The area we know as Devon Park in Salthill was originally part of the Lenaboy estate which belonged to the O’Hara family, who were based in Lenaboy Castle. The entire left hand side of our aerial photograph (c1940 ) was part of the estate, originally a green field site, the outer wall of which ran along the main Salthill Road. Bertie Simmons knocked part of that wall in the early 1930s and built two houses, one at the corner (where the fish shop is today ) and one behind it where Hartigans lived.
There was a small dirt lane running past these houses and then the Gleeson family, who were in the construction business, moved in and built what was known as ‘The Gleeson Estate’, the crescent and line of houses running up the hill towards Lenaboy. Galway Corporation built two wings of council houses, now known as ‘Old Devon Park’, parallel with the main Salthill Road. Among the people who lived in those houses were Tom Hanrahan, The Reck Family, Ronnie Burke, Mr O’Connor, Tom Coogan. Professor Coll, Garda Cummins, Michael (Angelo ) Daly, Dick Byrne, Miss Aitken, Con Sullivan, Mr O’Boyle, the Morris family, and the O’Hallorans.
As you can see, much of the land in the centre left of our photograph was covered in trees and in 1951, Malachy Burke, the contractor, invited members of Our Lady’s Boys’ Club to cut these down and clear the site. They delivered more than 800 loads of timber to needy families that winter. The new houses were built and finished in 1954. They cost from £1,500 to £2,000 each. Most were leasehold, held in the name of the Gleeson Development Company so the homeowners had to pay ground rent. Many of them bought out these rents from about 1970 on.
All of the above and much more besides is included in a recently published book entitled Devon Park, Where it all Began, a profusely illustrated volume of articles, press clippings, profiles of people and families, the games they played as children, the sportsmen and women. It is pure nostalgia and includes articles by Dick Byrne, Mary Coyne, Brendan O’Shaughnessy, and Mary Fahey who was the engine that drove the project. It is thoroughly enjoyable, an ideal Christmas present, especially for those Salthillians living abroad. In good bookshops at €15.
The Old Galway Society will host a lecture this evening in the Victoria Hotel at the earlier time of 7.30pm. It will be given by Brendan McGowan from the Galway City Museum on the subject of “The Late 19th Early 20th Century Galway Photographs of William Lawrence”. All are welcome.