Shangort, Knocknacarra

This photograph of the Shangort area of Knocknacarra was originally taken in the 1950s by Aodh MacDúbháin, a teacher in St Enda’s who did a lot of work with An Taidhbhearc. It was taken from Carragh Hill.

On the left we see Joyce’s house which was later occupied by Whytes. Tucked in behind it was Finnerans. Going right was Heneghans, later O’Flynns, and later still Murrays. Next door was Hambroges, later occupied by Garavans, Conneelys, and then Kellys. Beside that was McGuanes (Mac Dúbháin ) which later became Doyles, McDonaghs, and then Gillespies. The white house behind that was Greens, and to the right of that, in the distance, what looks like a thatched house was Fahertys.

Back on the main road, the second house from the right was Cooneys which later became Cookes and finally the last house was Creighton’s House and grocery shop, later occupied by O’Connors, then Carneys, and finally Hughes.

The name Knocknacarra derives from the Irish “Cnoc na Cara”, or “The Hill of the Stone Crossing”. “Cara” was a common name along the Connemara coast where there are multitudes of small islands which are accessible at low tide by means of stepping stones, or rough causeway, for which the Irish word is ‘Cara’. At Knocknacarra, there was a narrow channel through which the Clybaun Stream flowed into the salt lake. At one point, there were stepping stones which enabled people to cross, hence the name. Another school of thought thinks it derived from “Cnoc na Cathrach”, the “Hill of the City” or “The Hill to the City”.

The original village of Knocknacarra was a line of seven thatched houses which ran from the border of the golf club to what was known as Knocknacarra Lane, now Knocknacarra Road. Starting at the golf club, they were O’Connors; O’Connors; Creans; Walter and Michael Flaherty, who drove the Conamara Bus; Claremount House, which was known locally as ‘The Big House’ was and is next to where O’Farrell’s is today; and the final house was O’Halloran’s.

The Duffy family lived in the lane in the 1940s as did the Creans and the Condons, Miss Higgins, a dressmaker, and Mrs Connolly, and at the Kingston end lived Tom O’Connor and Martin O’Connor.

Donall Mac Amhlaigh was born in Knocknacarra and, writing about the area in the 1930s, he said: “It was a small village of not more than a dozen houses, a very picturesque place indeed. There were only three or four slated houses there and all the middle-aged and older people spoke Irish among themselves. There was a wonderful freshness and clarity about the area, the smell of diesel was unknown and the tang of petrol never got much farther than the main road. I think of autumn evenings with the smell of potato stalks burning in some field, and the scent of fresh-cut hay in early summer; wet and windy days when the bay was full of charging white horses or when the rain came sheeting in from the Atlantic in swirling grey veils, drenching the whole world it seemed; other summer evenings still and peaceful as a fairyland with the brown-sailed hookers like painted boats out in the bay.”

Our thanks to Noreen and Pat Cooke for today’s photograph.

Galway City Museum will host an illustrated talk on Saturday next, May 13, by Phyllis McNamara. The title is “The Claddagh Ring and other Love Tokens”. Early booking is advisable, contact [email protected].

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