By Tommy Greaney (1923-2016)
I was born on 4th July 1923 and was second in a family of 6. My parents, Patrick and Mary Greaney lived at Cahermorris Cross where our house was used as the local dispensary and subsequently became known as Cahermorris Dispensary. When I was a child, Doctor Golding of Headford was the local district doctor and attended each Thursday from 11a.m. till 1p.m. until his retirement. He was replaced by Dr. Maguire who was the last doctor to attend there prior to the dispensary’s closure. At the time most houses would have had to get their water from local streams or would have had collection tanks. The nearest local well at the time was in Kilcoona. It was practice at the time to have a clean water source in close proximity to a dispensary for patients who were attending.
In 1927 at the age of 3 and a half years, I remember Galway County council sinking a pump to provide clean water to the dispensary as well as for the local surrounding villages, Cahermorris, Glenrevagh, Cluide, Ballybeg and Bunnahevena. The work on the bore hole was carried out by a Michael Mitchell of Mountbellew and Peter Shaughnessy of Abbeyknockmoy. The borehole was 6 inches in diameter, drilled to a depth of 400 feet and was through solid rock. It was done using a hollow drill and carried out in steps of 2 feet at a time. When the drill had drilled down to a depth of 2 feet a quantity of ball bearings was dropped down inside which locked the rock core inside the drill. The drill was then lifted up and the rock core removed by sledging it out, sometimes with much difficulty. The process was then repeated until the required 400 feet was reached. On reaching 400 feet there wasn’t sufficient water available so the bore hole was blasted with Gelignite and cortex fuse. This was successful with the water level rising to within 36 feet of the top of the borehole. A hand pump was then fitted within a small walled enclosure.
This pump then became the local source for water with people travelling long distances by horse and cart. I remember seeing a line of as many as 10 people queued up, waiting to fill water. Considering that it took 10 to 12 minutes to fill a 45 gallon barrel it was not in anyone’s interest to be at the end of the queue. One local man, Phil Halloran, reflects on going down to the pump before 7 a.m. in order to avoid the queue only to find another local farmer, Jimmy Glynn (RIP) from Cluide, already there ahead of him with his horse and cart and two 45 Gallon Barrels.
The now redundant original hand pump housing which had served the local community for 46 years is currently on display on top of the current pump house. In 1971 a group of locals namely John Greaney (RIP), Jimmy Greaney (RIP), Michael Fox (RIP), together with local land and house owners came together to set up a group water scheme which would serve Cahermorris and Glenrevagh area. They approached me and asked if I would assist them as I was working with Galway County Council at the time. A meeting was held with Galway County Council where grant assistance was given for the project. Cahermorris / Glenrevagh Group Water Scheme was then set up with John Greaney, Jimmy Greaney, Michael Fox and myself, Tommy Greaney being appointed as original trustees. Local Government engineer in charge of the schemes installation was Frank Furey, Oranmore and chief assistant was Joe Byrne, Galway, who is now county engineer with Mayo County Council.
Grant assistance given for the scheme was in the region of £14,000 with a collection of £25 being made from each of the then 13 houses that were in the scheme. The scheme was designed for 13 houses comprising a 250 gallon pressure vessel, pump fitted to a depth of 150 Feet, and an output pressure of 35 – 60 PSI. In 1972 the contractor Edward Lyons of Galway commenced the pipe laying work which extended to approximately 2.64 miles. The work was completed in 1973 with the blessing and official water “switch on” being performed by Fr. Martin, (RIP) PP Corrandulla, on 17th September 1973.
The scheme was a tremendous success in bringing clean drinking water to the local land and house owners. The scheme was maintained over the years by the local members with an annual fee being paid by householders for the scheme’s maintenance and upkeep. In November 1989 there was a UV and chlorine disinfection systems fitted which is required under new legislation applicable to group water schemes. Since its inception in 1973 the number of connections to the scheme has grown from 13 in the beginning to 60 currently made up of 48 houses and 12 farm connections.
In the latter years owing to regular leaks through deterioration of the pipe work from its years of service it was agreed by the scheme members and Trustees to approach Galway County Council with a view to having the scheme upgraded. 85% grant assistance was secured from Galway County Council for the upgrade along with €300 being collected from each householder. The upgrade was carried out over 5 months from April to September 2008 by Quinn Contractors, Barnaderg. This involved a complete replacement of the service pipe work along with a short extension of the scheme. The pump house was refurbished as part of the upgrade with the final cost for the project totalling €157,500. The success of the upgrade was evident with the annual consumption dropping from 9.5 million gallons prior to the upgrade to just under 8 million gallons following its upgrade. Current average water usage is 155,000 gallons per week as compared with 45,000 gallons per week when it was first opened in 1973. We are confident that this group water scheme will continue to serve its local member households and farmers for many more years in the future. The current trustees of the Scheme are Joe Fahy, Michael John Halloran and myself, Tommy Greaney.
This article first appeared in Anach Cuain 2010. Tommy Greaney died on 5 June 2016, aged 92 years.