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August 16th 2006

Monument to Unbaptised Children Unveiled

Children at unveiling. Classiebawn castle in background

The monument unveiling mentioned last week took place as scheduled on Sunday. The unveiling by Oisin Mc Gloin (3)and Matilda Mc Gowan (2) was followed by the ballad 'A Íosa' by Breda Mc Dermott.  Fr. Christie McHugh, parish priest of Ahamlish conducted a short ceremony of prayers and readings followed by a blessing of the stone.  The priest and congregation then joined in singing the hymn: 'The Lord is my Shepherd". Following this George Egglestone of Elphin, Co. Roscommon played a lament on the Uillean pipes.  A set of lively reels by George and his friends Marty Toher on accordeon, Declan Cornyn on fiddle and Billy Finn on concert flute concluded the celebration.

'The two hands of God around them'

In his preliminary address Joe Mc Gowan said: "It is difficult to put into words my feelings regarding this event. How do you find the words to express such deeply felt emotion? It is a sadness mixed with joy at drawing those little forgotten outcasts

from a barren field into our hearts and into the bosom of the community. Not just ‘Dhá láimh Dé a gcumdach’ (‘The two hands of God around them’) as it says on the monument, but our human arms around them too. By this memorial stone we cherish, not just the infants, but also their grieving parents who we may be sure shed many a silent tear into their pillows in lonely and silent anguish at the loss of their child. We empathise with the trauma they experienced knowing that their beloved infant had to be buried in an open field without the grace of God or a Christian burial! We cannot stand in judgement today as to why this happened… Thankfully we live in a more enlightened age now, where such things cannot happen anymore.

Classiebawn: A heartless old man

Our original intention was, naturally, to place the monument on the little graveyard itself but access was refused. In time to come people may ask why the stone is on the side of the road rather than on the graveyard itself. The stone will stand forever, not just in memory of the infants, but also in silent rebuke to the memory of Mr. Hugh Tunney, whom history will record lived in Classiebawn Castle in the year 2006. Our hurt is understandable but maybe Hugh Tunney is more to be pitied than blamed. He could be a part of the community here with us today but chose instead to obstruct our modest goal. Who standing here now would wish to swap places with such a heartless old man in his ivory tower?..."

The remarks concluded with a poetry reading relating to an infant death on Rathlin Island:

LtoR: Singer, Breda McDermott; musicians: Marty Toher, Declan Cornyn, Billy Finn, George Egglestone


‘Beannacht Leat, goodbye me dawtie,

I’m wrappin’ a slip aboot ye this yenst.

They’ll be to be givin’ ye gran’eur in heaven,

But mine’ll be layin’ yer heart anenst.

Beannacht Leat; d’ye hear me, bairnie?

The good God needed ye there, me wean.

Yer dawn an’ yer sunset were a’ thegither,

An’ the ebb took the wee boat out again.’

Mary Campbell (Sea Wrack 1951)”


A memorial to General Michael Corcoran is to be unveiled by Mayor Bloomberg of New York, at 11.00.a.m. on next Tuesday. Bloombergs invitation has been controversial and consequently a major demonstration is planned by local anti-war activists. According to organiser Mr. Joe Flanagan a peace vigil, in Ballymote, Co Sligo, will be held on Tuesday morning next (August 22nd) in solidarity with the people of Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.   Those participating are asked to assemble outside the Pastoral Centre (opposite the Catholic Church) at 10.30.a.m.

"The great majority of people in Sligo and Ireland have made it clear that they very much oppose Israel’s war against the Lebanese and Palestinian people," Mr Flanagan said.   "This is in stark contrast to the statement issued by Mayor Bloomberg in which he endorsed the Israeli war of aggression and in which he praised President Bush and his cabinet for their continued support of the Israeli regime.

“While we all hope and pray that the ceasefire will hold - the fact is that the Israeli regime, supported by the Bush administration, has committed massive war crimes against the defenceless civilian population of Lebanon.   Over a thousand civilians have been killed, thousands more have been injured and nearly a million men, women and children have been displaced while Lebanon’s infrastructure has been almost totally destroyed.

