Realised Vision

The West of Ireland has a rich engineering heritage and has proud associations with major engineering projects that are of national and international significance.

Realised Vision provides an overview of the vital role engineers play in shaping the world we live in today and in laying the foundations for the future.

Launched by Mr Noel Treacy, TD, Minister for Science & Technology At NUI, Galway on 16 October 2000.

The Millennium Project 


To mark the end of the second millennium, the Engineers Ireland West Region has prepared an exhibition featuring a range of important engineering projects and activities. 

These are either projects in the West Region or else projects of national and international significance that were led by engineers from the region.

Objectives of the exhibition are: 

  • To highlight to the general public the range of works carried out by the engineers over the millennium.
  • To enable second level students gain an understanding of exciting challenges in the engineering profession and thereby encourage greater interest in an engineering career.
  • To provide student engineers with a historic context to their engineering studies and to help them to relate their branch of engineering to other disciplines.

Engineering projects and activities



Alcock and Brown were the first people to fly an aircraft non-stop across the Atlantic ocean. They made their flight in June 1919, departing Newfoundland and landing in a bog near the Marconi (Clifden) Wireless Station.

The Aircraft

The plane was a Vickers Vimy twin-engined biplane. It was built mainly of wood and fabric and was powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII V-12 engines.

The Vimy was originally designed as a bomber to be used during the First World War. Bombing equipment was removed and extra fuel tanks were added for the transatlantic flight.

The Vickers Vimy biplane that landed at Ballyconneely, Clifden on 15th June,1919. The plane is now on display in the Science Museum, London.

The Flight

The plane took off from St. John's, Newfoundland on Saturday, 14 June, 1919 and landed in Clifden, Co. Galway some 16 hours later. It completed the journey of 1,890 miles (3,040 km) at an average speed of approximately 118 miles (193 kilometres) per hour.

Weather conditions were difficult, dense fog and drizzling rain obscured vision to such an extent that at times the aircraft was flying upside down and once only 10ft from the water. The landing place was a bog near the Clifden Wireless Station.

Once safely out of the plane, Alcock, with the assistance of the Marconi staff, sent a telegram announcing their success. At this point the airmen were only 10 miles (16 km) off the course they had planned and some 50 miles (80 km) from Galway, the intended destination.

"From above, the bog looked like a lovely field, but the machine sank into it up to the axle and fell over on her nose" said Alcock after the flight. The plane suffered some damage. Alcock and Brown came away unhurt.

The Crew

Sir John W Alcock (1892–1919) was born in Manchester. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service at the beginning of World War I. After the war Alcock became a test pilot for Vickers Aircraft. Six months after his Atlantic crossing, while delivering an amphibian aircraft to Paris, Alcock crashed in bad weather and was fatally injured.

Arthur Whitten Brown (1886–1948) was born in Glasgow. He began his career in engineering before the outbreak of World War I when he became a pilot in the Royal Air Force. After the Atlantic crossing, Brown later returned to engineering and was general manager of the Metropolitan Vickers Company in Swansea.

History of Engineering at NUI, Galway

The Faculty of Engineering

The Department of Civil Engineering was one of the original departments when the University opened its doors to students in 1849 and it has offered a BE degree continuously since then. At the time of its inception, it was one of only six Schools of Engineering in Great Britain and Ireland. In the 19th century, Civil Engineering was the dominant branch of engineering and this was reflected by the curriculum at NUI, Galway also.

While an Electrical Engineering stream was offered from 1909 to 1932, it was not until 1970 that the Faculty began to diversify and, since then,expansion has been rapid and decisive. The Department of Industrial Engineering was created in 1970 and the Departments of Electronic Engineering, Mechanical and Engineering Hydrology followed in the latter part of that decade. The growth in staff and student numbers has also been dramatic over the last forty years. In 1960, there were only two permanent members of the academic staff in engineering. By the year 2000, this had increased to 32. In 1970, 29 students graduated with BE degrees and by 2000, the intake to the faculty was in excess of 210 students per year.

The diversity of the faculty is also evidenced by the fact that eight separate undergraduate degree programmes are now offered across all the departments. The B.E. degree programmes at NUI, Galway are accredited by the Institution of Engineers of Ireland (IEI) and are recognised internationally by professional institutions under the Washington Accord.

The National University of Ireland, Galway - (Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh) was founded in 1845 as one of the three original colleges of the Queen's University. The College opened for students in October 1849. As a result the Irish Universities Act (1908), Queen's College Galway became a Constituent College of the new National University of Ireland and under a new charter the name was changed to University College Galway.

NUI, Galway

In 1929, the College was given a special statutory responsibility in respect of the use of the Irish language as a working language. Under the Universities Act, 1997, the status changed to that of a Constituent University and it is now National University of Ireland, Galway / Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh. Since the 1960s the University has experienced significant and continuous growth, both in its stock of buildings, facilities and physical resources and also in the numbers of its students and staff. Its student body during the 1999/2000 academic year is over 10,000, with academically strong programmes of teaching and research across its seven Faculties.

Department of Civil Engineering

The Department of Civil Engineering was one of the original departments set up when the University enrolled students for the first time in 1849. Consequently, the department has a long and proud tradition in the training of Civil Engineers. In recent years, the department has also offered a programme in the increasingly relevant area of Environmental Engineering. The professors of Civil Engineering include W. Bindon Blood (1850-1860), Edward Townsend (1860-1910), F. S. Rishworth (1910-1946), W. H. Prendergast (1947-1957), J. D. O'Keeffe (1958-1996), P.E. O'Donoghue (1997-). The department is located in Block E on the main campus.              

Department of Electronic Engineering              

While there was an Electrical Engineering stream in the University from 1909 to 1932, it was not until 1979 that the Department of Electronic Engineering was constituted. At that time the student intake was only 12 per annum and this has now increased to 50 per annum (which gives a total of about 200 undergraduates). Reflecting the growing importance of Information Technology, the department instituted a new degree programme in Electronic and Computer Engineering in 1997. The first head of department was Professor James Calderwood and he was succeeded in 1990 by Professor David Wilcox. The department is located in the McLaughlin Building, Nun's Island.

Department of Mechanical Engineering               

The Department of Mechanical Engineering was founded in 1980 and Professor Séan McNamara has been professor and head of the department since then. In addition to a degree in Mechanical Engineering, the department now offers a programme in Biomedical Engineering. The latter programme is a response to the major expansion of the Biomedical Engineering industry and the resulting need for highly skilled personnel. The department is located in the McLaughlin Building, Nun¹s Island.

Department of Engineering Hydrology

The Department of Engineering Hydrology evolved from the highly respected hydrology group in the University under the direction of Professor Eamonn Nash. Professor Nash served as head of department until his retirement in 1992. He was succeeded by the current holder of the chair, Professor Con Cunnane. The international standing of the department was recognised by the Overseas Aid section of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs through the establishment of a masters course in Engineering Hydrology. The department is located in the Powderstore, Nun¹s Island.               

Department of Industrial Engineering  

The Department of Industrial Engineering was first established in 1971 to provide Industrial Engineers for the then rapidly growing manufacturing sector. The department now offers separate degree programmes in (i) Industrial Engineering and Information Systems and (ii) Management Engineering with Language. Professor Eddie O¹Kelly has served as professor and head of department since its inception. To date over 1300 undergraduate and postgraduate students have graduated from the department. The department is located in the McLaughlin Building, Nun's Island.

Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme

The Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme was the largest engineering project undertaken in Ireland and in its early years could almost support the electricity needs of the entire state. After Independence the Irish Free State Government started on an ambitious programme of reconstruction and development for the country. A major objective of this programme was the provision of a cheap, reliable and plentiful supply of electricity.

The Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme was constructed between 1925 and 1929 to meet this objective. The scheme was the brainchild of Dr. Thomas MacLaughlin a graduate of UCG. He joined Siemens Schukert in Berlin in 1922 and worked on developing the concept of harnessing the power of the River Shannon to produce electricity.


Aerial view of Ardnacrusha

Power House Construction

The works involved the diversion of 90% of the Shannon into a head race canal 7.5 m long by which the water was delivered to Ardnacrusha, where a fall of 34 m was available. After passing through the generators at the power station the spent water was conveyed back to the Shannon by means of a tail race canal. The chief Civil Engineer on the project was Frank Sharman Rishworth from Tuam, who was at the time Professor of Civil Engineering at UCG. On completion of the scheme considerable work was carried out on developing the electricity grid, stretching the length and breadth of the country. The construction of a transmission system for the entire country, even very remote areas, was referred to as the "Rural Electrification Programme".

In 1929 the Shannon Scheme was completed and handed over to ESB. In its early years the station could practically support the electricity needs of the entire nation. The highest proportion of system demand supplied by Ardnacrusha was 87% in 1936/37. Ardnacrusha was also the headquarters of ESB until 1954. By 2000 Ardnacrusha supplied only about 3% of the annual demand but it is still vitally important to the system as a 'rapidly available' source of power and for cover in cases of emergency or sudden breakdown of plant.


Here is the story of 7 engineers from the past with connections to Galway and NUI, Galway, including Alice Perry, possibly the first woman, in the world, to graduate as an engineer, and Michael O'Shaughnessy, chief engineer on the San Francisco Water-Supply and Electric Power Scheme.

Michael "Chief" O'Shaughnessy, B.E. (1864-1934)

Michael O'Shaughnessy graduated in Civil Engineering from Queen's College Galway in 1884 and for a long number of years was Chief Engineer of the City of San Francisco, undertaking the building of new infrastructures for the city after the disastrous earthquake and fires of 1906.

These works included the construction of the Twin Peaks tunnel, the famous Seashore Wall, the Streetcar (tramway) system and, greatest of all, the San Francisco Water-Supply and Electric-Power project, involving dams, powerhouses and 160 miles of transmission towers, pipelines and tunnels the whole way to the City from the O'Shaughnessy Dam (named in his honour) in the Sierra Nevada (Yosemite National Park), an area generally under snow and ice for most of the winter.

