Shantalla village, 1945

This remarkable photograph of Shantalla village was taken in 1945 by Pádraic Mac Dubháin and is from the National Museum collection. You will sometimes see the place name written as Shantallow and you will hear it pronounced Shantla by people with Galway accents. It is derived from the Irish ‘Sean Talamh’, old ground, though why Shantalla should be older ground than that which surrounds it is a mystery. Maybe it is because some of the land was not being worked.

Our photograph shows a cluster of thatched cottages and outhouses on the Rahoon Road, possibly near where the entrance to Highfield Park is today. It was taken from a small hill in the foreground. The landscape is divided into small fields by stone walls. Some of those have been dug and there are no sheep or cattle to be seen. The hills in the background with the few scattered houses are in the Rahoon area.

About the time this picture was taken, the corporation devised a plan to construct the housing scheme we call Shantalla today. The building work, the laying of roads and footpaths, etc, took some time and was finished in the mid fifties. The green fields we see were a playground for the young people of Shantalla, they picked mushrooms there and could walk up to the reservoir on Circular Road without passing a house.

At the end of the 19th century, a Scotsman named Miller rented the fisheries on the Corrib, and in order to find work for his men during the winter months, he employed them in quarrying and polishing local marble. They noticed some red stones which abounded on the surface of Col Courtenay’s property in the Maunsells Road area, and when some of these were wrought and polished, it was discovered the material was valuable, so leave was taken in order to work these granites in 1880. Miller employed 20 men and established a small industry in the middle of this agricultural landscape.

By 1900, the Galway Granite & Marble Works was formed and in 1911 it spent £2,000 to construct a one and a half mile branch railway line along what is now Seamus Quirke Road. This was to carry stone from the Maunsell’s Road quarry to the Clifden Railway Line and on to the station. It was then brought to the marble works opposite the old gaol for processing. Eventually the quarry closed down and some parts of it filled with water to become deep pools. Some locals used to swim there, but there were drownings and some dramatic rescues, so the Corporation filled in those pools with rubble taken from the old gaol.

The County Library branch in Westside will be 10 years old next year, and to celebrate this anniversary, the team have decided to put together a social history of Shantalla, Newcastle, and Rahoon. They are inviting the public to bring in materials they might have on these areas, especially photographs. These will be scanned in the library and returned immediately. It would be important to bring information with the photographs such as the names of the people who are in the photograph, on the team, who lived in the houses, etc. It is an exciting community concept which deserves success, so please help if you can. The little snapshot in your scrapbook might be a very important piece of the jigsaw that is this project. Cora Gunter is the librarian and she can be reached at 091 520616, or you can email her at [email protected]

Because of demand, the recently published Historical Family Shantalla Names book has gone into a reprint, so if you have not got a copy, it is now available in local shops, or you can contact Tony Flannery at 091 522851.

The annual Jes Mass for deceased past pupils and members of staff will take place this Sunday at 11am in the Jesuit Church on Sea Road. All are welcome.

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