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Drumgeely Flats 1960 - Photograph courtesy Shannon Development Company

Shannon town’s history reviewed

THE last in the series of autumn/winter lectures of Shannon and Clare Archaeological and Historical Societies will be held next Wednesday night at the Oakwood Arms Hotel at 8pm and the subject will be the Dúchas na Sionna oral history project on the town.

This project is entitled Between Old World and New World and was prepared by Olive Carey.

Speaking about the oral history, Ms Carey said, “We started in March 2011 and we launched the report in June of last year. What it involved was researching anything that had been written about Shannon before and conducting the interviews with the earliest residents of Shannon.”

In all, around 40 interviews were conducted and next Wednesday night there will be excerpts played from six of them.
Regarding the six excerpts to be used, Ms Carey said, “It’s divided between people who were here before the town was built and then some from people who came right at the very beginning of the town. It’s to kind of give an overview of what life was like for people living in this area before the town and then the start of the town itself.”

On those who were living locally prior to the development of the town, she said, “What was interesting from the people who were here before the town was the very traditional way of life that was being lived in the area at the time and also the connection to the airport, which was quite strong. A lot of the people who were living in the area and who were farming also worked at the airport and had strong connections there.”

Regarding the early development of Shannon, she said, “In the earliest days of the town it was very pioneering. For the earliest people coming in there were very few facilities but there was a strong community spirit among what was a small community that would grow rapidly.”

She really enjoyed carrying out the research and is looking forward to next week’s event.

“I absolutely enjoyed doing it, I met incredible people, lovely people and I’m really looking forward to putting it out there again. We’ll also have some CDs of the report itself to sell on the night.”

Included in the social history are family memories of the War of Independence era, in particular about the holding of General Lucas at the Hastings Farmhouse, as well as other local safe houses. Also, accounts from the early days of Shannon paint a picture of just how unique building a new town from scratch was. As the first accommodation was built on Drumgeely Hill, the vision began to form of not just accommodation for workers but a proper town. The first schools, shops and church were built at Drumgeely, followed by the other residential areas and the town centre.

Wednesday night’s event will include memories of the last resident of Saint’s Island in the Shannon Estuary, the practice of going ‘An Cúirt’ and of a wartime First Communion treat. The experiences of some of the people who arrived from the North and from Chile, fleeing from conflict in their home places, are also explored.

By Owen Ryan

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