Street Furniture


The Lackagh Area

Michael J Hurley

Published by

Lackagh Museum & Community Development Association


All photographs were taken by Michael J Hurley © unless otherwise stated and should not be used without written permission and acknowledgement.

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Street Furniture of the Lackagh Area

I was asked recently by a lady who thought I was pulling her leg just what street furniture is. Well, as far as I can answer street furniture is a collective term for any fitting or fixture on the street or road for permanent usage. In this area it will include traffic signage, post-boxes, pumps, fountains, water troughs, memorials, waste and litter bins, milestones, street lamps, gates, walls, and benches. Also included are the hundreds of manhole covers, gulley tops, and of course a water meter cover outside every house (and some fields) hereabouts. Items of street furniture have been with us since human-kind first left rocks as pointers at places where cattle paths crossed, or primitive pointers made from pieces of twig on mountain passes. The major mail routes which were served by mail coaches were marked by wooden, stone or iron mileposts. The following illustration is of a Bianconi coach from around the time of the famine. You can see a sign post which was known as a ‘finger-post’ in the background. Near Kinsaley in Co. Dublin there is a cross-roads area that has for generations been known as ‘Finger Post’. Britain still teems with old iron or wooden finger-posts but we in Ireland lost all of our attractive iron sign posts when we changed from miles to kilometres. The coach driver did not need his signs in garish or reflective colours and in some cases fifteen feet (sorry five metres) in height.

The popularity of the motor-car created a need for direction indicators and during the early years the Automobile Association (AA in their distinctive black and yellow) or the Royal Irish Automobile Club (RIAC in their blue and white) provided most of the hardware. However, after the Second World War the local authorities took on the task.

Undoubtedly the most conspicuous item are the traffic signs: it may surprise you as it surprised me to know that there are fifty-two pieces of traffic information to be absorbed by a driver coming from Loughgeorge Garda Station to Lackagh Church, and that just in the east-bound direction. Just think how many pieces of data the driver’s eye must see and his or her brain process in the journey as far as Roscommon on the same road. Thousands, I dare guess! These range from direction signs, driver instructions, warnings, speed limits, distance notices, roadway identifiers, and that excludes on-road painted markings. How many ‘cat’s eyes’ are on this stretch of road with three sets to every dozen or so metres of carriageway. The above photograph from Rooaunmore shows the proliferation of signs to be met by a driver approaching the N17 from the direction of Lackagh.

Let us take a look at some examples of the most significant pieces of street furniture which we meet and may fail to notice each day as we take them for granted.

Some nice limestone townland markers to be seen around the western side of the area.

The three housing estates in Lackagh village have attractive name identifiers: top Woodlands from 2002, Sean Garraí which is located just off Woodlands, and Carraig Mhór (2000) on the Lackaghbeg Road opposite to Woodlands. The latter estate also added a couple of lamps to enhance the entrance pillars. I am not too sure as to the authenticity of the ‘G’ in Sean Garraí

This stone really marks the end of this area of study, but it really is too attractive to omit. The limestone slab with its attractive Erse lettering also features a relief of the abbey, the castle, and the old bridge at Claregalway.

The most recent item of furniture to be added to the village was this direction sign of 2016.

As the road narrows before the modern Lackagh Bridge there are many signs to warn us, as well as an identifying name-board for the River Clare.

A bridge identifying plate hanging drunkenly at Lackagh Bridge. The ‘ScV’ has me a little baffled! It is probably a sluice valve but I’m not too sure of the ‘c’.

The parapet of Lackagh Bridge carries these attractive brackets for the holding of hanging-flower-baskets set off from the roadway to avoid contact with road users.

Opposite Lackagh Church stands a pump house for local water services and adjacent to it is a fountain (so named to differentiate from cow-tail pump). The item to right is not a piece of litter, but a cover to access some parts of the water-works. The cow-tailed pump was used to raise water from an underground well, whereas the fountain was in fact a tap that just needed a turn of the knob to issue water from a water main.

