Shantalla produced many great sporting heroes in all levels of competition. Some have been covered already, but there were many others, including Paddy Lally who has been an outstanding figure.
Paddy served on Galway City Council for many years and was always extremely helpful and approachable to the people who knocked on his door seeking advice or help. When you think of rowing, one cannot help, but think of Paddy Lally and his enormous contribution to the sport. He has been a leading light in the Galway Rowing Club all of his life. He is known and respected throughout the country and, indeed, abroad.
Even after a hugely successful career as an oarsman, Paddy continues his involvement as a coach, passing on his experience to young oarsmen and women. His years of service have paid off on numerous occasions with this great and successful club. Today he is heading a campaign to have the Galway Rowing Club re-roofed, so that future generations can also enjoy this historic sporting and social outlet. It is a great cause and all support will be welcomed.
Other sports were represented too. Gay Farrell won many senior titles in his career in boxing, while Colie Walsh has excelled in karate and ran his own school for many years.
Greg Cotter is also a legend in karate and is an expert in his sport. Greg is also a great singer and musician and, along with the great Mary Flanagan from Bohermore, they have entertained thousands over the years. Some of the other very talented musicians from Shantalla include Johnny ‘Ringo’ McDonagh, who played with Danann, Tony Kelly and the late Donal Morkan, both of whom played with Cuchulain, and Bernard McNamara, whose strong vocal ability is legendary.
Donal Ward is also a great musician and singer. Donal sang in many venues over the years, including the New Cathedral during the first Ecumenical Remembrance Service for the Soldiers of the Great War, which was held in 2007. Mary Coughlin has made her presence felt on the national and international stage.
All of these people follow in the steps of the great musician and traditional uileann piper, Stephen Ruane, who was born on Shantalla Road in 1852. Ruane played all over the country and is remembered as one of the great pipers of the nineteenth century.
Some of the most prominent members of the Red Cross were from Shantalla, such as Dominic Burke. Martina Griffin nee Ward, Vincent O’Brien and Seán Wallace were also staunch members of the organisation and all of them competed and won All-Ireland competitions in various categories of foot drill and first aid. Both Vincent and his brothers, Donal, Colm and David, were outstanding rugby players. Their other brother, Martin and their father, Dan O’Brien were involved in the administration of the sport. Dan was also a great greyhound enthusiast and trained his own dogs. He had many successes over the years, with one dog in particular, ‘Spartan General’.
Following his rugby career, Vincent O’Brien became a keen golfer, making his presences felt on courses around the country and abroad. He is a prominent member of the Galway Arms Golfing Society, the oldest of its kind in the country. Another prominent golfer with the society from Shantalla is Martin O’Neill. Martin has also served in many roles in the society.
One business in the area that gave a lot of employment to young people over the years was O’Higgins of Shantalla. The business is run today by Micheal O’hUiginn, a former Galway City Councilor, who served as Mayor of Galway City on three occasions (1972, 1979, 1995). It was his uncle, Tomas O’hUiginn, who originally set up the business on Fr Griffin Road during the 1930s. Circa 1939, Tomas joined the Franciscan Brothers and volunteered to go to Africa where he used his building skills to erect churches and schools. His brother Michael ‘Mick’ O’Higgins (Micheal’s father) took over the business. They had already moved to Shantalla and diversified the business into a manufacturing/builder providers. It was the right place to be considering all the development that was going on in the area at the time. Following the death of his father in 1964, Micheal took over the running of the company. Under Michael’s leadership, the business has continued to go from strength to strength expanding to cover others areas throughout Ireland.
Most of the children from the area were educated in Scoil Bhride. This school has a long and rich history in Shantalla. It all began in January 1946 when an application was made to Galway Corporation for permission to build a primary school in the area. Permission was granted on 13 October 1951. Work began in 1953 and the school was completed at an estimated cost of £21,000. It included six classrooms capable of accommodating 300 children. On 27 June 1955, Scoil Bhride was officially blessed and opened by Dr Michael Browne, Bishop of Galway. It was run by the Presentation Sisters and they contributed enormously to the educational needs of the children.
Scoil Bhride became a vital part of the community from the start. The school was extended in 1975 to accommodate additional pupils. In 1982, the Board of Management, in conjunction with the Department of Education, expanded their educational facilities by offering specialist and integrated education for children with hearing difficulties. In 1987, a sports pitch was developed, which added greatly to the physical education of the children. It was the only school at that time in Ireland to win the prestigious European Alcuin Award, an honour which was conceived to highlight the role of parents in the school and to acknowledge the best educational innovations in Europe.
Woodwork classes were introduced in the late 1980s with the assistance of Galway VEC. This was an attempt to combat pupils leaving school early. This programme helped to develop life-long skills for children and it was instrumental in guiding a number of children towards further education. During the 1990s another opportunity for children to develop additional skills was introduced when cookery classes began. Scoil Bhríde has also developed a great tradition in music. This began in 1959 when the school choir was formed. They performed at the Liturgical Festival that year. It proved very successful and ensured a great interest in the choir. In 1961, they won the Irish Press Cup at the Féile an Iarthair. The school also developed a sacramental choir that performed at church ceremonies. There was also a Glee style choir that performs at various functions throughout the city. In 2012, they were part of a major production which was staged in the Town Hall Theatre. The school is also well known throughout the city for its school band.
In 1995, the Department of Education set about promoting an Early Start programme in schools for younger children. Scoil Bhríde became the only school in the West of Ireland to be granted an Early Start Unit. The school soon enrolled 30 children for free pre-school education. The school has developed a unique and specialised literacy programme that proved invaluable in addressing the needs of pupils. In July 2002, the school featured in lengthy broadcast on the ‘Morning Ireland’ programme on RTE Radio 1. The school has continued to develop over the years thus insuring that it keeps up with the latest demands in education. It has also welcomed children from various cultural backgrounds. Despite these recessionary times, Scoil Bhríde continues to be a huge success in the heartland of the Shantalla community.
It is a long time since Daniel O’Connell spoke his words of encouragement and hope to thousands of people at the old Sliding Rock. However, his spirit echoes there still, as can be seen in this wonderful community. And it’s not just the locals he inspired. The Civil Rights Activist Bernadette Devlin travelled from the North to seek support during the early 1970s. Perhaps she heard of the reception that O’Connell received there.
Events of note: The series on Shantalla finishes this week. There is so much more information, stories and photographs out there that could not be published. Apologies to anyone not included, but it was based on information and photographs submitted. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the following people for the fantastic support and hospitality shown to me while researching this series of articles: Bridget Staunton, Tony Morris, Tom Nally, Linda Finnerty, Johnny Curley, Mike Burke, Joe Murray, Sarah Madden, Martin Madden, Billy Mannion, Anne Butler, Donal Ward, Willie Murphy, Patricia Murphy and Eamon Casserly.