Shanaghy : a non-profit organisation promoting Irish culture in the French town of Saint-Lô (Normandy, FR)

The Irish Red Cross Hospital in Saint-Lô

1944. Saint Lô, a thriving market town, population 11,000… The night of 6 June and for a week, U.S. bombs fall with no warning and flatten 9 out of 10 buildings, including the hospital. Many are buried alive. Inhabitants make their way out of town towards farms, some preferring to sleep in ditches. Temporary medical centers are set up in granaries, stables, living-rooms. Houses are turned into clinics where rudimentary operations are performed. In August, inhabitants begin trickling back into Saint Lô. Farmers begin setting up stalls in the ruins to sell fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Bakers begin to bake again. The provisional town council starts to clear the rubble, bury the dead and carry in barrels of drinking water from the countryside. Inhabitants live under broken walls or in cellars that have to be emptied with buckets several times a night. Mud is everywhere.

Meanwhile, the Irish Red Cross has contacted the French Red Cross to offer a 100-bed mobile hospital, fully self-sufficient and capable of operation anywhere it might be needed.

Saint Lô is chosen.

An entire shipload of medical equipment, including pharmaceutical products, surgical instruments, bed linen and even shoes, light bulbs, four crates of kitchenware, a ton of jam and marmalade, ambulances, 2 lorries, 2 generators and a fumigator, left Dublin for Cherbourg on 14 July 1945.

This is followed by a team, from all parts of Ireland, of 35 nurses, doctors, administrators and maintenance personnel (among whom Samuel Beckett, translator and store-keeper at the hospital). 

SHANAGHY : Promoting Irish culture in memory of the Irish Red Cross Hospital in Saint-Lô

Shanaghy was first created back in 1995 as a result of the encounter between Ms. Théot, whose "café" was the Irish hospital team favourite spot and Ms. Jacqueline Fontanel, a teacher strongly interested in Irish culture.

Shanaghy offers a wide range of activities pertaining to Ireland and Irish culture as a tribute to the Irish Red Cross Hospital.

Since 1995, many actions have been set up to fulfill this goal such as: 

  • Irish music and dance workshops, concerts and ceilidhs; 
  • Gathering a collection of testimonies, accounts and stories about the Irish Red Cross Hospital ; 
  • Conferences and lectures ; 
  • Promoting Phyllis Gaffney's book, Healing Amid the Ruins and setting up meetings with the author.

Through all these activities, we aim at building up privileged connections between Saint-Lô and the Irish community.


Starting in January 2014 : 

> A monthly Irish music workshop led by flute player Lucie Périer

> A monthly language workshop led by English teacher Jacqueline Fontanel.

> Monthly Irish sessions at The Blackbird Pub.

15 March 2014 : Special event

L'Hôpital irlandais : Do You Remember?

Irish music by Trio Tarare and readings by performer Cate Barron.

For more info, check out Shanaghy's website at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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