“We are hopeful that local people from Ballymote will participate in the peace vigil.    We are asking everyone, including our local elected representatives, not to attend the unveiling or any function where Mayor Bloomberg is the guest of honour.   They have a choice.   They can support Bloomberg, Israel and the Bush administration or they can stand with ordinary people in demanding peace and justice in the Middle East.” said Mr Flanagan.

Wee People

And finally:

The Irish Army have reduced the height requirement for women applicants to 5 feet 2 inches. This has raised the question in some quarters as to whether the words of our national anthem: "Soldiers are we, whose lives are pledged to Ireland..." should be changed to, "Soldiers are wee..."!

August 9th 2006

Spare us the Toytown Mayors

Outgoing mayor of Sligo Rosaleen O'Grady and incoming Tom McSharry

"The annual farce of the election of mayors around the country is taking place at present. Tinsel offices for would be TDs. Opportunities for the puffing of egos and profiles. No power, no relevance." So says Vincent Browne in his column in the Irish Times. Ouch! Who can disagree with him though? Put a chain on a turkey and it's still a turkey. Smoke and mirrors, paddywhackery and Colgate smiles, cut a ribbon at the opening of the newest pub in town and 'thank you very much your Highness'.

Give them more powers Browne says. It'll make better people of them. Oh, God help us! In her outgoing speech Mayor O'Grady urged those involved in the City Block Masterplan, 'to move the situation forward as a matter of urgency'. How profound a statement is that! Nice one Ms Mayor but tell us exactly how to do it and we'll give you more power and a bit of praise as well. The new boy, Tom agrees with her and declares: ' I have big shoes to fill and it is very daunting but I am looking forward to the challenge.' Would ye listen to him! Give them more powers? Ah, c'mon now Vincent.

Monument Unveiling

Coiste Oidhreachta Mhullacháin is made up of a number of natives of Mullaghmore. The group was formed in 2005 with the intention of erecting a memorial at the children’s graveyard, known locally as Cill na Muckaun. The cemetery is situated approximately one mile east of Classiebawn castle.

As the graveyard is ancient and infant mortality common in previous times, it is probable that most indigenous Mullaghmore people have relations buried there. The group's intention is to recognise the infant bones laid to rest there, the dignity of life, and the grief and trauma of bereaved parents who were denied the comfort of interment of their beloved in consecrated ground. It is fitting that, in this enlightened age, the short span on earth of these unnamed infants should be recognized and dignified.

Access to Cill na Muckaun has been denied by Hugh Tunney, the current landowner, so it was decided to place the stone as close as possible to the graveyard site. Barring a last minute Pauline conversion by Mr. Tunney the stone will now be installed by the roadside leading to Mullaghmore village. Details are on right and all are welcome to attend.

The Memorial: a description

The standing stone chosen as a marker has elements of Christian and Pagan significance. Galláns, or standing stones, known to mark burial sites, date from the Bronze Age to Early Christian times.

The early Christian cross inscribed at the top of the stone is taken from the original at St. Brigid’s Well in nearby Cliffoney. This cross is unique in having on its upper part a swastika over three concentric circles. Used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years it represents life, sun, power, strength, and good luck. The word, ‘swastika’ is derived from the Sanskrit "svastika" meaning "good to be".

On the left side of the stone is inscribed the name of the Cillín: Cill na mBoctán (Church of the Poor) which we believe is the original usage of Cill na Muckaun. Engraved in ogham on the right side of the stone is: ‘Dhá láimh Dé a gcumdach’ (‘The two hands of God around them’). Ogham is the earliest recorded form of the Irish alphabet dating to the 5 th century .



"The Wind that Shakes the Barley"

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival

"Tells you more about Irish history in two hours than a lifetime of reading."

"Factual... entertaining... exciting... thrilling..."

August 2 2006

Irish Mummers and Sardinian Mamuthone

We're back! The trip to Sardinia was a cultural exchange of folk drama groups. Our Irish group consisted of 6 participants from the Co. Sligo ‘Sidhe Gaoithe’ Mummers and Strawboys: Marie Murray, Martin Toher, Deirdre Cox, Vera Meehan and Leader, Joe Mc Gowan. Other Irish groups participating in the exchange were from Dublin, Co. Fermanagh, Co. Cavan and Co. Down. Other countries attending the Masquerade Festivals in Sardinia were Venezuela , Bulgaria , Macedonia , France , Poland , Germany and Greece.