The Hetch-Hetchy project, as it is sometimes called, is numbered among the great engineering projects of the twentieth century. As City Engineer, O'Shaughnessy was also closely involved in the long-running controversy surrounding the proposal to build the Golden Gate Bridge. He died aged 70 in 1934 just a few days before the celebrations which had been planned to honour him following the arrival in the City of the first water from the great Dam, and four years before the Bridge, the construction of which was already well under way, was opened to traffic.

"Chief" O'Shaughnessy was appointed City Engineer of San Francisco in 1912 and he held this office until his retirement in 1932, after which he became Consulting Engineer to the City's Public Utilities Commission. Among the many difficult tasks which he had to perform was to convince the U. S. Congress to grant the necessary permissions for the enormous Hetch Hetchy Power & Water Supply Scheme; he spent many weeks in Washington actively lobbying for support and being examined by members of the Senate.

During one particular week he was examined continuously from Monday morning until late on Saturday evening. In spite of strenuous opposition, largely from vested interests, he eventually secured the necessary approvals, which were signed by President Wilson in 1913. In his own words "I never handled any proposition where the engineering problems were so simple and the political ones so complex". He was, of course, being his usual modest self about his Engineering skills!

Even to the layman, the site chosen for the dam must appear ideal for its purpose. In addition to the splendid topography of the valley, the fact that the mountains are largely granite made this location unbeatable in spite of its distance, 160 miles, from San Francisco. The area of the watershed contributing to the reservoir behind the O'Shaughnessy Dam is roughly 460 sq. miles (1, 150 sq. km.); the total watershed for the entire project exceeds 650 sq. miles. (1,620

In 1912, at the beginning of the Hetch Hetchy Project, there were few roads and no motorcars in the High Sierras. The building of a mountain railway, the Hetch Hetchy Rail Road (H.H.R.R.) was the first task 0' Shaughnessy set himself. All the materials for its construction came by mule trains like the one shown here. There were long rail tunnels, and many bridges, to be built before any thought could be given to starting the construction of the permanent Works, namely, the Dams, the Power-plants and the aquaduct itself.

O'Shaughnessy was not, of course, picked out of no-where to take over as Chief Engineer of San Francisco; his earlier career made him the obvious choice. Among his earlier employments were: Engineer with the Southern Pacific Railroad and with the Sierra Valley and Mohawk Railroad, and Chief Engineer of the Mountain Copper Company where he built 12 miles of narrow gauge mountain railroad.

He spent some time in Hawaii building an aggregate of about thirty miles of large irrigation conduit and some twenty miles of tunnel. He constructed the 260 ft high Morena Dam and 13 miles of conduit with seventeen tunnels for the City of San Diego. He had all the necessary experience in building dams, tunnels, conduits and railroads which were the essential parts of the great Hetch Hetchy Scheme and he had no trouble turning his mind to the design of sea-defence works, tramway systems and other urban design projects in San Francisco.

Alice Perry, (1885-1969)

Alice Jacqueline Perry graduated with a first class honours degree in Civil Engineering from Queen's College Galway (now NUI, Galway) in 1906. It is understood that she is the first woman to graduate with a degree in engineering in Ireland or Great Britain. Indeed it is possible that she is the first woman to graduate as an engineer anywhere in the world.

Alice Perry was born in Galway in 1885 and she came from a family that had strong engineering traditions. Her father, James Perry, was County Surveyor in Galway West and, together with his brother, founded the Galway Electric Light Company. Her uncle, John Perry was a Fellow of the Royal Society and was well known for inventing the navigational gyroscope. Sadly, Alice's father died soon after her graduation in 1906 and this prevented her from continuing her academic career. She was appointed temporary county surveyor by Galway County Council in December 1906 in succession to her father. She held this post for six months until a permanent appointment was made. Her age and lack of experience dictated that she would not have been appointable to the permanent post. The fact remains that she was the first and only woman to have occupied the post of County Surveyor (County Engineer) in Ireland.

In 1908, Alice and her sisters moved to London where she spent some years working for the Home Office as a Lady Factory Inspector. This involved the monitoring of the laws in relation to the employment of women, particularly in the industrial setting. In 1916 she married Bob Shaw, an Englishman who was serving in the British Army. Her husband left for the Western Front in 1917 and unfortunately he was killed in action later that year. Although brought up as a Presbyterian, she had converted to the Christian Science Church in 1915. She became interested in poetry and published her first work in 1922. The following year she went to Boston, which was the headquarters of Christian Science.           

Alice Perry spent the remaining 45 years of her life in the US. Little detail is known of her time there but she worked completely within the Christian Science church. She did however continue her strong interest in writing and poetry and a total of seven books of poems were published by her through the Christian Science Society. She also returned to Ireland on three occasions, 1930, 1948, and 1960, and visited the Department of Civil Engineering during her 1948 visit.

Shortly before her death, she commissioned a memorial slab to her parents in the Presbyterian Church on Nun's Island.

Thomas McLaughlin, (1896-1971)

Thomas McLaughlin was born in Drogheda in 1896. He studied engineering in UCD, graduating with a B.Sc. in 1916 and an M.Sc. in 1918. He took up an appointment as an Assistant Lecturer in Physics at University College Galway and while he was there, he qualified with a BE degree in 1922 and a Ph.D. in 1923. In Galway, McLaughlin was greatly influenced by the then Professor of Civil Engineering, Frank Rishworth. It is believed that Rishworth instilled in McLaughlin the idea of harnessing the Shannon.

In December 1923, McLaughlin took up a position with the firm of Siemens-Schuckert in Berlin. While he was there he came up with the plan for hydroelectric power generation on the river Shannon. He returned to Ireland to persuade the Minister for Industry and Commerce that his idea would work. The Irish Government decided to proceed with McLaughlin's plan and in 1925 work began on the construction of the "Shannon Scheme" as it was called.

In 1927 the Government formed the first state-sponsored body, the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), and McLaughlin was appointed the managing director.

McLaughlin went on during his career to persuade Governments that electrical power should be transmitted to the entire country, even very remote areas and islands at no cost.

We refer to this as the "Rural Electrification Programme". McLaughlin retired from the ESB in 1958, and he died in Spain in 1971.

Alexander Nimmo, (1783-1832)

Nimmo was born in Kircaldy, Scotland in 1783. He was a brilliant student and attended universities in Edinburgh and St. Andrews. He soon came to the attention of Thomas Telford, one of the leading civil engineers at the start of the 19th century and under his guidance, he gained experience in surveying and other aspects of building.

In 1810, Nimmo moved to Ireland to investigate the practicality of draining and cultivating some of the bogs of Ireland. Nimmo worked in Kerry for two years before moving to Connemara early in 1813. Thus began his great love affair with this most remarkable region of this country.

The Bogs Commission completed their work in 1814 and Nimmo devoted the next few years to study and private practice. In 1820, Nimmo was appointed as engineer by the Commission for Irish Fisheries a role that possibly merged with that of engineer to the western district. He immediately set about some of the schemes that he had probably been considering since his first stay in Connemara several years earlier.

Some of the more notable projects include the building of many piers around the Galway coastline, the founding of the village of Roundstone and the development of the carriage road from Oughterard to Clifden. Much of the work was motivated by his desire to improve the prosperity of the Connemara region and its people and open up the area to transport and communication.

Nimmo was a very private individual and little is known of his life outside of engineering. He lived for some time in Maam Valley, building a house by the Bealanabrack River a few miles north of Maam Cross (the house, known as Corrib Lodge, survives today as Keane¹s Bar). The house was on the carriage road that he later built from Maam Cross to Leenane. Nimmo was on good terms with the landed families in Connemara such as the Martins of Ballinahinch and the Blakes of Renvyle. There is even the report that he instructed the young Mary Martin, heiress at Ballinahinch, in a course of engineering. Was she the first female engineer trained in County Galway?

Nimmo also maintained a residence in Dublin, possibly to facilitate his practice in England and the rest of Ireland. He was to die in Dublin in 1832 at the age of 49. While his engineering monuments, such as piers and bridges, still exist in many parts of Ireland, it is for his tremendous contribution to the development of the Connemara infrastructure that he is best remembered.

William Bindon Blood, Professor of Civil Engineering (1850-1860)

Professor Blood was a native of County Clare and was educated in Edinburgh and Trinity College Dublin. He graduated with his degree from Trinity in 1839, having obtained the College Gold Medal in Mathematics and Physics.

For the next ten years, he worked as a railway engineer in the United Kingdom where he came under the influence of the famous engineer Brunel. He returned to Ireland in 1850 to take up the post of Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen's College Galway as it was known at that time. He retained his interest in railways and was noted for his contributions to bridge engineering. His analysis paved the way for the building of the Boyne Viaduct, which had the longest span in the world when constructed in 1857.

He was an uncle of George Johnstone Stoney, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Galway from 1852 to 1857 and of Bindon Blood Stoney, the famous engineer in the 19th century who was responsible for the design of O'Connell Bridge in Dublin and also for much of Dublin port.

Bindon Blood resigned from his post in 1860 to look after the family property in Co. Clare, where he died in 1894.

Edward Townsend, Professor of Civil Engineering (1860-1910)

Edward Townsend graduated from Trinity College in 1852. This remarkable individual held the chair of Civil Engineering for fifty years until he retired in 1910. He was also registrar of the University during the period 1877-1910.

He had a strong interest in railways and played an active part in their development in the West of Ireland. In particular, he was a key individual in the design of the Galway-Clifden railway.

He was a keen student of architecture and was also responsible for arterial drainage schemes in Galway and Mayo.

Despite these wide-ranging activities, he always maintained a strong interest in teaching and it was always a source of personal delight when his students performed well in their examinations.

