Walter Macken’s first published English language play Mungo’s Mansion was about people in the tenements of Buttermilk Lane about to be rehoused away out in the country, in the wilds of Shantalla. This was causing great distress to the ‘townies’ who would have to move less than a mile as the crow flies.
The main features of Shantalla at the time were the Emancipation Rock, known as O’Connell’s Rock or locally as the Sliding Rock, where Daniel O’Connell spoke to 300,000 people in June 1843; the old quarry set up by a Scotsman named Miller in 1880; some houses on the Rahoon Road; and The ‘Red Lane’, so called because of the granite stone in the vicinity. Otherwise, the area was covered in empty green fields. A man called Bermingham built the first modern houses in the area in the 1940s and called it Bermingham Terrace, now known as Shantalla Place. They had to be finished by the corporation when the developer went bust. The corpo was already preparing its own plans to develop a housing estate on a site of four and a half acres in the area and was having it surveyed.
The scheme proposed was of three bedroom houses, some terraced and some gable ended, which would be more expensive. The corporation decided to start near the Red Lane (to the left of our picture and now known as Old Séamus Quirke Road ) because that area did not require much landfill. The initial tranche of 68 houses was completed in 1943 at a cost of approximately £25,000. McNally’s were the builders. The children of Shantalla Place used to play on the site and knew it as ‘down the scheme’. They probably drove the builders mad. As soon as the houses were finished, people began to move in to their new homes, and then the second scheme of 64 houses was started. It was finished in 1947. Roads, footpaths, drains, manholes, etc, had also to be built.
Building costs had risen very considerably during the 1940s due to wage increases and increases in the cost of materials. The initial houses cost about £360 each to build and those in the third section, which began construction in 1949, would cost £922 each. Some were afraid this would bankrupt the city. This part of the scheme was finished in 1952 and the remainder of the houses were occupied.
A national school was built opposite Spires House and this helped create a sense of community in the new estate, as did the setting up of a football club named Father Lally’s, whose members took part in the Streets Leagues of the 1950s and 60s. This club later became St Michael’s. The road in the foreground of our photograph is the Rahoon Road which would have been one of the main thoroughfares into Galway.
It is extraordinary to think of 300,000 people gathered on this site to listen to Daniel O’Connell, roughly the same number as gathered in Ballybrit to listen to the Pope in 1979.There was no amplification or helicopters around in 1843.
Our thanks to the National Library for this photograph which is dated 1953.