Lackagh is not a village endowed with rare, exotic, or wonderful street furnishings. We have the fountain in the village and a “cow’s tail” handled pump in its own little enclosure at Lackaghmore, across the road from Mrs Monaghan’s house. This attractive relic is of pre-piped water days in the area when people went to this cow-tail pump to fill their buckets. Traditionally these pumps were common meeting places where village and family news was swapped. It was at such pumps as these that the phrase ‘parish pump politics’ crept into the English language. There is a similar pump at Kiltrogue on the road from Caraun to Cregmore (R3102), seen below. This one also has a trough for watering horses but now tastefully decorated with flowers.

Mind you one takes one’s life in one’s hands trying to photograph many of the items included in this e-book as in some places there are no footpaths or road verges on which to walk. A lady once told me that she nearly took ‘the rear-end’ off me as I was walking on a narrow road! We nearly have to pray to the powers invested in the following selection of street furnishings:

These shrines, nearly all built in honour of Our Lady probably date from 1950 which was ‘The Holy Year’, or 1954 ‘The Marian Year. Only two have extant statues; the left at Cahernashelleny on the R3012, and the bottom right at the late Tom Flynn’s old house in the village. The top right contained a peculiar item within it on the day that I photographed it. It held a small piece of a broken calcium carbide lamp off a bicycle, probably dating from about 1910 an example of which, albeit for a car, is shown below.

In the era before battery-powered bicycle lamps were available Calcium Carbide pellets were placed in the holder in the bottom of the lamp which screwed open. Water was put into a reservoir on the top and when light was required the tap on top was turned to allow water to drip slowly onto the carbide. This produced acetylene gas which was piped up to the burner just visible at the back of the lamp face. This was lit and emitted an unpleasant smelling fume. My father used tell me that it could be embarrassing if a young lad brought a girl to the cinema and left his bicycle lamp under the seat. The odour that oozed up from the lamp was often misidentified and caused polite coughs and blushes (unseen in the dark). These lamps could be dangerous as they could burst into a mass of flames if gas started to escape from poor closures or joints. The front glass door is missing from the front of the above Lucas car lamp.

The roadsides hold memorials to people who met untimely deaths at those locations. Bottom left has Francis Burns (Knockdoemore), then clockwise to Michael Grealish near Caraun Cross, T Morrisroe at Loughgeorge, an unidentified iron cross (but according to local information it is to the memory of a man named Carr who was killed here while passing with a horse) at the N17 / N63 junction in Knockdoemore, and murdered taxi driver Eileen Costello O’Shaughnessy at Tinker’s Lane.

The old cemetery at Lackagh Road has its own selection of furnishings. A study for another time are the memorials in that ‘God’s Acre’ to honour the dead of the parish here. From the stone tomb with its iron gate that holds the members of the Cullinane family, to the humblest stone, some now almost obliterated by time, wind, and rain.

Cuan Mhuire at Coolarne has a magnificent entrance with fine wrought-iron work, beautifully preserved. Note the two jostle stones in line with the gate pillars.

Jostle stones are those pillar-shaped cut stones, about a metre high above the ground, and twice the girth beneath it, which were installed to protect walls, pillars and gates from damage by the heavy iron-tyred wheels of horse carts and drays. They were common in the days of ‘big houses’ but I have only found one example locally and that at ‘Cuan Mhuire’. It is unusual that it is only a few centimetres high whereas the normal would be like the example at right above which is in our garden at Carraig Mhór having been salvaged by Phil and I when we left our home in Dublin

In this area one of the oldest pieces of street furniture that I have seen is the milestone situated to the Claregalway side of Loughgeorge Garda Station. Six miles to Galway city. The stone is indigenous limestone and the engraving is not that of a very skilful mason or sculptor. Still, it is a nice artefact probably close on two hundred years old. Another monument, and one possibly dating back as far as 1628 is at the extremity of this survey, possibly even outside it, but invaluable to include. I refer to the somewhat mysterious memorial of 4.3 metres in total height at Caherateemore as shown below.