His son, Sir John Townsend, became professor of Physics at Oxford and possibly through his father's influence he was an important figure in the founding of the Engineering School at that University.

Frank Sharman Rishworth, Professor of Civil Engineering (1910-1946)

Frank Rishworth was born in Tuam, Co. Galway, and was a student of Professor Townsend in Galway, graduating in 1898. After graduation, he worked as a railway engineer in the United Kingdom prior to his appointment as a lecturer in the School of Engineering, Giza, Egypt. He resigned from that post in 1910 to succeed Professor Townsend in Galway.

As the University was expanding in the early part of the 20th century, Rishworth designed and supervised the erection of a new engineering building on the campus, which is still in use to this day. Like his predecessor, he had a deep interest in teaching and the welfare of his students. In 1925, he took a leave of absence from the University and was appointed as Chief Civil Engineer to the Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme.

A visionary and innovator, his earlier influence with Thomas McLaughlin was seen as one of the prime motivating factors of the scheme in the first instance. On completion of the scheme, he returned to the University but he continued to consult with the government and local authorities on a variety of issues. He was particularly active in the areas of water supply, sewerage schemes and traffic. He retired from the University in 1946 and died at his home in Dublin in 1960.

Wind Energy

Wind - A Renewable Energy Source

The utilisation of wind energy in the West of Ireland includes a number of phases, the use of wind pumps in Connemara in the 1950’s and the development of windfarms to produce electricity, commencing in the 1990’s.

Ireland is committed under the Kyoto Protocol of December 1997 to a limit on the rise of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2010 of 13% and will be subject to penalties if this limit is breached. Given that it is predicted that electricity generation in Ireland is likely to increase by 50% over the period 1990 to 2010 it will be difficult to meet the Kyoto target. There is a potential for wind energy to play an important role in addressing this problem.

Electricity from Wind

Producing electricity from wind is a new industry; there was no commercial wind power in Europe until the 1980’s. Wind energy technology is still developing and the wind turbines are becoming more efficient, cheaper and with increasing capacity.

Civil, electrical, electronic and mechanical engineers are all playing a role in this area. Windfarms are sites with a group of wind turbines generating electricity on a significant scale.

Advantages of Wind Energy:        

  • Renewable energy source
  • No greenhouse gases (which contribute to global warming)
  • No sulphur dioxide emissions (which are a cause of acid rain)
  • No harmful emissions / wastes (gas, liquid or solid)
  • Positive impact on Ireland’s Balance of Payments
Wind Energy in the West of Ireland
The Past
Windmills were introduced into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans. The earliest Irish windmill at Kiscalan, Co. Wexford is known to have been in existence in 1281. In 1585 a windmill is known to have been in existence at Galway.

Between then and the early years of the 19th century there were at least twenty-four windmills in Co. Galway. By the late 19th century wind power was used to pump water on large estates.

During the 1920's and the 1930's Maurice Sweeney B.E. built at least 13 wind powered public water schemes for Galway County Council.

During the 1950's a major survey was undertaken on the potential for electricity generation from wind power in Ireland. Two sites were investigated in Co. Galway, one at Roundstone, the other being the Aran Islands.

The Present

At the beginning of 2000 there were 10 windfarms in operation in Ireland with 70 MW of installed capacity and producing just over 1% of Ireland’s electricity. All of these plants are located in the West and North West with the exception of one site in Cork.

The first significant wind energy installation in Ireland was the windfarm at Bellacorick, Co. Mayo, built in 1992 on a site adjacent to a turf power station.

There are other wind energy projects in the West of Ireland at the planning or construction stage. The West of Ireland is well positioned to play a significant role in the development of this industry, which is still in its infancy. The West coast of Ireland, along with Scotland, has the highest wind speeds in Europe. Wind speed is all important e.g. a turbine on a site with average wind speed of 8 m/sec will produce 80% more electricity than one on site with wind speed of 6m/sec.

Wind Turbines usually have 4 sections:

  • Rotor – Generally consists of 3 glass fibre reinforced polyester blades connected to a hub on a horizontal shaft, which rotates at 15 to 30 RPM.
  • Nacelle - Contains the key components of the wind turbine, including gearbox, electrical generator and control systems. Service personnel can enter the nacelle from the tower of the turbine.
  • Tower - Towers are mostly cylindrical (or polygonal) and made of steel, generally painted light grey. It is an advantage to have a high tower, since wind speeds increase farther away from the ground. The yaw mechanism is located between the top of the tower and nacelle and uses electrical motors to turn the nacelle and rotor to face the wind. The tower incorporates access ladders and electrical cables.
  • Base – Consists of large reinforced concrete structure, buried underground.

Waterways of Galway


The waterways of Galway are of great engineering significance. Major engineering works were required to construct the waterways and they were a major influence on the location of the first industries in Galway.

General Description:

The natural drainage channels from Lough Corrib to Galway Bay included the River Corrib, the Gaol River or Cathedral River and the Western River or Convent River. By the mid 19th century there were approximately 30 mills in operation in Galway. There were two major engineering projects, which resulted in the waterways system which exists today. The Loughs Corrib, Mask, and Carra Drainage and Navigation Scheme was constructed between 1848 and 1858 and the Corrib-Clare Catchment Drainage Scheme was constructed in the 1950s. The Corrib and canal systems have over the years provided a number of benefits: navigation, water power, drainage for the Corrib catchment, fisheries and as a source for water supply to Galway city and surrounding areas.


Lough Corrib, Mask, & Carra Drainage & Navigation Scheme:

The works were based on proposals in the McMahon Report of 1846 with some amendments. It was an integrated scheme in that while the primary purpose was to improve drainage (reduce winter water levels and the areas of flooded land) and navigation in the respective catchments this was to be undertaken without detrimental effect on the mills or fishery interests. The winter flood level was reduced by 450mm (18") and the tailraces from the various mills were deepened such that the water head was not impaired.

The main elements of this scheme were:

  • Construction of the Claddagh Basin and Locks
  • Construction of the Eglinton Canal and Parkavera Locks
  • Dredging of channels of Corrib, Gaol and western rivers and the various tail races
  • Construction of the Eastern Conduit
  • Construction of a deep tailrace from the Newcastle mills to the marble factory to discharge to the river Corrib to rear of the Old Hygeia Building. These works were designed by Commissioner Mulvany and insured that three mill sites could be retained.
  • Construction of culverts to allow tailraces to run under headraces
  • Construction of weir and salmon pass
  • Construction of pier at Woodquay (Stamer's Quay)
  • Upgrading of mills to suit new operating levels

Corrib-Clare Catchment Drainage Scheme:

The main elements of the scheme, with respect to the Galway Waterways, were:

  1. Excavation of the River Corrib channel from the head of the Eglinton Canal to approximately midway between the William O'Brien and Wolf Tone Bridges.
  2. Construction of a new weir just north of the old weir.

Eglinton Canal:

The Eglinton Canal provided two main functions, firstly as a navigation channel from the Claddagh Basin to Lough Corrib and secondly as a feeder channel to the Gaol River and Western River and the various mills they powered. Swivel bridges, constructed from a wrought iron frame and timber decking, were erected at five road crossings.

The canal was used for transport of goods by boat until the early part of the 20th century. Tolls of £370 were collected in 1880 but this had reduced to £35 in 1905 and £1 in 1916. The last boat to use the canal was the Guinness 90 foot yacht, OAmo II, in 1954. By this stage the swivel bridges were in a poor state and it was decided to replace the bridges with fixed bridges.

Corrib Bridges:

The William O'Brien Bridge was the first bridge across the Corrib and was originally a wooden bridge, called the West Bridge. The current bridge was rebuilt in 1851 as part of the Corrib Mask Drainage Scheme. The other bridges are the Salmon Weir Bridge (1818), the Wolf Tone Bridge (constructed in the 1850's as a pedestrian bridge and rebuilt in 1877 and 1935) and the Quincentennial Bridge (1985).

Hydropower Potential of Galway Canals:

The Galway Electric Light Company, run by the Perry family, converted the mills at the current ESB premises at Newtownsmith to a hydropower station in 1888. This operated until 1929, on completion of the Ardnacrusha Scheme, when the ESB acquired the premises.

The Hydrology Department of NUIG prepared the Report on Hydropower Potential of the Galway City Canals for ESB in 1985. It considered that the primary sites for hydropower were Hunters channel and the Eglinton Canal at Parkavera with potential of approximately 1.5MW.

However, achieving this potential would have implications for other uses of the Galway Waterways, boating, fishing and would also result in a decrease in the flow in the main channel of the River Corrib.

Electricity Generation at NUI, Galway:

The only operating hydropower installation on the waterways of Galway, resides in NUI, Galway¹s McLaughlin Building, Nun's Island. This building houses two turbines: a restored 1932 Francis turbine and a turbine manufactured entirely from plastic. In 1980, the then University College Galway purchased a flour mill, situated on Gaol River at Nun¹s Island.

During reconstruction of the building, the sections of a Francis turbine were discovered. Robert Craig & Sons, Belfast originally manufactured this 42 kW turbine in 1932 and refurbished the turbine in 1981.

The second turbine in the McLaughlin Building was installed in the mid 1980s. It is a Francis turbine manufactured entirely from plastic. It operates on a head of 2 metres and a discharge of 2.6 cubic metres per second. It has a power output of 32 kW.

