At its northern extremity the townland landscape is defined by an esker – a remnant of the glacial history of our past which has served to shape a predominant portion of Esker and its adjoining townlands. Eskers, named after the Gaelic word, Eiscir, meaning a ridge, form key elements of our geology, biodiversity and social history. This particular elongated glacial remnant commences in this townland and extends in a north easterly direction towards the town of Menough (1).
Eskers often formed the basis for growth of herbs and flowers used for medicinal purposes in earlier times and for roadways such as the main Menlough to Monivea road which was part Bianconi coach network between Galway and Dublin. They were also home to very dense residential areas, much more pronounced however in the neighbouring townlands of Derryglassaun and Skehanagh as the esker increased in height, due to their solid and dry base while also providing adequate shelter and rich surrounding farmland. Much of this esker was excavated, both privately and commercially, as a source of sand and gravel for the construction of roadways, houses, walls and so on – a widely used practice throughout Ireland to enhance often inferior living and transport conditions.
Today a part of the esker forms the foundation of a most modern sporting development (see details below) and it is itself the basis for such well-drained and high quality playing surfaces.
(1) Galway’s Living Landscapes – Part 1, Ronan Hennessy, Martin Feely, Christy Cunniffe, Caitriona Carlin, 2009.
A turlough, or turlach, is a type of disappearing lake found mostly in limestone areas of Ireland, and particularly west of the River Shannon. The name comes from the Irish “tuar”, meaning dry, with the suffix “lach”, meaning a place. The “lach” suffix is often mistakenly spelled and/or thought to refer to the word “loch”, the Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Scots word for lake. They are found in Irish karst (exposed limestone) areas (1).
Such a feature is located at the southern region of Esker townland and nestles between the roadway leading from Garbally cross to Skehanagh and the main Monivea to Menlough road and at high water levels it often renders the latter impassable to regular traffic. Its characteristics are consistent with those normally associated with turloughs across the region with regard to fooding, dry periods, underground flow, plant and wildlife, vegetation and drainage.
A drain leads from this turlough, on the western edge of the Menlough to Monivea road, and enters a tributary of the Killaclogher River at Drehidaunabale (ref: O.S. map 1838) in Carrowferrickeen townland. Its purpose is to alleviate excessive flooding to nearby roadways. During the redevelopment of Skehana Community Centre (see below), in the 1980s, a section of this drain, measuring 100 metres, was enclosed with stone sidewalls, a concrete cover complete with maintenance access lids, for the safety of patrons using the newly extended car park.
Local farmers used this feature primarily as a source of drinking water for animals for centuries and possibly other uses also such as sheep washing prior to shearing. An access opening, with gate, is still evident on the Garbally to Skehanagh roadway. With the installation of the Menlough-Skehana Group Water Scheme, during the 1970s, these practices ceased to availed of.
For more details information on turloughs in general also contained on this site please click here.
Famine Burial Ground(s)
Two highly significant features relating to burial grounds have been recorded by The National Monuments Service and details are contained on their Archaeological Survey Database.
The first of these, GA059-031, is classed as ‘Burial’ which is further defined as “An interment or deposition of human remains in an isolated context, not associated with a burial ground or graveyard. These can date to any period from prehistory onwards.” The findings are further recorded under the following description: “On the highest point of a low esker, c. 125m West of an earthwork (GA059-030). A prominent circular gorse-covered hillock (D c. 100m) has been quarried away at SE and a silage pit is built into the quarried area. According to local information, a great deal of human skulls and bones were uncovered during this work.” This description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Galway Vol. II – North Galway’. Compiled by Olive Alcock, Kathy de hÓra and Paul Gosling (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1999).