The trip was to Central Sardinia . Our hosts were the Mamoiada Mamuthone (Mummers) of the town of Mamoiada . The event was their annual international masquerade street festival of folk traditions, similar to the Mardi Gras of New Orleans or the Carnivale of Venice, but on a grander scale. During the event the inhabitants of the town and surrounding countryside as well as the visiting countries gather to take part in the parade celebrating the Mamuthones and Issohaddores, ‘ Sardinia ’s most renowned masks representing good and evil’. After

the parade, locals and participants from the different countries demonstrated their national dances and folk plays in a stage performance. Sardinians demonstrated their folk dances: the ‘su passau torrau ’, ‘su sartiu’ and ‘su villau’ as well as their musical tradition.



The Irish contingent participated in two other similar carnivals in the towns of Ittiri and Bolotana.




July 12th 2006

In Co. Clare: The Willie Clancy Summer School


When July comes around music and the sounds of dancing feet fill the air as all roads lead to Milltown Malbay in Co. Clare for the Willie Clancy Festival Week. The Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy is Ireland's largest traditional music summer school, held annually since 1973 in memory of the piper Willie Clancy. (Left: a street session in Milltown Malbay)


During the week, nearly a thousand students from every part of the world attend daily classes taught by experts in Irish music and dance. In addition, a full program of lectures, recitals, dances (céilithe) and exhibitions are run by the summer school. Last week I told you I was going there. These pictures are a small sample but can't fully capture the extravaganza that is the 'Willie Week'. (Right: Set Ceili in the Armada Inn)

In Northern Ireland: Ian, King Billy and the Lost Tribe

Armoured cars and Orangemen marching on to a Nationalist street.

July too brings the sound of marching feet. And what a contrast to Milltown Malbay! A black hole in civilisation exists in a remote part of Ireland that merits the attention of the scientific world who may wish to study primitive tribes lost in time and place.

Anthropologists pease take note. No need to go to the Amazon or the deepest jungles of South America! The clock stopped in Northern Ireland in 1690 with the Battle of the Boyne. Go there this year as Orangemen take to the streets of the province in celebration of an ancient victory by King William of Orange over King James and the Irish forces.

Man of God? The 'Rev.' Ian Paisley

Loyalists still can't get over it. No fun in parading in their own areas so they like nothing so much as marching with bands and banners through Nationalist areas in triumphalist procession where they are sure to provoke. If you miss the 12th, don't worry they have 3,000 other marches during the 'marching season' (Irish Times 12/7/'06). Count 'em: 3,000! Yes, they do be marching!!

C'mon lads! That was a long time ago. Get a life, have a laugh. How about leaving the oul' sash at home and going to Milltown Malbay next year? It's a lot more fun and we don't ask what your religion or politics is down here!

Ambassador Jean Kennedy-Smith visits Sligo's Inishmurray Island

North Sligo and Mullaghmore was distinguished recently by a visit from Jean Kennedy-Smith, ex-American Ambassador to Ireland. Acompanied by Bill Whelehan of Riverdance and Pat Wallace, Director of the National Museum, she visited Inishmurray Island aboard 'Excalibur' during her stay. She is pictured HERE with her friends and skipper Keith Clarke who brought her there.

Cat Odyssey

'Teach a cat against their will, they'll be of the same opinion still'!

There's something about cats. That enigmatic stare that tells you there's something going on behind those green eyes, but tells you nothing. Dogs can be trained; cats never. 'A dog looks up to man, cats look down on man', no les a person than Winston Churchill once said. He finished with a tribute to pigs by saying 'A pig looks man in the eye and sees his equal!'

A Mayo cat, brought by her owners to their new home in Sligo recently, decided she didn't like it here and trekked a full 80 kilometers to her old home. The black feline called Salem arrived back at her birthplace just 13 days after she had gone to a new home with Tommy and Kathleen Cryan in Gurteen. Conditions in Sligo were obviously not to the 18 month olds liking because on arrival she immediately disappered into the bushes.

'The pussycat miraculously resurfaced almost two weeks later at her old homestead physically shattered and barely able to rause a feeble miaow,' according to the Sligo Weekender. Having been brought to Sligo by car we may marvel at the instinct that brough the creature unerringly to its old home!

