The building which houses the Garda station in Salthill was originally called Forster Park and was constructed as a summer house by the Blake Forster family at the end of the 18th century. In 1850, it was bought by the Palmer family who were well known whiskey distillers, flour millers, and makers of porter. Most of their business was based in Nuns’ Island. Their coat of arms can still be seen on the facade of this building. We can presume that Palmer’s Rock (sometimes known as Saunder’s Rock ), on the shore in front of this house, was named after a member of the family.
The Cloherty family took over the building in 1905 and lived there until 1918 when surgeon Michael O’Malley bought it. He and his family lived there until 1934. They had a large garden at the back which extended up Dalysfort Road to where the Conroys eventually built at the top of the hill. O’Malleys had tennis courts beside the house, and in front, they had a field where they kept a cow, a not uncommon practice in Salthill at the time. This field was quite large and extended out much further on the main road than the hotels which were subsequently built there, and which have since obscured this view of the house.
Sheila Mulloy, who grew up there, once told me that she could remember only four “old houses with porches” on Dalysfort Road at the time.
This building was converted into a Garda barracks in 1934. The police, either in the form of the RIC or the Garda, had been in three other locations in Salthill before this — in Lenaboy Avenue, in Lower Taylor’s Hill, and also in a premises opposite the Banba Hotel, where the car park is today.
The first sergeant to use the married quarters in this building was Sergeant Sugrue from 1934 to 1940. He was followed by Sergeant Michael Baker, 1940 to 1960; Sergeant Charlie O’Neill 1960 to 1968; Sergeant Tony O’Flaherty 1968 to 1986; Garda Eddie Coughlan; and finally Garda Stephen Connolly. There are no living quarters there now. The numbers in the station increased in 1972 when Donal O’Grady, Pat Nally, and John Howley arrived, bringing the force there to one sergeant and six gardaí.
This photograph was taken from across the main road in the 1920s, from roughly where the old public men’s toilet used to be. In the mid 1930s the Rockland and Forster Park hotels were built. Shortly afterwards, the arcade and Western House were constructed, and so this view of the barracks was no more.