Every week we shine a light on a different object from our collections that you may not have seen before. This week we have the first artillery shell made in the Galway National Shell Factory in 1917. The factory, whose work force was mainly women, produced 18 pound shells for use in the Great War (1914-18). The factory building, which later became the Irish Munitions Industries Ltd. still survives in part on the grounds of the National University of Ireland, Galway.
The inscription on the shell reads:
Galway National Shell Factory
The first shell
Martin McDonogh Esq.
During the war, five ‘national munitions factories’ were set up in Dublin (which had two), Cork, Waterford and Galway, employing 2,148 men and women. In Galway, a local committee, which included Martin Mór McDonogh with support from the Urban District Council, County Council and Harbour Board lobbied the Ministry of Munitions in Britain (with support from John Redmond MP) to establish a factory in Galway. By July 1916 plans for the factory were in place. The first shell was produced under the supervision of Captain Downie, chief expert of the munitions ministry in Ireland. The factory employed 115 people, working three eight-hour round the clock shifts. The majority of the workforce (95%) was female as per governmental regulations. Many of the factory women joined the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW) who campaigned for worker’s rights and wages in line with Britain for similar work. The end of the war signalled the closure of the factories.
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