Cultural Exchange

(There will be no Newsround for the next two weeks as your wandering web host is going to Sardinia with the Co. Sligo 'Sidhe Gaoithe' Mummers to take part in a cultural exchange. We will be teaming up with other groups in Northern Ireland before we go and comparing notes with similar folk drama organisations in Sardinia when we get there. A central part of the visit by all Irish Mummers will be a visit to the Museo Delle Maschere Mediterranee (Museum of Mediterranean Masks) in Mamoiada.)

June 28th 2006

Loch na Súil and the Battle of Moyturra

THIS week young Megan and TJ Davey observed for the first time in their short lives the disappearance of Loch na Suil. For most of their older neighbours in Moytura, however, the strange event revived memories of 1985, the last time they woke up in the morning to find that the lake that had been there the night before had suddenly emptied.
The four year-old twins might also have been told about the same thing happening in 1965, and even 1933, but for the only other confirmed occasion, in 1833, they would have to rely on the history books.

Megan and TJ (pictured on left) may well have been bewildered by the different explanations offered by those supposedly wiser than them. Some believe IT Sligo's Dr Richard Thorn, who points to the complex hydrology and chemical reactions leading to blockages suddenly giving way and the water flowing into underground limestone caverns.
Others claim the lake has magical powers, deriving from its formation. According to local legend, it marks the spot where Balor's 'evil eye' fell after he was killed by his grandson Lugh Lamhfada during the battle of Moytura, between the Tuatha de Danaan and the Fomorians, over 3000 years ago: 'The Evil Eye had opened and its destructive power burned a great hole in the ground where it fell. The hole filled with water and hence the formation of Loch na Súil (Lake of the Eye(s)). It was predicted then that the lake would disappear every one hundred years as a reminder of the battle. That it does and then some!
We're sure Megan and TJ will be telling their grandchildren about all the fuss!


'Lunatic Soup' in Sligo

A FEMALE student assaulted a woman because she was angry at losing her mobile phone. Linda Cullen, aged 20, of St Joseph's Terrace, Sligo, admitted assaulting Nicola Meehan of Doocastle, Markievicz Road, Sligo on October 31 last. Defending solicitor Gerry McGovern said that it was it was very difficult to explain why she did what she did.
Judge Oliver McGuinness said it was very easy to explain it.
'It is cider in this case.  Lunatic soup.  When the wine is in the wit is out.'
Garda Petrina Hastings told Sligo Court that Nicola Meehan reported the assault to her on November 1. 'She said she was walking home when she was approached by two females and one of them hit her. She suffered bruising to her left eye and a bump on the back of her head.  She was very distressed.'
Garda Hastings said she spoke to Cullen and took a statement from her. Cullen said that she was an accountancy student at IT Sligo and had just got her final exams, so on Halloween night she went out with friends.
'The guards were all over town that night.  Some of them spoke to us and took the phone off me.  I had E100 in the phone.' She said the phone was returned to her mother but that she had thrown it in the fire.
'We had been drinking cans of cider and were going back to Tesco to get more when this girl walked straight through us. I shouted at her and she told me to f*** off.  I hit her on the head.'
The student said that she was very annoyed that night over the money and the phone. 'I had a fair amount of drink and I took it out on her.  I'm sorry for what happened.'
Mr McGovern said that his client had gone voluntarily to the gardai and made a statement.  Without that it would have been difficult for her to be identified. Judge McGuinness cast a jaundiced eye and remanded the defendant on continuing bail until October 5 for the payment of E600 to the court.

First with the news: Read the Sligo Weekender

June 20th 2006

Gurteen Memorial Honours Michael Davitt

Leading the parade

The Sligo Weekender reports that: 'A large crowd gathered in brilliant sunshine in the grounds of Gurteen Vocational School recently to pay tribute to Michael Davitt, founder of the Land League, on the occasion of the centenary of his death.
Bishop Thomas Flynn, Bishop of Achonry blessed a special memorial prepared by the  Gurteen Davitt Committee. The ceremony was performed by a grandson of Michael Davitt, Fr Thomas Davitt CM. Fr Davitt spoke about Michael Davitt and  pointed out that he himself is likely the only living person who remembers the widow of  Michael Davitt. He also said there are 11 living grandchildren and all attended the celebration at Davitt¹s  birth place in Straide, Mayo on May 30, the actual date of the anniversary.
The pupils of Gurteen VS, under the direction of Aine McKeon  presented a pageant depicting the life of Davitt. Nicholas Ryan gave a very informative  talk on Davitt and the significance  of the Land League meeting which Davitt addressed in Gurteen on November 2, 1879. A tree was planted in memory of the occasion by Michael McGovern,  and Fr John Doherty PP, presented a painting to Fr Thomas Davitt which was  painted by local artist, Beatrice Bohan.

