Lower Fairhill Road ran from Garra Glas in the heart of the Claddagh to the bridge over the canal at Dominick Street. Our photograph today, dated c1895, was taken roughly from where the traffic lights on Fr Griffin Road are today, looking towards Monroe’s.
The two storey house we see on the far right of our picture was Tommy Cooke’s. The thatched house on this side of it was occupied by Mrs Brennan. Next door, the house with the window upstairs, was owned by John and Maisie Egan. Joe Lee’s was beside that and others who lived along here were Miss Kenny and The Finnerty family. I do not know who was in the house on the corner facing us, but it is beautifully thatched.
Among those on the opposite side of the street was Mrs Collins’ house, stables owned by Mike Coyne, a large three-storey building belonging to Andersons, Pat Turke’s house, and Paddy Folan’s sweet shop.
Around the corner on Raven Terrace was Keane’s pub, Johnny Connolly’s pub, Harry Gannon’s sweet shop, and Coyne’s pub at the end.
Notice the rough road surface and the cobbled footpath. The elegant gaslight on the corner was unusual in that a number of observers have recorded that the only source of light in the Claddagh at night time came from lamps in windows or open doors. There were a few houses dotted around the village that had upstairs windows like the one in our photograph. Most of these would have had mud walls originally, but they were gradually replaced by stone walls which carried stout beams of rafters. Many of these beams came from trees in Menlo Wood. They would be overlain with earthen sods which acted as a snug foundation for the thatched roof which was laid on top and fastened with twisted hazel scallops.
The Claddagh was in Galway but not of it. It was older than the city and represented far earlier settlers than those who came to live inside the walls. It was a must-see destination for tourists, poets, artists, and, later, photographers. A number of 19th century English writers recorded their impressions, often in a very similar fashion and often patronising. The people were sometimes called ‘wild Irish, uncivilised or savage, their clothes described as rags’; ‘the village full of filth, squalor, misery and pigs’. One such scribe named Samuel Reynolds Hole wrote “The poultry mania must be at its height for the cocks and the hens roost in the parlour. But the ‘swells’ of the Claddagh are its pigs. They really have not only a ‘landed expression’ as if the place belonged to them, but a supercilious gait and mien; and with an autocratic air, as though repeating to themselves the spirited verses of Mr. A Selkirk, they go in and out wherever and whenever they please.”
Maybe the pig you see in our image was exceptional. I do not think he had a supercilious gait or mien at all.
This photograph is one of an important collection of black and white images originally taken by Jane Shackleton and now published in book form by Collins Press. They have been compiled by Christiaan Corlett under the title Jane Shackleton’s Ireland. All of the pictures were taken at the turn of the century and are wonderfully evocative. Many of them include a lot of people, in particular some remarkable studies of the Aran Islands. Most areas in the country are represented in this beautiful production which you will find in good bookshops, great value at €24.99. Highly recommended.