Stone mad

Like most towns, Galway was built using native stone and there was plenty of that around. There were black limestone quarries in Menlo and Angliham, and a limestone quarry at Merlin Park worked by the Blake family until about 1850 and later by Sibthorpes of Dublin. In about 1880, a Scotsman named Millar rented a number of quarries in the Galway area, two at Shantalla, one at Ballagh near Bushy Park, and one at St Helen’s, Taylor's Hill, where they quarried fine-grained red granite. There was a marble and granite works at Earl’s Island where one of the employees was a stonemason named Pat Fahy.

He was a member of an old Menlo family whose people were once evicted by the Blakes but managed to regain their property. It is believed that the inquest into the awful 1828 Anach Cuan drowning tragedy was held in the pub owned by the family in Menlo. They had tea rooms and a shop and continued to hold a pub licence until the early 20th century. A British army officer was in there one day when a group of Black and Tans arrived looking for cigarettes. The shop had tobacco but no cigarettes and the Tans got obstreperous and began to threaten Bridgie, but the officer took exception and ordered them out.

When the marble and granite works on Earl’s Island closed down in 1906, Pat Fahy set up his own stonemasonry business on the Headford Road opposite O’Donoghue’s Terrace. He was followed into the business by his son Martin who lived on Pier Road, Menlo. Eventually, Martin’s son Patrick (known as ‘The Baron’ ), who lived in Terryland, also joined the business. The Baron was the first person in the area to have a car. In turn, his son Brian took over and nowadays, Fahy Memorials is run by David, the fifth generation of the family to work in stone. There are not too many fifth generation family businesses around.

Their product is primarily memorials and headstones; once they were all in limestone, today they are mostly granite. They are versatile however and carve pillars, door surrounds, counter tops, granite garden furniture, etc. Their work can be seen in many locations in the city, most notably in the beautiful carved plaques that make up the Galway Poetry Trail.

Other well-known stone masons in Galway were the Clares in Forster Street, the McWilliams in Mill Street, and Charlie McCormack who is based beside Rahoon Graveyard.

Our photograph is of Martin Fahy carving the limestone plaque which was placed at the Salthill end of Father Griffin Road when that road was first opened to the public. The old Irish script was beautifully hand-carved and is still today, well worth stopping to look at the work of this master craftsman.


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