Dangan House

Dangan House, “beautifully situated on the banks of the fine river Corrib” directly opposite Menlo Castle, was built in 1684 as the seat of the Martin family. ‘Humanity Dick’ Martin was brought up there. John Redington purchased Dangan Demesne from Anthony Martin about 1830 and became the proprietor of the townland. It was, for a short time afterwards, converted into an Ursuline Convent. The nuns were there from 1839 to 1844. Dangan House was left to the Board of Guardians of the Galway Union for an auxiliary workhouse until 1854. The only trace of the original Martin building today is the tea-house folly which is on the banks of the river. A nearby property known as Dangan Cottage was leased by a number of American artists in the 1870s but was described as a ruin in the 1890s.

In the meantime, Mr Redington built a three storey residence for himself closer to the centre of the townland. This is the present Dangan House. The Redington family occupied it for most of the 19th century. They sold it to a Mr Farrington, who in turn passed it on to Charlie Moon. Professor Tom Dillon and his wife Geraldine (née Plunkett ) leased it for three years in the early 1920s. Their daughter, the distinguished writer Eilís, wrote: “The days were wonderful in that beautiful place. A stream with kingfishers ran just beyond the gravel sweep before the door. The garden had been well kept by the previous owner, a typical walled Irish garden, laid out when labour cost four pence a day, completely surrounded by a twelve foot wall of stone against which grew peaches and pears and apples and plums. Box hedges divided it into squares and rectangles, where all kinds of vegetables and fruit trees grew.” Tom Dillon, a professor of chemistry in UCG, set up a soap factory in the stable yard with a partner, but he had no head for business and it failed.

When the Dillons left, the Conroys moved in, and later the house was occupied by Professor Shea who eventually sold it to the Cunningham family in 1962. One day Mrs Cunningham was walking in the old overgrown garden and she found a sixpenny piece which she felt was a sign that maybe one of her children might earn a living within its walls. Two of her sons, Paddy and Peter, were already drawn to market gardening. From the age of 11, they had been growing daffodils and selling them at the Saturday market. They both won scholarships to study horticulture, and were so keen that they cycled the 140 miles to study at Piltown College in Co Kilkenny.

When they graduated, they borrowed £100 to buy seeds and a small polythene growing tunnel. They took the advice of the famous gardener Lorna McMahon when she suggested they stock some trees for National Tree Week. Their nurseries was beginning to take shape and as the range of shrubs, trees, and bedding grew, more and more of their Saturday Market customers began to visit Dangan. Bigger and better tunnels were gradually added. In 1987, they bought the large glasshouse from Barna Gardens. It took six months to dismantle and reassemble it in Dangan. In 1997, the old coach house was renovated and converted into a garden shop.

Our photograph of the house was taken in 1965. At the time, the surrounding land was owned by three Lawless brothers, Tom, Peter, and Jack. The overgrown walled garden can be seen to the right. Today, the glasshouse and polytunnels would be at the top of this picture and the car park on the left. The complex has evolved and grown since this picture was taken. A visit to the nurseries today is an experience for all the family; there is a duck pond, a rabbit hutch, and a chicken coop for the children to visit; a vast array of plants, seeds, and shrubs; a relaxing tearoom, and a lot of free advice for non gardeners like me.

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