The Shantalla granite quarry, located in Galway, Ireland, was first opened in 1889. It was eventually bought in 1898 by Colonel Arthur Courtney who had originally leased the land. Up until that point, the prior quarry operator had excavated no less than 4.5 metres down. Courtney set about changing and growing the quarry business by excavating deeper.
Courtney was called into service when the Boer War broke out in South Africa in 1899. Many of his plans for extending the Shantalla quarry business were therefore put on hold for the duration of that conflict. Upon Courtney?s return, he reinvested all his efforts into the business and formed the Galway Granite Quarry Company.
The swiftness of the workers in Shantalla to master the process of granite quarrying was remarkable. They demonstrated great enthusiasm for the tasks set before them.
It was believed that when the quarry was fully operational it would give employment to 1000 men but this would never be the case. There were possibly no more than a 100 men employed at the quarry at any given time. The quarry’s close proximity to the River Corrib gave it an added advantage for transport and also made it an attractive investment.
Early industrial dispute
There was a strongly held belief that the business would continue to grow at the quarry. However, shortly after it opened, there was a dispute over working conditions and wages. Eventually, after a lot of negotiations, a settlement was reached, ending the dispute.
The Galway Express reported of the dispute:
?We are heartily glad to learn that the above sad and disastrous dispute has been settled, and by the kind and diplomatic mediation of that good clergyman, Father Lally, the boycott has been removed, and the men start work this Friday.
?On Thursday Colonel Courtenay, the manager, and other officials connected with the quarry, interviewed the men. The terms really are a confirmation in writing of the conditions upon which the men were working before. Why, therefore, the untold misery entailed??
Shantalla granite was used in the construction industry throughout the city and county. An example is in the wall shafts of the Claddagh Church. Similar to other quarries, the work was hard and very manual, but the men were happy to be employed.
The quarry became known locally as the ?Bermingham Quarry?, after this family invested in the business. It was a successful enterprise, producing at its peak 1000 tonnes of worked stone per week. Some of it was taken to nearby Earl?s Island to be finished and polished there.
The quarry?s demise
In 1909, a malicious attack was made at the company?s workshop. It was a serious cause for concern as it was perpetrated, not by vandals, but by a person or persons unknown and was believed to be an attack on the company itself.
In 1911, an extension to the Galway-Clifden Railway line was constructed to service the quarry. Despite all the hard work, the quarry went into decline shortly afterwards and eventually closed.
After the site was abandoned, sections of the quarry filled with water, creating deep and dangerous pools. There were drowning tragedies reported at the site. Eventually, the quarry was filled in, using rubble from the old Galway Jail.
Source: Galway Independent