Here is a table of the hydropower installations that have operated in Galway since the 1860's:

Ref No. of Mills 1860's 1950's 2000 Feed Channel
1 1 Newcastle Distillery In Ruins    
2 1 Beach Mills Metal Industries NUIG Civil Eng. Labs Eglinton Canal
3 1 Marble Works Hunter Factory NUIG Eglinton Canal
4 1 Flour Mc Donaghs Flour Mills Mc Laughlin Building NUIG Gaol River
5 2 Flour Palmers Flour Mills Mc Laughlin Building NUIG Gaol River
6 1 Wood Factory ice Factory Apartments Gaol River
7 1 Brewery Palmers Maize Mills St Josephs College Western River
8 4 Flour Ruined Mills CYMS Building Western River
9 1 Saw Mill Woolen Mills Printers Eglinton River
10 1 Brewery Lydons Woolen Mills Car Park Western River
11 2 Paper Galway Iron Foundry Garda Station Western River
12 1 Flour Bridge Mills Restaurant & Shops Western River
13 3 Flour Lydons Woolen Mills Apartments Western River
14 2 Flour/Oats Galway Woolen Mills Mercy Secondary School Eastern Conduit
15 3 Flour ESB ESB Eastern Conduit
16 2 Flour/Bark Battery Charging Station Apartments Eastern Conduit
17 3 Flour/Tuck/Distillery Chemical Works Jurys Hotel Eastern Conduit


The Golden Gate Bridge

From Concept to Reality:

In 1916 James Wilkins, a newspaperman with an engineering degree, lived in Marin County and worked in San Francisco, travelling by ferry both ways each day. Fed up of the travelling he proposed a bridge across the Golden Gate in an article in the San Francisco Bulletin on August 26th 1916. His suggested budget was $10m. The City Engineer, Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy, responded positively to the article. His endorsement was critical to the advancement of the project.        


O'Shaughnessy began a national inquiry among engineers regarding the feasibility and cost of the bridge project. The majority of engineers said a bridge could not be built; some speculated it would cost over $100 million. However, Joseph B. Strauss said such a bridge was not only feasible, but could be built for only $25 to $30 million. Subsequently, Strauss submitted his preliminary sketches to O'Shaughnessy, with a cost estimate of $27 million on June 28, 1921. However, it took over a decade to obtain the various approvals required before construction could commence.

In the Spring of 1924 an application was made to the War Department, who had jurisdiction over the harbour, for a permit to build the bridge. A provisional license was issued on December 20th 1924 but the final permit was not issued until August 11th 1930. Eleven of the leading bridge builders in the U.S. were requested to submit proposals for constructing the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge - Laying the suspension cables


The design submitted by Joseph Strauss was selected and a contract for almost $24M was awarded in November 1932. The bridge commenced on January 5th 1933 and was completed and open to pedestrian traffic on May 27th 1937, and to vehicle traffic the following day, ahead of schedule and under budget. The cost of the bridge was financed by Construction Bonds to the value of $35m. This principal sum plus almost $39m in interest were cleared in 1971.

The Golden Gate Bridge was opened to the public on May 27th, 1937. Because of the huge public interest, over 200,000 people paid 5 cents to see this feat of engineering.

Bridge Details:

The Golden Gage Bridge is a suspension bridge and has two main towers, which support the two main cables that carry the bridge deck. With a clear span between the towers of 4,200 ft, the Golden Gate established itself as the longest suspension bridge in the world, a distinction it held until 1964 when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, New York was completed. The Golden Gate Bridge is regarded as one of the greatest construction achievements of the 20th Century.


Sculpting machines applied 4500 pounds per square inch pressure and compacted the 61 cable strands into a perfectly round main cable measuring 36 inches in diameter. Sculpted cables then received cable bands which hung the suspender ropes, to which in turn the roadway was fastened.

The north pier was close to the shore; construction was relatively straightforward. The south pier however was more than 1100 feet offshore and was founded 100 feet below the surface of the open sea amid powerful tides and waves.

Links with NUI, Galway:

Michael M. O'Shaughnessy (1864 - 1934), the San Francisco City Engineer who commissioned the design and construction of the Golden Gate Bridge graduated as BE (Civil) from NUI, Galway (then the Queens College Galway).

Roads to the West

Roads - A Historical Overview:

During the Iron Age, roads were built across bogs using timber. These roads were known as tóchar and the name still survives in some place names. As these ancient roads fell into disuse, they disappeared into the bog and thus the original timbers were preserved to modern times. For many years the primary communication routes for long distance were by sea and inland waterways as well as by road. Now with continuous investment in roads and in particular the long distance primary routes, sea transport is kept as short as possible because land transport is far quicker and more comfortable. Investment in the National Primary routes and National Secondary routes is channelled through the National Roads Authority, with the local County Council or Corporation still playing a major role in design, land purchase and construction.

The Curlew Road Project:

The Scheme cost IR£24million and included the following elements:

  • 16.5 km of National Primary Route
  • 1.5 km of National Secondary Route
  • 10.0 km of new and improved access and county roads

Some of the main statistics for the project are as follows:

  • Excavation of 1,500,000 cubic metres of boulder clay
  • Excavation of 330,000 cubic metres of rock
  • Excavation of 150,000 cubic metres of soft ground and replacement with rock. The soft ground was up to 11 m deep in places
  • Dealing with 130 separate land owners.                            

This project, considered as an important contribution to the infrastructure of Connacht and the North West, was carried out between 1995 and 1998. This new road, which is partly in Counties Roscommon and Sligo and runs west of Lough Key and Lough Arrow, replaces the old N4, which involved a torturous ascent and descent over the Curlew Mountains. Roscommon County Council were responsible for project management of the scheme, which was undertaken in part by direct labour and in part by contract.

An Environmental Impact Statement was carried out for the project. This was not required by legislation but was undertaken because of the sensitivity of the landscape through which the road traversed. Measures undertaken to reduce the visual impact of the new road included the soiling of rock embankments, which otherwise would have been evident from 5 km away.

Galway Eastern Approach Road:

Oranmore Bypass to the Quincentennial Bridge and was constructed in a number of phases between 1983 and 1996. Approximately 1.0 km of Phase 1 and 0.7 km of Phase 2 of the road was founded on weak alluvial soils located in the Terryland River basin. The depths of soft ground varied up to 11 metres and consisted of peat, calcareous marl, organic clay and inorganic silty clay. The methodology used to construct the road in these conditions included:

  • Placement of geotextile fabric on the undisturbed ground surface
  • Placement of free draining layer of crushed limestone
  • Construction of embankment to a surcharge height of 0.5 to 1.0 m above the finished road level in order to accelerate settlement during the construction period
  • The maximum recorded settlement was 3.3 m
  • Placement of vertical band drains on a 1.4 m square grid over the entire embankment area in order to accelerate pore pressure dissipation in the various soil layers
  • Installation of a comprehensive instrumentation system to measure pore water pressure, vertical settlement and lateral movement

The above methods, to deal with the weak soils, were first applied in Ireland on the Galway Eastern Approach Road and the Athlone Relief Road

Specialised Road Building Materials from the West:

The bitumen pavements, which are used on almost all Irish roads, consist of a mixture of aggregate, filler, bitumen and additives. There has been considerable research in additives over the years in order to produce a variety of materials to match different requirements. Chemoran, based in Oranmore and a member of the Cold Chon Group of companies, has been producing specialised chemical products for the roads industry since the late 1940's. It now exports to some 56 countries in five continents.

The materials developed and manufactured at the Oranmore plant include adhesive agents to improve the adhesion between bitumen and stone and various additives used in the manufacture of many types of cationic bituminous road emulsions. A research laboratory has been established in conjunction with NUI, Galway. It is an example of how new products are developed through collaboration between the private sector and third level institutions and involving scientists and engineers.l institutions and involving scientists and engineers.

Roads to the West - The Future:

In the year 2000, design teams are in place for a number of significant roads projects in the West of Ireland and the National Development Plan, 1999 includes for major expenditure on roads over the first decade of the new millennium. Implementation of this roads programme will improve connectivity between the West and the rest of country and presents opportunities for engineers in the design and construction stages.

Engineering in Industry


The engineering industry in the West of Ireland is a vibrant sector of the economy with many world-class manufacturing operations. This region of Ireland plays host to a diverse range of multi-national corporations, which are aided by a strong indigenous base.

The development of state-of-the-art engineering facilities is supported by a number of technology initiatives in the Institutes of Technology and the Universities. The West Region of Ireland, with a population in excess of one million is home to centres of excellence in bioengineering, polymer technology, laser applications, toolmaking, materials handling, refrigeration and information technology.

Electronic Engineering:

The West of Ireland is one of the most attractive locations in Europe for investment in electronics today. Electronic companies in the West of Ireland can be categorised by segment as follows: Components, Computers, Contract Manufacturing, Semiconductors, Software Development, Production, Telecommunications, Data communications, Services. 

Pharmaceutical Engineering:             

The West of Ireland is a key location for the pharmaceutical and chemical industry in Europe. Ireland as a whole has over 120 overseas pharmaceutical companies, which employ 17,000 people. This represents a significant investment, conservatively estimated at US$7 billion. The engineers working in this sector are responsible for exports totalling US$18 billion annually, which makes Ireland one of the largest exporters of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals in the world.

Biomedical Engineering:

A large number of medical device manufacturing and support companies have located in the West of Ireland. Companies such as Abbott, Baxter, Mallinckrodt and Boston Scientific have located multiple plants in this area. Other world leaders such as Medtronic AVE (Galway), Allergan (Westport) and Hollister (Ballina) also operate from this area. These companies export over IR£2.5 billion every year.

Software Engineering:

According to the OECD Information Technology Outlook 2000, Ireland is the largest exporter of software goods in the world. The top 10 independent software companies in the world have significant operations in Ireland and today over 40% of all PC package software sold in Europe is produced here.

Over 60 overseas software companies use their operation in the West of Ireland to carry out a broad range of activities including core software development, product customisation, software testing and fulfilment. The software that is being developed in this region has a range of applications in mobile communications, electronics, engineering, enterprise e-source planning, database management, banking and insurance solutions.