Difficult for us today to believe that Galway County Council considered its demolition and removal in 1968 as the experts felt it would impare the line of vision for the stop sign at the cross-roads. Dr Etienne Rynne of NUIG prevailed on the Council to desist and thankfully the monument is extant today.

It is thought that it is a memorial to Oliver Browne as it is marked as ‘Laghta Oliver Brown’ on the Ordnance Survey Map.  There was a post-box in the stone wall to the Athenry side of the monument but that has been removed as part of the ‘improvements’ to the postal system. Similar monuments in the areas of Galway and Mayo are dated between 1693 and 1717. However, Prof Rynne was informed by Paul Walsh of the National Museum of Ireland that the monument was erected to Oliver Brown who was killed in a fall from his horse at this place in 1628 or 1688, however Prof Rynne thinks that perhaps this date could be as late as 1728. If the engraved tablet which was affixed to the recess in the side of the structure ever comes to light it may answer the questions, but that seems unlikely. (From an article in Athenry Journal)

A bench is a common piece of street furniture, but not so in this area. I have only located the one shown above which is at the junction of the road to Coolarne (R3105) from the N63 just west of Turloughmore. It was probably placed to facilitate people waiting for buses here. The green and white post at right is a reflective marker post to denote to motorists where a junction occurs on the road.

Post boxes, or mail boxes have been part of the street scene for over one hundred and fifty years since Anthony Trollop (later to be a successful novelist) introduced them to Ireland in the 1840s. The post box came in many varieties and some really fine examples have survived in Ireland, but not unfortunately in this area. The early post boxes were Royal Mail Red and they carried the initials or monogram of the reigning monarch at the time of their erection. My late friend Laurence Liddle in Australia told me of his conversation with a postman in Sutton, Dublin in 1922 when he was a small boy: there was a letter box set in the wall, which I distinctly remember as being red. I remember also asking John Rourke the postman was this going to be painted green. (I must have heard some adults talking about this). I was disappointed when John said he did not know.

The two surviving post boxes in this area are modern mass-produced items and stand at Flynn’s of Lackagh, and the example at right is in a secluded corner of the forecourt of Fahy’s Filling Station at Turloughmore.

Strangely for this day and age there are no traffic lights in the area. The only one set of lights is a school-hazard set which is solar-powered and at Coolarne.

Traffic signs warn drivers of upcoming road conditions such as a “blind curve”, speed limits, etc. Direction signs tell the reader the way to a location, although the sign’s information can be represented in a variety of ways from that of a diagram to written instructions. Direction signs are usually mounted on poles. The ending of a stretch of hard-shoulder is signified by a length of red and white reflective signage.

And of course there are many direction indicators, the top right being a location code for use by delivery personnel and emergency services.

The upper picture shows the array of signs and warnings as the N63 meets the N17 at Peake.

But not all direction indicators are for motorists! The natural gas pipe line crosses the local roads at a number of locations. The pathway of the pipe is marked by these two-metre posts across fields and road verges. However, the almost conical top is in place to be observed from a helicopter tracing the route of the pipeline.

This little fellow, with a pair of vicious-looking eyes like some crab from the mysterious deep is a ‘Cat’s eye’ set. Invented by Percy Shaw in 1934 and manufactured in his own factory since 1935, the twin reflectors react to car lights. They come in three colours, amber, green, and clear. Generally the clear marks the centre of the road, amber the hard shoulders, and green denotes junctions where the margin may be crossed.

