fields and rocky granite outcrops and it was ‘out in the country’. There were very few people living there. Mostly situated in the townland of Rahoon (Rath Ún or Ún’s Fort ), it was bordered by two of the main roads into Galway, the Taylor’s Hill road and the Rahoon road. There was a small granite quarry there, (near the grounds of St Helen’s ) and a couple of stone turrets which probably served as watchtowers.
In the 1880s the Shantalla Quarry was started by a man named Millar between Maunsells Road and Highfield. He employed about 20 men there to extract fine grained red and pink coloured granite. It was known locally as the Bermingham Quarry, probably after a local family. In 1911 an extension to the Galway-Clifden Railway line was built to service this quarry. It connected with the main line at Distillery Road, went through a railway crossing at Newcastle Road, proceeded along Séamus Quirke Road through another level crossing at Rahoon Road, and terminated at New Avenue. Soon after the railway siding was completed, the quarry became beset with problems and was eventually abandoned. The enclosures filled with water, became deep pools and very dangerous. Later these were filled in by rubble from the old gaol.
Permission was given to build 169 houses in Highfield Park in 1968, and work started on the scheme shortly afterwards. Martin Hession was the main contractor, Johnny Dooley was the site engineer, and Dickie Byrne was the architect. The foreman’s office was on Rahoon Road, which later became part of Oakley Crescent, and the foremen were Dermot Walsh from Claddagh and Gerry Cunningham from Tuam. Dick Byrne recalls one of the biggest timed and controlled explosions carried out by a team of sophisticated explosive experts which removed about 10 feet of a hill which ran all the way from Oakley Crescent to the top of the hill in Sycamore. All of the roads on the estate were named after trees.
Now, 40 years after the first residents moved in, a group of them got together and compiled a book to celebrate the community, and they have done it in style. The book is entitled Highfield Memories, Scéalta Ghoirt Ard, and it records many diverse aspects of the activities of the people there. We learn about the history, the personalities, the sports days, the tidy towns awards, the street games, what it was like to grow up in the area, the neighbours, the eccentricities, the fun, the football teams and the hockey teams, etc. It seems as if half of the residents have contributed their memories to this volume, which makes it a fairly comprehensive record of the building of a community over 40 years. It is profusely illustrated, an example to any group of how to document everyday life in an estate. You don’t need to be from Highfield to read it. Highly recommended.
Our photograph from the book shows the Highfield and Friends team that won the under-10 Salthill Parish league in 1975. They are, back row, left to right: Dermot Johnson, Kevin Glynn, Ronan Walsh, Wally Walsh, Francis Morrin, Raef Forde, and Michael Duggan. In front are Eamonn Anthony Corbett, David McNeela, Rory Johnson, Shane Guerin, John Dooley, Liam Tedders, and Gerry Murray.