Case Studies:

Electronic Engineering: Nortel Networks Corporation:

Nortel Networks is a global leader in telephony, data, wireless, and wireline solutions for the Internet and employs approximately 600 people out of a global company work force of 75,000. Nortel Networks is one of Ireland's leading Internet development companies and they have one of Ireland's largest independent R&D facilities. They employ over 250 engineers in their R&D department and are responsible for the creation of the Internet and e-business architecture of the future. Engineers in Nortel work on projects in the fields of Optical Internet, Internet Telephony, Wireless Internet and Internet Services. The type of engineers employed range from software, hardware, test/validation and manufacturing engineers.

Software Engineering: Aimware Ltd:

The West of Ireland can boast a number of successful indigenous software start-ups, typical of which is Aimware Ltd. Based in the Galway Business Park, Dangan, Galway, and with offices in US and Mexico, aimware¹s objective is to make software management easy for their customers.

They offer a suite of web-enabled tools and supporting services to enable managers and staff to take control of user requests, process guidance information, project data, and development work products while providing a combination of flexibility and integration. Aimware has won numerous awards since its inception, in 1996 - Aimware won two prestigious Lotus Beacon wards, and in 1998 the coveted "Young Irish Software Company of the Year". Engineers at Aimware work with technologies such as: Lotus Domino, ASP, COM, DHTML, Javascript, VBScript, Visual Basic, XML and XSL.

Mechanical Engineering: Thermo King:

Thermo King is the world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of temperature control and air conditioning equipment for transportation vehicles. The plant was established in 1976 and currently services over 140 countries. Engineers are employed in the following areas: Design Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Safety,

Environmental Services, Information Technology, Production Planning, Technical Services, Customer Service, Product Development:

A recent development at their Galway Plant is the establishment of a Research and Development Center. In this center, the next generation of transport refrigeration units are being developed. Engineers use advanced Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture software tools to develop computer models of their latest product. These concepts can be numerically tested using simulations tools such as CFD and FEA techniques to optimise the design.

Portumna Bridge

The American engineer Lemuel Cox erected a timber trestle bridge across the River Shannon at Portumna in 1795. This was one of seven similar bridges erected in Ireland by Cox.

The Portumna Bridge was partially rebuilt in 1818 and replaced in 1834 by another timber structure incorporating an iron swivel bridge over the navigation channel on the Galway side of the river, and causeways forming the approaches to the bridge. This bridge was in turn replaced by the present structure, which was completed in 1911.

The Shannon at this point consists of two channels divided by Hayes Island, the one on the North Tipperary side being about 260 ft wide, and that on the Galway side being about 240 ft wide. Each channel is spanned by three pairs of mild-steel plate girders (either 80 ft or 90 ft in length) resting on 9 ft diameter concrete-filled cast-iron cylinders.


The width of the approach roadways and bridge is 30 ft. The swing bridge over the 40 ft wide navigation channel has unequal arms of 60 ft and 30 ft length respectively and revolves on a pivotal support on the Galway bank of the river. The river piers are continued upwards beyond parapet level, tapering to domed tops with decorated finials. The earlier substantial masonry abutments were retained when the replacement bridge was erected.

The bridge was designed by C. E. Stanier of London to the specification of J. 0. Moynan, the County Surveyor of Tipperary (North Riding). The contractors were Hernan and Froude of the Newton Heath Ironworks in Manchester.

Engineering in the Gaeltacht

Tá Údarás na Gaeltachta freagrach as forbairt eacnamaíoch na Gaeltachta. Mar chuid de chlár forbartha an Údaráis tá thart ar fiche eastáit tionscail agus 240,000 meadar cearnach d'achar monarchana forbartha ag Rannóg Seirbhísí Innealtóireachta an Údaráis ar fud na Gaeltachta, chomh maith leis an mbunstruchtúr gaolmhar atá riachtanach chun tacú leis an gclár forbartha.

Mar chuid den chlár forbartha, bunaíodh,nó tugadh tacaíocht do thionscail innealtóireachta ar fud na Gaeltachta. Chlúdaigh na forbairtí sin na réimsí innealtóireachta seo a leanas: meicniúil, leictreach, leictreonaich agus innealtóireacht cheimiceach.


Lasc ama leictreonach agus lasc fótaileictreach deartha ag selc Teo Béal an Mhuirthead.                                               

Déanann Innill Dóiteáin Teo. dearadh, forbairt agus táirgeadh ar innill dóiteáin nua-aimseartha sa Spidéal, chomh maith le táirgí eile miotail don

tionscal meicniúil agus don tionscal leictreonaic.

Is comhlucht leictreonach é Selc Teo a dhéanann dearadh agus forbairt ar ghléasra leictreonaic i mBeál an Mhuirthead, Co. Mhaigh Eo. Is iad táirgí speisialtóireachta an chomlachta ná lascanna ama agus lascanna fótaileictreacha chun smacht a chur ar theas agus ar shoilsiú. Tá táirgí an chomhlachta á ndíol ar fud an domhain agus tá táirgí nua á bhforbairt go leanúnach ag innealtóirí Éireannacha.

Bíonn rinsí casmhóiminte leictreonacha (electronic torque wrenches) á ndearadh, á bhforbairt agus á dtáirgeadh ag Uirlisí Torc Teo. in Indreabhán Co. na Gaillimhe. Tá na rinsí seo ar na cinn is soifisticiúla dá bhfuil ar fáil aon áit agus táid á ndíol faoi lipéid an chomhlachta idirnáisiúnta Sandvik Belzer. Rinne Innealtóir Meicniúil ón Ghearmáin, i gcomhar le hinnealtóirí leictreonacha Éireannacha, dearadh agus forbairt ar an táirge seo. Tá na huirlisí in úsáid ag déantóirí gluaisteán sa Ghearmáin agus ag lucht deisithe eitleán.

Táirgíonn Amatec Teo cártaí 'cliste' (Smart Cards) ar Eastát Tionscail na Tulaí, Co. na Gaillimhe. Rinne innealtóir Éireannach i gcomhar le hinnealtóirí Gearmánacha forbairt ar an innealra speisialta chun na cártaí seo a tháirgiú.

Water Supply

Water is one of the prime natural resources, an essential commodity for all living systems, but vulnerable to contamination and pollution by human activities. It is continually renewed by the natural hydrological cycle of evaporation, vapour transportation and rainfall. In many semiarid areas of the world water has to be collected each day, often by women and children, walking many miles to the nearest well, yet in the developed world we expect to be able to turn on the tap and have as much water as we want, when we want. Not only that, but we expect it all to be clean and safe to drink, even though only a small fraction will be actually consumed or used for food preparation.


Drinking Water Quality:

In third world countries the lack of water has contributed to the death of 100 million children in the past 20 years. Many millions more people have died from waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery contracted from inadequate and polluted drinking water sources. Water supply is a primary infrastructural need of all communities worldwide, playing a key role in the promotion of public health and the elimination of disease. While there are many problem areas in the world today, the overall quality of public water supplies in the Republic of Ireland are amongst the highest in Europe.

Engineering our Water Supply:

Every day each one of us uses large quantities of water. It is vital for drinking and cooking, and for many other domestic and agricultural uses.

Industry uses water in vast quantities to manufacture everything from paper to motor cars, electricity to computers. High quality water is used, for example, in the electric power generation, pharmaceutical and semi-conductor industries. A supply of water is also required to protect our homes, our workplaces and our livelihoods from the dangers of fire.

During the last century engineers have developed the technologies used to control and modulate water quality to meet the European

Union standards that govern its use for drinking purposes and its related uses in industrial manufacturing. The treatment and distribution of clean drinking water requires an enormous investment both in money and expertise and a considerable commitment from local authorities and others whose job it is to supply our water.

Water Scheme Development:

In the West of Ireland, this investment and commitment has been remarkable since the 1960¹s and has coincided with the surge in our economic development in the intervening period. Prior to that time only the larger towns in the region had any degree of water treatment, storage facilities and distribution network. Most rural areas had only individual water supply systems deriving water primarily from groundwater sources.

Government and European Investment:       

In the 1960's and 1970's the Government invested in the development of group schemes to supply landowners and householders in rural areas. In parallel the local authorities embarked on:

  • the identification of sources capable of supplying larger regions of each county
  • the planning and construction of regional schemes involving water treatment plants, water storage facilities and distribution pipe networks to supply the needs of these regions.

To these ends, the counties of Mayo and Galway in particular are blessed with a large number of inland lakes with excellent water quality such as L Corrib in North Galway, L. Mask in South Mayo, L. Conn and L. Carrowmore in North Mayo, Corrymore Lake in Achill, and Lough Rea in east Galway. These lakes have been identified and used by the local authorities as sources for large regional water supply schemes to supply most of counties of Mayo and Galway. Public water supplies in County Roscommon are mainly derived from groundwater sources.

The hundreds of millions of pounds necessary to provide the existing and continuing development of water supply infrastructure in the region through the implementation of these schemes over the last 25 years have been made possible by grant aid from EU Structural and Cohesion funds.

Digital and Engineering in the West

Digital Corporation:

Digital Equipment Corporation (known to employees and customers as DEC) was founded by electronics engineer Ken Olsen in 1957 in Maynard, Massachusetts. The name was later shortened to Digital and the distinctive lower case logo was adopted. Digital developed the PDP and VAX range of computers, the Alpha microprocessor and later the Alta Vista search engine. Digital developed a reputation for technological brilliance and humanistic employment policies. Digital became one of the worlds leading computer companies, 2nd after IBM in the 1980's. Employee numbers grew from 3 in 1957 to a peak of 126,000.

Digital to Compaq:

In January 1998 Compaq Computer Corporation (the world's largest PC maker in 2000) announced the acquisition of Digital Equipment Corporation. Compaq¹s strategy was to migrate to a more profitable market using Digital's established services and sophisticated high-end hardware expertise.