Fire hydrant points and water shut-off and sluice valves are marked by a number of small signs, some cast-iron, but the more recent being plastic. The abbreviations are ‘H’ for ‘hydrant’, ‘AV’ for ‘air valve’, ‘WM’ for ‘water main’, ‘SV’ is ‘shut-off’ or ‘sluice valve’, and the example at right ‘end zone 4 flange’ at Peake signifies the end of a water-main zone. The small ‘d’ just visible behind the green and white post in its entirety reads ‘Hyd’ with the same meaning as the large black ‘H’ on yellow. Below are some of the covers used to protect water equipment.

In the area there are literally dozens of iron man-hole covers on the road and pathways for servicers use; sewage, water, electricity, or telecommunications. Many of them carry the name ‘Cavanagh’ with such additions as ‘Tiger’, ‘Python’, or ‘Scorpion’, not what one might term our friendliest creatures. However, a few in the yard of Flynn’s tell us who Cavanagh is:

Storm water gullies also abound. The top example is the most common type with the middle being found on the N17. This type was first introduced into Ireland following World War II from America when they were unavailable from British foundries due to wartime shortages.

A very common item of street furniture is the waste litter bin. Surprisingly, there is no litter bin in Lackagh; the only one I know of is at Loughgeorge at the junction of the N17 with Kiniska. It is a ‘Tidy Towns’ location with a modern reproduction trough for flowers and a junction box for public lighting electricity.

A familiar sight on the streetscape of yore was the ‘crow’s-foot’ which was the mark placed by surveyors to indicate a height above sea level. The accurate mark is the flat line above the arrow, into which was placed a surveyor’s level for accuracy. This example at Smyth’s forge (Museum) at Rooaunmore is not in its correct position as it was moved recently to its present position. I do not know where it was originally located. These crow’s foot marks have now become totally obsolete with the advent of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for surveying purposes.

And on the subject of Smyth’s forge, here are some examples of iron gates from the area around Smyth’s. You will notice that they all carry the same ‘arrow’ tip to the gate handle; this is thought to denote the blacksmith who fashioned these gates. The lower gate is possibly one of the final gates to be made in Smyth’s and if so stands as a fine monument to their work. Below are some of the furnishings from outside the forge. The tall iron object was for the shaping of iron wheel tyres and is made from old railway track. Beside it is a ring to which a horse was tied, and on bottom is a limestone slab shaped to accommodate a wagon wheel which was being made or repaired. I am not too sure as to the purpose of the limestone and iron item second from bottom.

The late Michael Smyth’s forge at Rooaunmore. This is now Claregalway Museum.

Let us take a look perhaps at the blacksmiths recorded in this area in the 1911 Census of Ireland.

Martin Tarpey b. 1889 at Liscananaun along with his father John who was born 1862. Martin later moved to Lackaghbeg where he later took on a young Athenry lad named Mattie Loughnane as apprentice.

Michael Smyth (b.1886) was at Peake (close to Rooaunmore) with his two blacksmith brothers John (b.1879) and Willie (b.1891) as well as their widowed mother 58-year-old Honora.

Cregcarra, Lisheenavalla had three Hurneys together: Martin aged 28, Patrick (54), and Michael (29).

John Silke (74) and his two sons Matthew (38) and John (31) were at Castlecreevy, Liscananaun.

At Mullaghadrum, Liscananaun were John Newell (38) and presumably his brother Michael (34).

Francis Dowd (69) and his son Willie (23) were at Tonagarraun, Liscananaun.

Pat Newell a forty-year-old smith was a boarder with Pat King at Aucloggeen, also Liscananaun.

There must have been many horses at Liscananaun as William Tarpey (45) was also thereabouts at Cloughaun.

Martin Tarpey was a blacksmith who worked out of a forge at Lackaghbeg. He took on a young lad named Mattie Loughnane, a nephew-in-law, and taught him the trade. Many souvenirs survive of their fine work as shown in the above views of ‘swirl’ design gate handles. The two circular tops probably date from the time of Martin Tarpey. Notice how durable these gates are compared to the tubular galvanised gates which are mass-produced to day. These gates of Mattie’s will still be standing when the modern versions have turned to red rust.

