Those with a background in the technology sector will know Menlo Park as the home of Google, Facebook and many other start-up firms in the last thirty odd years.
For Galway people, the name is also familiar, being the name of a village and estate on the banks of the Corrib. The two are connected, as is testified to by a plaque on the wall at Menlo Harbour, installed when the mayor of Menlo came over to commemorate the founders of his city – who originally hailed from this non-remarkable but pretty Irish village.
The power of dreams can overcome poverty it is said and that is very true in the case of Dennis J. Oliver and D. C. McGlynn. They bought land in California, built two houses with a driveway in common and an arch across the road bearing the words ‘Menlo Park’.
It was 1854 and their land was out in the wilderness. But it had potential, and the men had vision and the luck of the Irish to be in the right place at the right time. When the railroad came their homes were located at the terminal station on the line. The station had no name – so the new stationmaster looked around, saw the ‘Menlo’ sign above the arch and christened the station.
The two men were brothers-in-law. Denis married to D.C’s sister Bridget. Their people had come from the village of Menlo in Galway. Denis arrived in the US in 1840 – aged 17. By the time both landed in California, they had a background in banking, an appetite for land, an understanding of business and an eye for an opportunity.
Denis was no stranger to adversity, or controversy either. It was a fire in his shop at the height of the gold rush that started the 1851 San Francisco fire, which some claimed was arson. Along with the structural damage, nine lives were lost. However, fortune smiled on him in the area that became known as Menlo.
His entrepreneurial spirit has continued right down to the present day. In 1996, two PhD students at Stanford University rented a small garage and a few rooms in the area. Their names were Larry Page and Sergey Brin. We use their inventions every day. You may well have found this article using one of their inventions – Google Search.
It is also likely that many reading this article connected to it from Facebook, the global social network started by Mark Zuckerberg in Menlo, California – the centre of the global tech industry that bears the name of a pretty little village just north of Galway City.