Digital in Ireland:

In 1971 Digital Equipment Corporation opened its first manufacturing facility in Europe. Galway was chosen as the location and Digital opened on the site presently occupied by Nortel (Northern Telecom) in the Mervue Industrial Estate. It was a Hardware Assembly and Distribution facility. The first shipment that was assembled at the plant in Galway was a PDP-11/20 computer system. In the early years Digital recruited significant numbers of personnel from 2nd level schools and had comprehensive in-house training programmes in place. This emphasis on training was subsequently to play a part in the impact that ex-Digital personnel had on other engineering based companies in Ireland and particularly in the western region. The business continued to expand and plans were advanced for a new Hardware manufacturing site in Ballybrit and a Software assembly and distribution centre in the Mervue Industrial Estate. Employee numbers increased to 500 by 1973, 1,000 by 1977 and 1,100 by 1981 and remained close to this level until 1993. In 1993 the phasing out of the Digital Hardware manufacturing operation in Galway was announced. However, Digital's European Software Centre was unaffected.

Compaq's European Software Centre:

The European Software Centre (ESC) is located in Ballybrit Business Park in Galway. The ESC is a complex organisation and integrates several aspects of Compaq's Software business. Its activities include software research and development, software supply and publishing, product and service marketing, customised software services, multi-lingual tele-marketing, and a technical support centre.

The ESC also hosts Compaq's Corporate High Performance Technical Computing Group (HPTC), which is responsible for designing Supercomputer Software that has played an important role in such areas as the Human Genome Research Programme. They are also responsible for building the world's largest supercomputer for the U.S Department of State.

Advances in Computing Power

PDP Range:

Digital was set up in 1957, and by 1960 the PDP-1, the world's first small interactive mini-computer was delivered. For the next 12 years Digital made inroads in the development of computer technology by releasing advanced versions of the PDP until the most popular of these, the PDP 11 was released in 1972. The PDP 11 /45 provided extended memory and hardware floating point operations. The new machine was 10 inches tall, half the size of the original mock-up.

VAX Range:

In October 1977, the first member of the VAX computer family, the VAX 11/780 was introduced. The VAX represented the virtual address extensions of the PDP 11 system's 16 bit architecture to a 32 bit architecture. By October 1989 the VAX 9000 mainframe was introduced. It incorporated numerous technological advances, including high-density ECL macrocells, multichip module packaging, and heavily macropipelined architecture. The VAX 9000 was Digital's last system not based on microprocessor technology.

Alpha Range:

In February 1992, Digital marked a new milestone with the announcement of ALPHA, its program for 21st century computing and a new, open, 64 bit RISC architecture. The first Alpha chip was the 21064, which provides record setting 200 MHz performance. In June 1992, the VAX 7000, Digital's most powerful VAX system, was introduced. It was field-upgradeable to the Alpha 64 bit Processor. The Alpha's popularity went from strength to strength and by 1994 the OSF/1 version 3.0 shipped with symmetric multiprocessing support and the first wave of cluster capability. The Alpha 21164 processor provided peak processing power of more than one billion instructions per second. The chip was the industry's first to operate at 300 MHz. In 1995 when Digital introduced the Alpha server 8400, supporting up to twelve 21164 processors and 14 gigabytes of memory, the 8400 created breakthroughs in large database performance. In 1998 the powerful combination of Digital and Compaq enabled Compaq to compete as a main player in the Supercomputer arena.

Super Computer:

At Compaq¹s European Software Centre in Galway the High Performance Technical Computing Group plays a key role and is responsible for the design of the Alpha Server SC series of supercomputers. This system is built from commodity off-the-shelf components connected together with an ultra-low-latency, high-bandwidth interconnect. The first release, introduced in July 2000, enables customers to connect up to 128 AlphaServer ES40 nodes (each containing four 667MHz Alpha processors) into a single system. This delivers a total compute power of almost 0.7 TeraFlops. These systems are targeted at the high-end of the computing market, enabling scientists to solve large-scale problems in such areas as genetics, weather forecasting and crash simulation.

AlphaServer SC systems have been installed at many leading US scientific labs as well as at the Commissarie Energie d'Atomique in France. Engineers from the Galway team have spent significant time onsite at each of these labs. The HPTC group in Galway has also worked very closely with Celera Genomics, who have acknowledged the crucial role played by the AlphaServer systems in the race to sequence the Human Genome. The US National Science Foundation in 2000 granted a $45m award to Compaq and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre to build a 6 TeraFlop (6 trillion calculations per second) system based on the AlphaServer SC design. This system will comprise 2,728 Alpha processors and will be delivered in 2001. It will be the world's largest non-military supercomputer, and will be used by researchers studying subjects such as biophysics, astrophysics, materials science and global climate change.

Compaq's engineering team in Galway will continue to enhance the capabilities of the AlphaServer SC series. The US Department of Energy, as part of its Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) program, announced in August 2000 that it has awarded Compaq the contract to build what will be the worlds largest ever supercomputer, delivering 30 TeraFlops of processing power in 2002.              

Influence of DEC:

The Galway Technology Centre was established in the Mervue Industrial Estate in 1994 by the Galway Task Force, which was set up following the downsizing by Digital. The centre was expanded in the following years and by 2000 had capacity for new technology companies employing 180 people. By that stage 15 companies had moved on to their own premises.

Ex Digital personnel have played a significant role in other engineering based companies either as senior managers or company founders. Of particular importance has been the number of company start-ups by personnel who left Digital at the time of the downsizing in 1993, some of which have been very successful.

Toucan Technologies:

Founded in 1993. Software company. 30 Employees. Purchased in 2000 by PMC Sierra.

Storm Technology:

Founded in 1995. Software company. 28 Employees.


Founded in 1994. Software company. 25 Employees.


Founded in 1994. Remanufacturing of computer systems. 60 Employees. Operates in Ireland and Holland.


Founded in 1994. Supplier to electronics and healthcare industry. 25 Employees.


Founded in 1994. Delivers outsourcing solutions for OEMs. 5,000 Employees worldwide; 1000 in Ireland. Operations in 6 countries.

In addition to the above companies and other companies formed by ex Digital personnel others have subsequently become senior managers in a number of multinational firms in the region.


Development of Mainline Railways:

The construction of the Athlone Railway Bridge in 1851 led to the subsequent development of mainline rail lines to Galway City and to Westport. The rail network was later extended to more remote areas of Galway and Mayo subsequent to the Light Railways (Ireland) Act of 1889. Under the Act, the Midland Great Western Railway Company (MGWR) constructed rail links to Achill and Killala in County Mayo and to Clifden in County Galway.


The Corrib Viaduct Bridge

The Corrib Viaduct Bridge from Woodquay 1888


The Corrib Viaduct Bridge from below the Salmon Weir 1899               

The end of the line Achill 1911

Galway to Clifden Railway:

MGWR was provided with a government grant of £264,000 to build a line from Galway across Connemara to Clifden. The intention had been to improve communications with a developing fishing industry and the MGWR engineers designed a route to follow the coastline, where the population was estimated to be around 60,000 persons. However, the Royal Commission on Public Works thought otherwise and directed that an inland route should be followed via Oughterard. Largely as a result of this decision, freight traffic failed to materialise, and the railway company chose instead to develop the tourism potential of the area.

The line was opened to Clifden on 1st of July 1895 and cost £432,000, or £9,000 per mile. Altogether, there were some 30 bridges, including an imposing steel viaduct, which crossed the River Corrib in Galway. Today only the piers remain of the viaduct, the three spans of which were 150 ft, with a bascule type lifting navigation span of 21 ft. (6.3)

The engineers for the railway were John Henry Ryan and Edward Townsend. A paper entitled " The Galway And Clifden Railway" by J. H. Ryan, Vice-President, Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland, is recorded in the Institution's transactions of 1901. The line was closed in April 1935.

The Railway Tunnel, Prospect Hill, Galway, 1895

Westport to Achill Railway:

In late 1890, Robert Worthington, the main contractor to the MGWR, began work on the line between Westport and Mullranny and this was later extended to Achill.

The town of Newport is on the Newport river, where it flows into the north-east corner of Clew Bay. At Newport the single line track crossed the river on a fine viaduct of red sandstone.

The overall length of the viaduct is 305ft (92m) and the width 18ft 6in. The line was not opened until 1894 on completion of a nearby tunnel.

The viaduct is now a pedestrian route and, together with the adjacent road bridge, forms an attractive backdrop to the town, especially when floodlit at night. Like the Clifden railway this branch line was similarly closed in 1935.

Engineering and the Environment

Impact of Engineering on the Environment:

Engineering projects can interact with the environment in two ways:

  • A project can have as its primary objective to clean up or stop pollution of the environment by human activity e.g. construction of a new wastewater treatment plant.
  • An engineering project or process may impact on the environment e.g. a manufacturing process may result in wastes or emissions. Engineering solutions are then required to prevent or minimise these emissions and to ensure compliance with environmental legislation. Projects may also have an indirect benefit on the environment e.g. wind farms are built to generate electricity and there is an environmental benefit in that wind is a renewable energy source and does not emit green house gases.

Initiatives by NUI, Galway:

In response to the skills needs for the rapidly expanding discipline of Environmental Engineering, NUI, Galway introduced direct entry to a new Environmental Engineering degree stream in 1999. The course is offered by the Department of Civil Engineering in conjunction with other departments in the faculty of Engineering and also departments in the Science and Law faculties.

Environmental Engineering had also been available as a special stream for 3rd year Civil Engineering students since 1998. The students take courses in environmental legislation, water and wastewater treatment, waste management, pollution control and other engineering aspects as they relate to the environment. The new programme complements wide-ranging research that has been conducted in the department on the sustainable development of infrastructure and natural resources.

This work, which includes experimental investigation, design and analysis and the construction of prototype model systems, is supported by local authorities, consultants, industry and public research organisations. This was recognised by the Higher Education Authority in 2000 when an IR£ 7m award was made to the University for the creation of an Environmental Change Institute.

