This is the cross on top of Sliding Rock in Shantalla, a residential area in Galway City that borders the University Hospital. House-building began in 1943 and the limestone outcrop became a natural slide for the children that came to live in the area (hence the name Sliding Rock). Today, there is a playground on the other side of the hillock. One hundred and fifty years ago, there were only fields here, and the cross marks the spot from where Daniel O’Connell gave a speech to half a million people. Ok – that number comes from a contemporary account and seems a tad optimistic but we can assume that there was a big crowd. O’Connell – known as the Liberator – was a huge draw. He had been to the forefront of the campaign for Catholic Emancipation, which had been achieved a decade earlier. The Galway speech was one of a series of ‘Monster Meetings’ – so-called because of the massive crowds that attended each of them – attended by O Connell in order to rally support for the repeal of the Act of Union. His campaign would not be successful – O’Connell was 68 when he spoke in Galway, and later the same year, he was charged with conspiracy (after a huge gathering planned for Dublin was banned by the authorities) and jailed for 3 months. He died, aged 71, in Rome in 1847.
Daniel O Connell was born in Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry on this date in 1775.