This iron gate was also fashioned by Mattie and stands next to his garden at Lackaghbeg.

Mattie Loughnane now in well-earned retirement, and his forge at Lackaghbeg where much of the local iron-works were undertaken.

A gate fastener at Cahernashelleny near Cregmore (R3102).

Old blacksmith-fashioned ironmongery in the locality. The top left view is at the late Patrick Hurney’s forge at Cregmore while to the right of that is an unusual gate with a skirt to retain small lambs and fowls. This is at Loughgeorge but there is another at Coolarne.

‘Once Upon an Entrance’; a disused old garden gate at Turloughmore.

Patrick Hurney’s forge at Cregmore

A selection of other old iron gate fasteners from the area. The example at bottom right carries the stamp ‘Spratt’. Below is the same ‘Spratt’ gate at the side entrance from Coolarne Road (L3105) to the Turloughmore Common. This gate is most attractive in that it swings between two hand-cut limestone pillars in the traditional method.

Not street furniture in the strict sense, but a lovely addition to any streetscape is this bridge at Cregmore. Mind you it was not built for motor traffic as it is really only capable of one vehicle crossing at a time, being too narrow for two vehicles to meet and pass in opposite directions. However, it is a tribute to the artisans who built this structure for horse and pedestrian traffic that it withstands the heavy commercial traffic of the twenty-first century so well. Note the four arches on opposite bank to accommodate flood waters. There are similar ‘empty’ arches on this side.

Re-cycling was part of the farm landscape for some years before it became fashionable elsewhere. Above we see clockwise from bottom left: part of a harrow used as a stop-gap, a railway sleeper, a cart axel, a length of railway track, the same harrow again, and a nice block of dressed limestone in a wall at Peake.

There are some uncommon or distinctive items of street furniture in the Lackagh area. Let us take a look at some of them.

At The Loughgeorge Museum is this piece of anti-anti-social behaviour equipment (if you understand my meaning!); ironwork installed to a window to prevent loitering or sitting on the window cill.

A vicious guard dog at Roache’s yard.

Nothing if not graphic is this sign on the wall of Lackagh National School.

Billy and Myra Browne’s house name plate has caused more than one motorist to scratch his or her head in confusion at Lackaghbeg.

Near Coolarne is this sign; ambiguous to say the least. The original Burma Road connecting Burma with China was built in 1938 at a time when Burma was still a British colony. This was the time of the building of this local road which was named after the Asian road. The railway line from Collooney to Claremorris was also nicknamed The Burma Road because, like its oriental counterpart it was constructed through difficult terrain. This road runs northwards from the L3105 road to Mirah.

Situated just off the N63 in the little road opposite Flynn’s Public House is this small drinking trough against the wall of Moran’s old workshop. Below shows two views of the stile into the same roadway; the upper view is of a stile at Turlough Common. I have lined out this stile with a dotted line as it may be difficult to make out otherwise.

Not street furniture, but actual street is this view at Lackaghbeg. It is an original un-tarred roadway paved with stones and is a relic from a century ago when all minor roads were like this one.

Not unusual, but here at Loughgeorge are a number of traffic bollards to block off the old road to short-cut takers.

A cattle grid at Turloughmore.

Our local archaeology site at Knockdoe. The yellow sign is a road location marker : N63 0022 for the benefit or road workers.

Strange to read that the cost of living is so much higher in Lackaghmore than it is in Coolarne, just a mile over the road! I wonder why the anti-litter signs are both a little tipsy. By order?

There are numerous junction boxes scattered around for electricity, telephones, broadband, television services etc., including the one on right which serves the purpose of counting the number of vehicles that pass through the N17. The small insignificant box on bottom left is at ‘The Copper Beech’ at Turloughmore.