Catchment Management Plans:

Over the last 25 years the quality of water in Ireland has declined. If this decline is not reversed, then by the year 2007, 50% of Ireland's surface waters (lakes, rivers and streams) will be polluted. In addition many of the groundwaters, which are the drinking water source for much of Roscommon, East Galway and Mayo, are showing signs of intermittent pollution.

Catchment Management Plans are an important mechanism to deal with this problem. In this approach, all the contributory pressures on water quality in a catchment are quantified and systematically tackled. The contributory pressures from industrial discharges, agriculture (slurry and excess fertiliser), untreated sewage and ineffective septic tank systems are evaluated and areas most at risk are identified.

These plans are prepared using a multi-agency approach, and comprehensive monitoring systems and computerised information systems using databases linked to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are established. Environmental engineers have a key role to play in this multi-disciplinary approach.

One of the first of these catchment management projects was the Lough Conn Management Plan, spearheaded by Mayo County Council. This programme identified the multi-agency approach and public education requirements necessary for such a plan to work and succeeded in reversing the upward pollution trend in Lough Conn.

A much larger project is the Lough Derg and Lough Ree catchment monitoring and management project. This programme established a comprehensive water quality monitoring system for all of the waters, which feed into the upper Shannon as far south as Killaloe and established the key requirements for improving the water quality in this large area.

Wastewater Treatment:

Wastewaters are classified as municipal wastewater or industrial wastewater. Philosophies concerning the disposal of wastewater have evolved over the

years. The practice of land disposal was replaced by the convenience of the sewage collection systems with direct discharge to surface waters.

Operating under the assumption that the solution to pollution is dilution, the self-cleansing capacity of streams was utilised. Historically the treatment of wastewater was considered necessary only after the self-purification capacity of the receiving waters was exceeded and nuisance conditions became intolerable. Various treatment processes were first tried in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and by the 1920s, wastewater treatment had evolved to those processes in common use today. In the last 30 to 40 years, great advances have been made in understanding wastewater treatment.

Modern Wastewater Treatment:

Wastewater treatment processes are divided into subsystems known as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary treatment systems. The purpose of primary treatment is to remove solid materials such as floating materials and grit from the incoming wastewater. Secondary treatment usually consists of a process to biologically convert dissolved and suspended organic material into a biomass that can subsequently be removed by settlement in a tank. In most instances secondary treatment is usually sufficient to comply with EU effluent standards implemented by legislation.

In some instances additional treatment termed tertiary treatment may be required to further reduce suspended solids and biodegradable organics and to reduce chemical nutrients in the wastewater thereby restricting weed growth and inhibiting other natural processes that limit available oxygen in waters necessary to sustain fish life.

Industry and the Environment:

By providing the goods and services demanded by the public, businesses fulfil many social needs. Economic growth and consumer demand consumes the earth's resources and in order to protect the environment for future generations engineers must develop new technologies and more sustainable methods of production.

Businesses are under increasing pressure to manage and improve their environmental performance while satisfying customer demands. With increased customer awareness of environmental issues and legislative demands such as the Environmental Protection Agency Act and the Waste Management Act businesses are adopting Environmental Management Systems.

An Environmental Management System is a documented plan that covers the totality of a businesses operations and helps management and workers to clearly recognise the interdependence of all aspects of the organisation. Increasingly, businesses are adopting Environmental Management Systems that conform to an internationally recognised standard such as EN ISO 14001 - Environmental Management Systems.

Solid Waste:            

One of the major issues facing Ireland at the start of the new millennium is dealing with solid waste. It is an area where there will be an increasing input by engineers to develop solutions that are in accordance with statutory regulations and meet with approval from the general public.

A Draft Waste Management Plan was published in 1999 for the Connacht Region, comprising Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon County Councils together with Galway Corporation. While the strategy for the region has yet to be adopted and is the subject of significant debate it is clear that major changes will be necessary and will involve:

  • New recycling initiatives
  • Improved public education
  • Greater public participation
  • Significant additional expenditure on waste management

IEI Code of Ethics:

The Code of Ethics of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland includes a section on the responsibility of members for the environment:

2.0 Environmental & Social Obligations

2.1 Members shall exercise due consideration of the effects of their work on the health and safety of individuals, and on the welfare of society and of its impacts on the natural environment.

2.2 Members shall promote the principles and practices of sustainable development and the needs of present and future generations.

2.3 Members shall strive to ensure that engineering projects for which they are responsible will, as far as is practicable, have minimal adverse effects on the environment, the health and safety of all people and on their social and cultural structures.

2.4 Members shall strive to accomplish the objectives of their work with the most efficient consumption of natural resources which is practicable economically, including the maximum reduction in energy usage, waste and pollution.

2.5 Members shall promote the importance of social and environmental factors to professional colleagues, employers and clients with whom they share responsibility and collaborate with other professions to mitigate the impacts of their common endeavours.

2.6 Members shall foster environmental awareness generally and among the public.

Version March 2000


Wireless Communication in the West of Ireland:

Wireless technologies, which we now consider as commonplace, have had an enormous influence on our lives since their introduction by Marconi in 1896. Ireland and the West of Ireland have played important roles in the development and advancement of these new technologies. This ranged from the research by Fitzgerald and others on the understanding of electromagnetic phenomena, to Marconi himself and developments of the telecommunications companies in Ireland. Ireland had several scientists who participated in no small way to the development of electrical/electronic engineering as we know it today. Some of the earlier contributors included Dr. Nicholas Callan from Maynooth who developed the transformer shortly after the principle was discovered by Faraday. In 1868, George Stoney proposed that light waves are produced by periodic orbital motions within atoms and he was responsible for the name electron. It was George Francis Fitzgerald, at Trinity College, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, who made some of the most significant contributions to the understanding of electromagnetic phenomena.

He was interested in the work of Clerk Maxwell who had made the initial proposal of electromagnetic propagation in air. Based on his own work, and the experiments of Heinrick Hertz in Germany, FitzGerald was able to offer the proof for the Maxwell theory. This was certainly a very important step along the road to the breakthrough of Marconi in 1895.

Another active researcher was Joseph Larmor, Professor of Physics at Queen's College Galway from 1880 to 1885. He contributed to field theory and electrodynamics and derived an expression to predict the radiation from an accelerating electron. His successor, Professor Anderson, at Galway, had a keen interest in the work of Marconi and had a Marconi set in the University by 1902.


Guglielmo Marconi:

Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna in 1874. His father was Italian and his mother was from Co. Wexford, a member of the Jameson Irish whiskey family. As a boy in his teens, he came in contact with Professor Righi of Bologna who was experimenting with electromagnetic waves.

He set up his own laboratory at home to experiment with the transmission of electromagnetic waves. Up to this point, all transmissions were indoors and over very short distances. Using an elevated antenna from the spark gap transmitter and an elevated receiving antenna, Marconi was able to receive transmissions over a mile and a half in the summer of 1895.

This was an incredible advance and it was to earn Marconi the title of inventor of wireless communication. Remember that he was still just 21 years of age at the time of this discovery. Marconi moved to England and was granted a patent for his invention.

With the help of his Jameson cousins, he was set up the Marconi company in 1897. For the next forty years, Marconi was to make numerous contributions to global communications. During the course of his career, he was to receive many awards including the Nobel Prize for Physics with Braun in 1909. 

The Marconi Wireless Station at Clifden:

The early transatlantic signals (1901-1905) were between Poldhu, Cornwall and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. In 1905 Marconi put in hand the plans for the erection and equipping of the new high-power station at Clifden, with a view to establishing a regular commercial service across the Atlantic.

Thus, the work at the Clifden site was started in October 1905. A limited public service was inaugurated on October 17th 1907 and this service was made available to the general public on February 3rd 1908. This established the Clifden station as the vital link in transatlantic wireless communication in the early part of this century.

Really long wavelength radio waves were employed for these communications, that of Clifden being over 6,000 metres and that of Glace Bay over 7,000 metres, the separation being sufficient for simultaneous transmission in both directions, an innovation at that time.

Both transmitters were equipped with extensive multi-wire aerials covering an area of, approximately, one quarter of a square mile, and supported on twenty or twenty-five steel and wooden masts, each over two hundred feet high. The station receiving the signals from Glace Bay was situated up in the hills at Letterfrack, some twenty miles distant, and a single-wire receiving aerial was stretched across the valley.

The Clifden facility was not small. The building in which the condenser was housed measured 350 feet in length and 75 feet feet in breadth, and the height of the eaves was 33 feet. The condenser itself consisted of 1,800 galvanised steel sheets, each measuring 30 feet by 12 feet, suspended from the roof ties of the building by porcelain rod insulators.

The Clifden station continued to operate until the early 1920's when it was destroyed during the Civil War.


A Wireless Girdle around the Earth:

By the second decade of the 20th Century, Clifden was a key station in a wireless network that circumnavigated the earth. The other stations were - Glace Bay, New Jersey, Panama Canal Zone, Singapore, Bangalore, Aden (Yemen), Egypt and London. This chain that circled the globe was but the main artery with feeders and branch stations contributing to a more complete network.

It is interesting to view some of the financial projections from 1912. The cost of a submarine cable to cover a distance of 3,000 miles is anywhere from $7,000,000 to $10,000,000, while the total cost of a pair of wireless stations to do the same work is but $600,000. The cable must handle $0.5m worth of business in order to earn enough to keep it in repair while 2% of this amount would take care of the same item for the wireless. Two million words at 25 cents a word will earn only a sufficient sum to cover depreciation of the cable, while the same number of words at half rate by wireless will produce enough to pay depreciation charge and 35% on the investment besides. (by F. W. Sammis, The Marconigraph, 1912, p.255)


Unloading fuel for the station. 

