Our photograph today shows two young girls, Marie Scanlon and her sister from Shantalla, standing in front of Shantallow house in the mid 1940s. Prior to the building of the council houses we know as Shantalla, this house was more or less surrounded by green fields. At one time the house was owned by a distinguished engineer named William Blood, who was related to the Maunsell family from across the road in Fort Eyre. Blood’s nephew was George Johnson Stoney who was professor of natural philosophy in Queen’s College, Galway, from 1853 to 1857, and who lived in this house during that time. He was a distinguished amateur scientist who worked for a time as Lord Rosse’s astronomer at his large telescope in Birr. Stoney was the person who coined the name ‘electron’. He later became the secretary to the Queen’s Colleges, so he made a significant contribution.
In about 1898, a man named Michael Ryan retired from the RIC and came to live here. He was an enthusiastic gardener and had a magnificent orchard at the back of the house. Michael died in 1938. In 1950, the Presentation Sisters bought the house (known locally as Ryan’s House ) together with an acre and a half of land, for £3,000. The main property faced eastwards towards the town and backed on to a passage known as ‘The Red Lane’. This lane still exists and runs between the Presentation Convent and Ó hUiginn’s hardware store. The lodge house and main entrance were near the corner of Shantalla Road and Colmcille Road, opposite the Spires Gardens. There were tunnels under the road between Shantallow House and Hansberry House across the road, where Siobhan McKenna lived.
The Presentation Sisters lived in Shantallow House until they moved into their new convent on March 19, 1958. In the meantime, a new national school — Scoil Bhríde — was built on the former grounds of the house at a cost of £21,000, with six classrooms to cater for 300 children. It was formally opened by Bishop Michael Browne on July 27, 1955. At that time many of the schoolchildren were from the Claddagh and had Connemara roots, and accordingly were Irish speaking.
Shantallow House (one presumes this was a snobbish Anglo-Irish version of Sean Talamh ) was old and eventually fell into disrepair and it and all its outhouses were subsequently demolished.
Most of the above information is included in a new publication entitled Highfield Memories, a delightful pot-pourri of reminiscences from residents of the estate over its 40-year history. This includes brief histories of some of the large houses near Highfield. The book is a delight and should be in every Galwegian’s library.
Incidentally, the cost of building 100 houses in Shantalla in 1951 was £128,807.
The Galway Archaeological and Historical Society will host a lecture in the Harbour Hotel on Monday next at 8pm. The title of the talk is ‘Unlikely Radicals; Irish Post-Primary Teachers of the ASTI, 1909-2009’. It will be given by Dr John Cunningham and all are welcome.