Time moves on! The top view is of an old Post and Telegraphs (Poist agus Telegrafa) manhole marker. The widening of the main roads saw most of these concrete markers swept away. Only this faded example remains at Loughgeorge. I have superimposed the lettering P 7 T (which as children we termed ‘Pee seven Times!) to show how it originally appeared. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs was run by civil servants until 1983 when the next phase of communications history evolved with the separating of mails into ‘An Post’ and telecommunications into ‘Telecom Éireann’. This was followed by a very controversial privatisation in 1999 which created ‘Eircom’ so on footpath fittings the evolution of the service has been marked for all to witness.

In the seventies and eighties these plastic verge markers were ubiquitous in the countryside. They have now almost all disappeared with just a handful remaining at Coolarne and one on the N63 near Turloughmore Social Centre.

There are a pair of these bow-wicket gates at Lackagh School, but the swinging section has been welded into a position to allow people to use it by walking in a ‘U’ figure and prevent children running out onto the roadway. Across the road at Carraig Mhór is a barrier for the same purpose, as shown below.

The statue of Christ The King was presented to the parish by Nonie Qualter of Lackagh. It stands in the grounds of the church beside the school identity stone from the original Lackagh National School of 1886.

A memorial to Rev Michael Joyce of Claregalway facing the road at Lackagh Church. I have not included other church ground memorials as they are really part of the church area.

Still on a religious theme, we find ourselves in Lackaghmore and this ‘Eucharistic Tile’ over the doorway of a house there. It was generally believed that these tiles (of which about 200 survive in Ireland) were erected to commemorate the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. However, recent research by the Poor Clare Nuns in Galway dispute this and dates the tiles to about 1914 when a Fr Francis Donnelly gave a retreat in the city. He exhorted the erection of the tiles as a protection for the family living within. This is also disputed as some tiles which have been removed in parts pf the country show a ‘made in England 1928’ stamp on the reverse side. The monogram YHS is the Greek for the Holy Name of Jesus. The Poor Clares in Nuns’ Island, Galway issued reproduction tiles in conjunction with the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012.

Yet another nice piece (well actually three!) of limestone in this attractive sign at Turloughmore Social Centre. Personally, I preferred it in gold lettering, but who am I to judge?

As Lackagh is set in the middle of a strong agricultural area let us not forget the signage associated with farms and the potential dangers that lie therein. While these two examples are not permanent fixtures in the strict sense of the words they are important to the farmer and the potential trespasser. In many cases farmers’ insurers insist on this signage outside farm gates.

So far I have ignored the many lamp-posts, electricity, and telephone poles that litter the landscape. To redress that omission here are two warning notices from a high-voltage carrying pole near the village. Notice the white post in the left background; this is a gas pipe marker.

So there we have taken a look at some, well most, of the items that constitute Street Furniture in the Lackagh area, mainly focussing on the stretch from the N17 to Turloughmore.

Wherever you go just keep a sharp eye out for the little things that constitute street furniture, be it the little iron covers with the word ‘uisce’ outside each house, or the post-boxes. Each item is part of our heritage and changes are as frequent and subtle as to be missed. New items will appear and old ones disappear and we probably will not even notice the changes. Take photographs of the items. I for one, will not think you daft, in fact, I will welcome someone equally as daft as me!

The dark interior of Smyth’s forge at Rooaunmore in early 2016. Forges like this one fashioned the ironscape of the country for generations.

My sledge and hammer lie reclined,

My bellows too have lost their wind,

My fire’s extinct, my forge decayed,

And in the dust my vice is laid,

My coal is spent, my iron gone,

My nails are drove, my work is done.

A Blacksmith’s Epitaph for William Strange who died in 1746.

Street Furniture of the Lackagh Area

This is a record of the various items of street and road furniture to be seen in the area of Lackagh, Turloughmore, County Galway in Ireland. It features water pums, road signs, benches, man-hole covers, and gateways to farm and field.

  • Author: Michael J. Hurley
  • Published: 2016-04-18 13:00:12
  • Words: 4803
Street Furniture of the Lackagh Area Street Furniture of the Lackagh Area