The second recording, GA059-030, is classed as ‘Mound’ which again is further defined as “An artificial elevation of earth or earth and stone of unknown date and function which cannot be classified as any other known archaeological monument type on present evidence.” This finding is further detailed as: “On a low esker ridge. The 3rd edition of Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (1932) shows a small subcircular enclosure (c. 30m by c. 25m) through which a stream appears to flow. Only a slight rise is now visible at the spot, bounded along SW by a small stream. Possibly a barrow or a tumulus. A group of miscellaneous burials (GA059-031) was found c. 125m to West (Note: this refers to the first item listed above)”. This description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Galway Vol. II – North Galway’. Compiled by Olive Alcock, Kathy de hÓra and Paul Gosling (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1999). This latter recorded item, GA059-030, is located immediately adjacent to the main Monivea to Menlough roadway.
These features serve as a reminder of a most tragic period in the often troubled and turbulent history of our island and resulting from The Great Hunger of the mid-19th century. To be buried in a coffin, in consecrated ground, was a very important sign of human respect in 19th-century Ireland as indeed it remains our most common form today following a passing. However we know that, during The Great Hunger, coffins were not afforded the poor, destitute people interred in this large burial pit. No rosary beads were entwined between their fingers and no care and attention given to their emaciated bodies before burial. This should not be seen as a true reflection of the surviving people but rather a sad, but poignant, reminder of hopeless and impossible situations inflicted on survivors in a destitute population who were themselves faced with most unenviable and difficult decisions.
This bisects the townland at its northern end with its purpose being to create an alternative route for mass goers from Pollocrossaun and Esker leading to Skehanagh Church. Mass paths predominantly generate a much shorter route from one location to another as opposed to using the more established and recognised roadways but this particular path however would have been established, most likey, to avoid road flooding from the neary turlough (as already noted above). It is relatively short in length, being a mere 300 yards, and the distance saving from using main roads is but another 300 yards – both considered to be unusually short in length. Today the access/egress point, on the Garbally cross to Skehanagh road, is still clearly visible with a pedestrian opening, of 4 feet, comprising two concrete pillars and a forged wrought iron gate.
Garbally National School
Officially opened in 1880 this was the first known formal centre of education in this general area. It would however have been preceded by hedge schools in the vicinity. National schools of that time were normally named, though not always, after the townland in which they were built. This is one exception as it is located in Esker townland but rather adjacent to Garbally townland where the new school would be built in 1952. The 1901 census records John Mangan and his wife Mary, formerly Kenny from Menlough Oughter, as being teachers and living in Esker at Ivy Lodge (see below). They both taught in this school from at least the early 1890s and John may indeed have been its first teacher. These were later succeeded, until the school relocation, by Michael McElwaine, from Menlough Oughter, Mary Snee, his sister, and Mr. Martin Ward from Letterfrack who lodged at Tannian’s of Pollacrossaun. The latter was later, in 1957, appointed as Principal in Letterfrack National School.
The school building was a three roomed building at its closure. It was, however, initially a two-roomed building when a wooden framed partition separated the rooms and each with a fireplace and chimney. A new sliding partition was then installed during the early 1900s and heat to the third, or centre, room was by means of a stove. The complete enclosure included external dry toilets and a turf shed and closed its doors as a source of formal learning in 1952 with the construction of a new school in nearby Garbally townland.
GPS Co-ordinates: 53.40804, -8.633982
Following on from the closure of the first Garbally National School in 1952 the building continued to be used as a local social centre and became known as Garbally Hall and continues to be called by many to this day. From a social viewpoint its significance could never be understated as it served the community, in its original structure from 1952, until the early 1980s when it underwent much needed major structural and functional changes as it was by then 100 years old.
It formed the focal point for drama in particular with the staging of many plays that would go on to collect numerous drama titles at many levels within Ireland. In addition it hosted school concerts, meetings of various groups, training, card games, dances, quizzes and a variety of fundraising events to support itself and other community initiatives. With the formation of Skehana Community Council in the late 1970s its first major objective was to engage in major redevelopments to the building and the site.