Nortel Networks:               

The West of Ireland tradition in telecommunications continues to this day. Perhaps the best example of this is the presence in Galway of Nortel Networks. The company also has campuses in Dublin and Shannon. Nortel Networks a company that employs over 70,000 people in 150 countries, is a world leader in the development of next generation telecommunications architecture, the next wave of Internet technologies and pioneer e-business applications. The Nortel Facility in Galway was established in 1973 and initially, it employed just 30 people. It has expanded rapidly since then and evolved from a low tech, low volume manufacturing plant to a campus style facility employing over 950 people. It is responsible for customer service for the entire European, Middle Eastern and African regions, as well as in the development and manufacturing of highly sophisticated telecommunications equipment.

The Galway plant is home to one of Nortel Networks Global Systems Houses and an internationally recognised Research and Development facility. Here leading edge products such as Symposium Call Centre, Meridian, DECT Wireless and INCA(Internet Communication Architecture) have been developed or are currently under development. The global systems houses is a multi-dimensional operations centre responsible for order engineering and testing of complex customer voice and data solutions.

Offshore Engineering

Engineering in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry:

The oil and gas industry is an exciting and dynamic one in which to work. As the search for hydrocarbon deposits throughout the world moves into ever-increasing water depths, there is a growing demand for technological solutions to complex engineering challenges. Exploration in water depths down to 3,000m (approaching 2 miles) is ongoing in several locations. The challenges are further compounded by the very harsh environmental loadings imposed by wind, waves and currents frequently encountered in these areas and which offshore structures must withstand over their design life.


Semi-submersible Production Platform

Design of Offshore Structures:

The design of deepwater offshore structures and systems requires sophisticated analysis, rather than reliance on code-based procedures. The working environment for the engineer is always intellectually challenging, and each project involves new and leading edge technologies. Innovation rather than mundane or repetitive work is the norm. Typical capital costs associated with large deepwater field developments are very large, often in the range US$2.0bn - US$3.0bn. A key factor in reducing costs is to develop better technology, and the role of the professional engineer is central to achieving this. The offshore sector is exciting for Ireland, as it is widely predicted that the first Irish oil will flow within the first decade of the new millennium.

Case Study - MCS International:

The Company:

MCS International has its headquarters in Galway, and overseas offices in the main oil centres of Houston and Aberdeen. The company specialises in leading edge technology, consulting and software services and successfully sells them throughout the world. Areas of expertise include drilling and floating production systems such as:

  • Floating platforms
  • Flexible risers and flowlines
  • Tanker off loading systems
  • Steel and titanium catenary risers
  • Mooring systems
  • Tensioned drilling and production risers
  • Ancillary equipment
  • Other subsea components

The Clients:

Clients include all of the major oil companies, turnkey contractors, fabricators, shipyards, equipment manufacturers and installation contractors, the majority of which are located outside Ireland. The company has worked on offshore field developments in the North Sea (UK and Norwegian sectors), Atlantic margins (offshore Scotland), US Gulf of Mexico, Australia, Brazil, west of Africa, Far East, the Mediterranean, Argentina, and on feasibility studies for fields offshore Ireland.

Floating Production System

The People:

The multidisciplinary nature of the work means that staff come from backgrounds such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, naval architecture and software / IT. All hold higher honours primary degrees, and most have postgraduate qualifications.

Deepwater Floating Production Concepts                         

Corrib Gas Field:

The Corrib Gas Field, located in the Slyne Trough 70 km off the North Mayo coast, was discovered in 1996. By Year 2000 a third successful test had been carried out on the gas field. Initial indications suggest that the Corrib gas is high quality, dry and free of contaminates.

Technical challenges will need to be overcome in delivering the gas as the field is situated some 350 m below water, compared with the Kinsale field at 100 m below water level. A commercial and technical appraisal of the Corrib Field is required before the operator,

Enterprise Energy Ireland Ltd., will approve commencement on the development of the field.

It is forecast that production could commence in early 2003 and that the field could supply around 60 to 70% of Ireland's gas demand by 2005. The field is of significance for Ireland as the Kinsale Head, the country's first major gas field, is due to cease production in late 2003 or early 2004.

The Corrib Gas Field Project will involve major engineering works including sub sea structures, subsea pipeline, on shore facilities and gas pipelines to connect to the national grid.

Medical Device Engineering

Biomedical Engineering:

The West of Ireland is fast becoming a centre of excellence for biomedical engineering. This field combines engineering expertise with medical needs for the enhancement of health care. It is a branch of engineering in which knowledge and skills are developed and applied to define and solve problems in biology and medicine.

Biomedical engineers work with living systems, and apply advanced technology to the complex problems of medical care. Biomedical engineers may be called upon to design instruments and devices, to bring together knowledge from many sources to develop new procedures, or to carry out research to acquire knowledge needed to solve new problems.

Examples of work carried out by biomedical engineers in the West of Ireland include:

  • Designing and constructing life support equipment such as respirators and defibrillators.
  • Designing instruments and devices for angioplasty procedures, such as balloon catheters and stents.
  • Designing and fabricating implantable artificial devices such as hip and knee joints.
  • Designing and building sensors to quantify components of the blood's chemistry.
  • Developing clinical laboratories and other units within the hospital and health care delivery system that utilise advanced technology.
  • Constructing and implementing mathematical/computer models of physiological systems.
  • Creating new diagnostic procedures.
  • Designing and fabricating biomaterials and determining the mechanical, transport, and biocompatibility properties of implantable artificial materials.

Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Agioplasty (PTCA):

Galway is fortunate to be the European headquarters for three world leading biomedical companies manufacturing devices for PTCA procedures; Biocompatibles Ltd, Boston Scientific Ireland Ltd, and Medtronic AVE Ltd. These companies employ over 3000 people directly in their Manufacturing Facility and Research and Development Centres.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) occurs when cholesterol fats are deposited in the coronary arteries, narrowing or blocking them, thereby reducing the heart's blood supply. This build up is called artherosclerotic plaque. There can be single or multiple blockages and they can vary in severity and location. For decades physicians have attempted to increase the diminished blood supply to the heart following coronary artery blockage. Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) surgery is a common method used to treat CAD and has proven to be safe and effective over time. A more recent and non-invasive technique for treating CAD is Coronary Angioplasty, or Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA). Coronary Angioplasty is a procedure that opens blocked coronary arteries, most commonly by inflating a tiny balloon in the coronary artery. However, there are several types of angioplasty and the type of procedure chosen depends on the characteristics of the individual's artery and the extent of the damage caused.

Balloon Angioplasty:

This is the most common type of angioplasty procedure. A catheter (thin tube) is guided into the blocked artery. A smaller catheter with a balloon tip goes into the first catheter and a balloon is inflated to push the plaque against the artery wall and open the artery. The balloon is then deflated and the catheter withdrawn. This works by not only compressing the plaque but also by enlarging the artery.

Stent Placement:

A stent is a tiny stainless steel cage that is occasionally inserted into the artery after angioplasty has been performed to help maintain patency of the artery. It may reduce the rate of restenosis (closing or narrowing of the artery). When stents are used a patient may need to be on blood thinning medication to help prevent blood clots.


Instead of pushing the plaque against the wall of the artery, the plaque is scraped off and removed from the area.


Laser procedures are available, but rarely used to remove plaque in the coronary arteries. Tiny laser beams are used to cut away the plaque and reopen the arteries.

Skills & Technologies:

The biomedical industries located in the West of Ireland employ engineers from many disciplines. Typically engineers with a qualification in either mechanical, manufacturing, production, electronic or software engineering are employed.

The technology encountered by these engineers includes Injection and Insert Moulding, Extrusion, Balloon-forming, Chemical Coating, Wire-knitting, EDM, Electro-plating, Electro-polishing, Grinding, Surface Treatment, Laser Welding, Laser Cutting.

Many of the biomedical companies have located a Research and Development Centre alongside their Manufacturing Facility. In these centres, engineers work very closely with world leading physicians on the development of innovative and technology driven products and processes.

These engineers are constantly working with world class development tools, experimental techniques, rapid prototyping, CAD, CAM and Finite Element Analysis techniques.


The West Region of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland acknowledges all those who contributed to the success of this exhibition.


  • Aquasys Ltd.
  • Boston Scientific Ireland Ltd.
  • Coffey Construction Ltd.
  • Cold Chon (Galway) Ltd.
  • Electrical & Pump Services Ltd.
  • HGL O'Connor & Co.
  • James Stewart Ltd.
  • KMMS Ltd.
  • Mallinckrodt Medical
  • McInerney Construction Ltd.
  • MCS International
  • Medtronics Ave
  • Nortel Networks
  • NUI, Galway
  • O'Malley Construction Ltd.
  • Patrick J. Tobin & Co. Ltd.
  • Roadbridge
  • Ryan Hanley
  • John Sisk & Son Ltd.
  • Transitions Optical

Engineers Ireland West Region 

This millennium project was initiated during Michael Dolly's term as Chairman of the West Region and was undertaken by a subcommittee, which included:

  • P. Fogarty (Chairman)
  • P. O'Donoghue
  • M. Joyce
  • G. O'Donnell
  • P. Duffy, P. Fox
  • E. McKeown
  • B. Geoghegan-Mulligan
  • T. Cawley


A number of people contributed material for this exhibition. In particular the committee are indebted to:

  • P. Duffy
  • A. Mac Cana
  • Professor J.D. O'Keeffe
  • S. Geraghty
  • Prof. J. Dooge
  • Prof. S. deCourcey
  • L. Loughrey
  • J. Eising
  • S. Layden
  • Cold Chon (Galway) Ltd.
  • MCS International
  • Aer Rianta
  • Compaq
  • Boston Scientific Ireland Ltd.
  • Medtronic Ave
  • Enterprise Energy Ireland Ltd.
  • Thermoking
  • Aimware
  • Nortel Networks
  • Crown Equipment

Reality Design and Marketing Consultants were responsible for graphic design and production of the exhibits.