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‘Fort Eyre’ developer plans rejuvenation of Shantalla Road

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The developer of an historic Georgian House and spire tower in Shantalla now plans to bring back an adjacent derelict row of houses to their former glory.

Returning emigrant Michael Gibbons purchased Fort Eyre for €1.36m last year from liquidators. Tom McEvaddy of Nexus Homes had carried out the initial renovation of the three buildings in 2007, which involved converting the period house, the tower block and townhouses into 12 luxury apartments which were worth more than €5 million at the height of the property boom.

A native of the Westside, Michael overcame considerable tragedy to get involved in the building game. He was the sole survivor of a helicopter crash in Derrybrien in 2005. Pilot Damien Bergin and publican Mark Reilly both lost their lives in the accident.

Michael, who was 34 at the time, sustained head and other severe injuries in the crash. A subsequent court case was told he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and considerable guilt over surviving the accident. He was awarded over a million euro in damages.

He emigrated to the US, where he attended Columbia University to study psychology.

He returned to Galway last August after the purchase of Fort Eyre to upgrade the apartments and carry out an overhaul of the spire tower. He returned the grand old dame of Shantalla to its former glory by clearing the grounds after years hidden behind a high wall and tall trees.

In a brochure for rental of the apartments, local resident Ann Leydon said actress Siobhán McKenna grew up in the adjoining Hansberry House, which fronts onto Shantalla Road and is one of Galway City’s finest example of Georgian architecture.

The building was originally connected to the Eyre family of Eyre Square, who came to Galway from Wiltshire in the mid seventeen century.

Brothers Edward Hedges Eyre and Robert Hedges Eyre managed all the Eyre Estates in Eyre Square and Eyrecourt until Edward fled back to London leaving a trail of debt in his wake. Robert took over the estates and Fort Eyre was leased to his nephew Edward Eyre Maunsell, after whom Maunsells Road and Maunsells Park was named.

He inherited much of the portfolio on Robert’s death and a large portion of the land was put up for sale in 1852. The nuns are believed to have bought the property after that and used it for a convent and home for many years.

Boasting an original Victorian style tiled floor, the apartments have been developed very tastefully.

Following the success of the project – all apartments and the commercial premises are rented – the developer turned his attention to a row of houses backing onto his property, which had long been an eyesore for local residents.

Going back only two decades, the street was a bustling suburban centre, with a butcher, corner shop, bakery, fast food shop and video store. He purchased the houses from the Davoran family and this week lodged an application for the development of seven apartments on the site of numbers 56, 57 and 58 Shantalla Road.

A protected structure, number 58 is a two-storey, four bay terraced house, which can be accessed from Shantalla Road only. No trace of the original door survives and the roof has fallen in

“The restoration envisages replicating the important Georgian design elements, including the timber sash windows, paneled doors and the timber staircase. The style of the timber shutters and the timber sash windows may be used in replica production,” according to the archaeological consultant Anne Carey.

“It’s located in a very historic area, within a range of buildings that display some of the finest attributes of Georgian architecture in Galway … intervention at this stage could result in a sizable portion of the masonry and brick elements being incorporated into the restoration, which would be a good outcome for the building.

“Further disintegration may render even the structure of the building unsuitable for re-use and would result in the loss of further important Georgian fabric. Even in the absence of a programme of conservation, the protected status of the building will not permit its demolition and, if works are not carried out, it would remain a visually unsightly ruin into the future.”

Numbers 56 and 57 are both on the Galway City Council’s register of derelict buildings. The two limestone jostle stones at the front of No. 57 mean that the building is also a protected structure.

The adjoining No. 56 was previously used to accommodate James Davoren Butchers.

The roofs of both have fallen in, though a decent chimney still survives in No. 57.

The overall design involves building five apartments, two to each of the ground and first floors, with a fifth spread over both second floors. Two further apartments will be built in a newly constructed building at the rear of the site.

The developer plans to remove the existing shop front at No. 56 and replace it with two rectangular windows to match No. 57, which they say will be the reinstatement of the original style of fenestration.

Michael declined to be interviewed by the Galway City Tribune. It is understood that if planning permission is given, work will begin on the project by the end of the summer.

When it is completed, the entire block backing onto Fort Eyre will be one of the city’s most luxurious apartment complexes.

Connacht Tribune

Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised

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Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.

A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.

Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.

Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.

Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.

He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .

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Connacht Tribune

Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years

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Reunited...Pat and Miceál McKeown outside their mother Síle’s birthplace in Carna.

By Erin Gibbons

A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.

Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.

Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.

It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.

All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.

Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.

That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.

Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.

She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Student leader’s stalker hell

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Róisín Nic Lochlainn

The President of NUI Galway Students’ Union has spoken out about her terrifying harassment ordeal at the hands of a 17-year-old stalker who left her fearing for her safety.

Róisín Nic Lochlainn told the Connacht Tribune that she felt ‘such relief’ when the news came out last week that the young man who spent months putting her through hell online had been brought before the courts in Dublin for a similar campaign of harassment against a BBC NI journalist.

The 17-year-old from Malahide, Co Dublin, who cannot be named because of his age, pleaded guilty to the harassment of reporter Aileen Moynagh at Dublin Children’s Court last week.

It transpired he had used up to 40 aliases to send Ms Moynagh abusive and threatening messages on various social media platforms and by email. It is understood that the teen has a compulsive disorder and Asperger’s.

Ms Nic Lochlainn said she had sleepless nights and sought the help of Gardaí and the university’s chaplaincy service amid a slew of threats directed at her over much of 2020.

“It was actually terrifying. I know it might sound stupid, but I would check the bathroom in my room every night before going to bed. It was keeping me up at night,” she said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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