St Patrick’s NS, a bird’s eye view, 1959

This photograph was published on March 13 1959 by Alexander ‘Monkey’ Morgan (1919-1958 ), a wartime pilot for the Royal Artillery Air Corps, who launched a peacetime career in aerial photography before his tragic death in a plane crash. It is a detail from one of the images he took for the Irish Independent between 1951 and 1958. Some 200 of these have now been published in book form under the title Ireland from the Air. The book is a crystal ball into the past. The images are of such high quality that the detail just leaps out. Our image today is just a section of one of the photographs which we have enlarged.

Central to it is St Patrick’s National School on Bridge Street. On April 1 1954, 941 boys from the old Monastery School and the Bish National School marched to their pristine new school, St Pat’s. The Mon had been there since 1827 and the Bish since 1867. The new school was built on the site of the former Shambles Barracks, a military complex which was occupied by the British army until 1909. It was then bought by the parish priest of St Patrick’s, Fr Dooley, for £1,200, and for a while functioned as a tenement. Subsequently it lay derelict for some years and the buildings were eventually knocked. Some local men used to practise their golf in there, and at one point, the bishop considered building the cathedral there. The building of the school began in 1952 and the then minister for education, Seán Moylan, formally opened it on March 31 1954.

Brother Louis O’Sullivan was the first principal, and on the staff were the following Patrician Brothers: Killian, Cuthbert, Luke, Brendan, Raymond, Aidan, Christopher, Alexis, Edwin, Alphonsus, Fabian, Linus, Rembert, Camillus, and Finbarr. The lay members of staff were Cyril Mahony, Connie O’Donoghue, Ned Carroll, Gerry McNamara, and Pádraic Ó Siochrú.

The photograph must have been taken in summer as you can see the sunshades protecting Brennan’s and O’Dea’s windows. Notice how little traffic there is on the streets, either motorised or pedestrian. The row of houses near the top of the photograph are those in Bowling Green. You can also see the rear of the houses on this side of the green which seem to have no back windows at all. College House is the white building on the top right.

There are several images of Galway city, Salthill, and towns throughout the county in this book as well as photographs of towns and villages from every other county. It records how these places have changed, how the green fields of the 1950s have become the suburbs or industrial estates of today. You can spend hours buried in this book published by the Collins Press, available in good bookshops and highly recommended.

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