Skehana Community Centre
Skehana Community Council set about the Garbally Hall redevelopment with great vigour and enthusiasm commencing with the ‘King and Queen of Skehana’ fundraiser which would kick start the project. Proposals and plans were submitted to AnCO, the forerunner to FAS, and these were accepted and contract agreements made with the late Austin Lydon and the late Brendan Burke, both from Tuam, and from there the project was overseen on a weekly basis by the late Michael Keary, of AnCO and formerly from Windfield Lower, and it was Michael’s leadership and wonderful range of skills that ensured the project began a huge success. The local supervisor was Michael Bellew, from Woodlawn, and he led a team of local employees to carry out all associated tasks while acquiring new skills in the process.
Additional land was made available to the community by Tommy and Anne Costello of Carramore, of which a large portion was a donation and a remaining late addition purchased for a most nominal fee. Their cooperation was so crucial as it was they, and they alone, who could ensure that planning was received. The new Skehana Community Centre was officially opened in 1988 by His Grace, Archbishop of Tuam Dr. Joseph Cunnane who, as a trustee, also gave a grant and an interest free loan to complete the works.
The centre continued on where Garbally Hall left off with many similar events and functions taking place albeit in more modern and pleasant surroundings for all concerned. The centre, now under the guidance of the Hall Committee, has again seen some magnificent improvements to the building itself with toilet upgrading, the construction of a green room and surfacing of the car parking area as well as of course the normal demands on annual upkeep of such a facility which is done so well. Skehana Community Centre remains central to our community as it enters its second century of valued service.
Ivy Lodge Residence
This was the residence for teachers at Garbally National Schools and was first occupied in the 1890s by John Mangan. John married Mary Kenny, from Menlough Oughter, in 1890 and they, along with their children continued to reside here until his retirement. He was succeeded by Michael McElwaine who also, along with his wife and family, continued living there until the 1970s.
An official clerical residence was built in this townland in the 1890s situated close to Garbally School, at that time, and on raised land at the edge of the turlough. Prior to this being constructed it is not immediately apparent where the priests may have resided locally.
For a complete listing of all Priests that served in Skehana Church and occupied these residences during these periods please Click Here.
Currently being documented.
Travelling Roadshow Site (<– Click here for additional detail on this site)
From the start of the 20th century and up to the 1960s roadshows travelled the countryside and arrived generally to the same locations in every parish annually and most often by a variety of roadshow families. They would arrive unannounced in Skehana at an open site in Esker townland at about 8.00am, move in their mobile homes, set up a large tent and other accompanying side shows like swinging boats, a rifle range and bumping cars. Some would have a large closed in trailer that would house a generator while others would have the ESB arrive by the afternoon to give them a temporary connection. It’s funny how they could arrive in Skehana in the morning and have the ESB connected to the site by 3.00pm in the afternoon.
By 8.00pm they would be ready to put on the first show with doors opening at 7.30pm. This usually began with the showing of a black and white film, followed by a short play, usually two acts with a raffle during the interval.
This site is located adjacent to what was Mikey and Nora Costello’s residence and their son, Gerry, has collected a huge amount of material relating to the travelling roadshows and it is located elsewhere on this website. Click here to get the full story.
This is small horseshoe shaped mound of burnt stones that surround a central trough, which contained water. The trough, lined with timbers or animal skins, was filled with water or dug into the ground below the level of the localised water table. Heated stones were immersed into the water and slowly heated the water. The shattered stones were discarded around the trough, ultimately forming the horse shoe shaped mound. Fulachta fiadh were used predominantly during the Bronze Age (2500-600BC), but were also used until medieval times.
The generally accepted function was for cooking meat, however archaeological and historical evidence suggests that they had other uses including brewing and the use as sweathouses for bathing.
“We need to investigate the existence of such a feature further and confirm definite location.”
Currently being documented
Currently being documented
Currently being documented
Emma Laffey has unearthed a huge amount of information from the Schools Folklore project and much of it relates to this townland. This will be uploaded here very shortly with transcribed text and sample original pages and links.