We’re blessed with our location,” says Clare O’Connor, community stalwart in Milltown, Co Galway, a village on the N17 Galway to Sligo road.

“That’s more good luck than good management, but we have all worked together over the years to make this a great place to live in,” she says.

I meet the group in the community centre where flags are flying high. That’s after a preliminary look round the village – shop and post office, two pubs, a modern church, sheltered housing complex, new estate, Garda station (part time), a playground, a river park and, more unusually for a village, a business park.

Villagers in Milltown, Co Galway.

Frank Glynn, long-time community worker there, echoes the location advantage.

“We’re in the centre of Connacht, eight miles from the motorway, eight miles from Tuam, 58 from Sligo town, 32 from Galway city and you can get to Connemara in half an hour so we’re on the way to everywhere. Lots of businesses have chosen to establish themselves here because of the location. Being near Knock Airport is also an advantage.”

So how did the business park come about? “We bought 30 acres of land adjoining the railway station in 1972 when Ireland joined the EEC,” he says. “Every village was looking for a factory at that time so our aim was to collect money to start one.”

While they weren’t successful in this, the fact that they had bought land meant they could sell companies cheap sites so that they would set up business in Milltown.

A good location and lots of community work puts Milltown in Co Galway on the map.

“There are 12 businesses based in Milltown now including DHL, Ocean Harvest (an animal supplement company) and HC21 (the international healthcare company). In all, there are 120 people working in village businesses.”

The location has meant new people settling in the area too, they all say. “The house prices here were reasonable compared to Tuam and Galway and it was handy for work in Galway or Castlebar and so on.”

Clare, who runs the village shop, says that the new influx of people has meant survival.

“You’d see so many new people coming in,” Clare says. “The businesses use the post office a lot as well so it all helps. The population starting to grow has meant vibrancy for the village.”

Cross fertilisatoin

Everyone mucks in – that’s the key to getting things done in the village, they say – and the way the Milltown Development Company, Tidy Towns committee and Community Council work together on projects.

“There is a lot of cross fertilisation,” says Frank. “We would all help one another out.”

The development company’s origins can be traced back to old Milltown races and carnival committees that finished up in 1966 and 1981 respectively.

Business is to the fore in the village of Milltown, Co Galway.

A new church opened in 1970 (modelled on one in Boston) and the playground was finished in 1972. The old fair green was also bought along with the area sloping down to the river, which includes a thatched house. This led to the opening of the impressive River Park, which includes a 4.6km surfaced walkway with part wheelchair access.

“We got a grant to rethatch the house and raised money ourselves also,” says Eamon Callaghan. He is current chair of the development group and the acknowledged good filler of forms along with secretary, Liz Gardner.

The playground has one of the very few four-metre high slides in the country, which the committee pays the insurance for. Frank Glynn remembers buying it.

“I still have the invoice. We brought it back from Dublin in the spud lorry.”

The community centre that includes a museum room that contains the Birmingham Telescope (a local landlord discovered a crater on the moon) opened in 2005. Grants were received and much work was done by volunteers, but they needed to raise a lot of money also.

Villagers were asked to commit to giving €1,000 over a period of time and a Mercedes was also raffled. The day they opened the centre, the building was all paid for, they say.

But why do they do all this community work?

“Because I’d be given out to if I didn’t,” says Eamon. “Seriously though, you do it for the parish and the children that are coming up, to make a nice community that people will respect and enjoy.”

The importance of heritage

Heritage is also very important in Milltown and Tony and Fran Murphy and Pauline Connolly are very involved.

“I do a lot of research for people who get in touch from the US,” Fran says. “We have found information of use to many. They come and take stones or a bit of turf as memorabilia, shed tears and go home happy out,” she says.

Pauline Connolly says that Milltown Heritage Group is a member of several networks that meet regularly to pool ideas, expertise, knowledge and resources. Milltown Heritage recently published a comprehensive heritage trail guide and developed an online archive to showcase a recent food heritage project.

The impressive River Park, which includes a 4.6 km surfaced walkway with part wheelchair access.

“The icing on the cake was winning the Tidy Towns Special Heritage Award with this,” Pauline says.

Tony Murphy, who has been involved with the GAA since settling in Milltown, says that the GAA is very important in any village and is often how parents get involved in a community initially.

“They get to know people and it brings new blood onto committees, which is very important. If you don’t have new people, ideas go stale.”

Being involved in Tidy Towns has meant initiating various eco-projects also, like the award-winning “Loving Leftovers” project.

“It was a pilot ‘stop food waste’ scheme run by Galway County Council,” Clare says. “Ten families got together over six weeks to monitor food waste.

Milltown, Co Galway is blessed with its location.

“We launched a booklet also with students coming up with the recipes for dishes using leftovers. Each year we do something different for the food waste project. Nowadays, it’s all about stopping the waste rather than recycling. We reckon we have saved 10,000kg of food waste over the five years.”

After a visit to the River Park, which was packed with locals on a fine evening, Irish Country Living left Milltown knowing that while location is important, when it comes to development it is the input of the people that defines a community. CL


  • Encourage new people onto committees to freshen the idea bank.
  • Develop a river walk.
  • Raffle a car as a big fundraiser.
  • Set up a small museum in your community hall.
  • Recycle old phones and books.
  • Our It Takes A Village series will resume in spring 2020.

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