Father Thomas Davitt unveils the memorial prepared by the Gurteen Davitt Committee

UFOs in Sligo?

Are you interested in UFOs? Have you ever seen a UFO? Would you like to share the experience with other people? If so, members of the UFO Society in Boyle would like to hear from you. If you would like to join and receive a copy of their Newsletter contact Betty on 071 9662844 or email

First with the News: Read the Sligo Weekender

June 14th 2006

Respect and Crime in Sligo Court

From the Sligo Weekender: 'A man was removed from Sligo district court last Thursday after threatening the judge. Kevin O'Brien, Fair Green Hostel, Galway shouted at Judge Oliver McGuinness: 'A belt of a brick is what you'll get.  That's all you'll get off me'.
O'Brien had just been sentenced to two months in prison having been found guilty of threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour at the emergency department at Sligo General Hospital.
However, when Judge McGuinness announced his verdict, O'Brien, who was standing at the back of the court, reacted angrily, shouting the threats:
'Do you know what it cost me to come here today?  I had to sleep rough last night to be here.  I respected you and you don't respect me.'
Judge McGuinness then asked gardai to remove the defendant from the court. However, O'Brien left himself, shouting as he went: 'I'm going anyway.  I'm going to be sick.'

The court had earlier been told that O'Brien had been  arrested that morning at Sligo garda station because of a bench warrant issued when he had failed to turn up at a previous court hearing. But gardai said that he had come to the station that morning by appointment to be arrested. Defending solicitor, Joe Carter said his client had made an effort to attend the court the previous week but had encountered problems in getting there. Gardai told the court that the charge against O'Brien related to an incident on the night of January 3rd last.
'We were called to the emergency department of Sligo General Hospital.  The defendant was there and was drunk. He was insulting and abusive and was making a nuisance of himself.' The court was told that he had previous convictions. Mr Carter suggested that the judge allow him to return to Galway where he was due to appear at his 'usual' court on Monday.
However, Judge McGuinness said that the court could not tolerate incidents like this in the emergency department of a hospital and he sentenced O'Brien to two months imprisonment.

'The hills are alive': Rhododendron and whitethorn in bloom at the foot of Benbulben this week

June 7th 2006

Sinead O'Connor in concert in Sligo

The Sligo Weekender reports that, 'The organisers of 'SLIGO LIVE' have praised the talents of the 150 volunteers who gave their time willingly to make sure last weekend's event was a success. Delighted with how the festival went, organiser Shane Mitchell of Dervish added that he hopes it will be even bigger next year and will attract larger crowds.

Last weekend: Eimear and Ferdia Browne of Sligo with Sinead O'Connor

'All along we wanted this festival to establish itself as a feature on the international circuit', he said, 'and to gain a reputation for quality. Another aim was to generate positive publicity for Sligo and that has certainly happened with all the coverage we¹ve got in recent times. We'll be meeting over the coming days to assess how everything went and start the preparations for next year. But this has been a very bright beginning for us.'

The headline act was Sinead O'Connor who performed on Sunday night last. 'Sinead O'Connor delivered a wonderful gig on Sunday night,' Shane continued, 'Solas were brilliant as usual. I was very impressed with Duke Special from Belfast and with Ron Sexsmith, Declan O'Rourke and so many more. Kate Rusby was one of the highlights with a special set on the Saturday night. We in Dervish had a fantastic time at our gig on Friday night.
The re-union of Midnight Well brought back memories for a lot of people. Those great festivals of the 70s are part of what we¹re all about. The local acts showed that Sligo is still a marvellous place for music.'

Riverstown Vintage Festival and Sligo County Fleadh Ceoil

Good music was also to be had at the Riverstown Vintage Festival and the Sligo County Fleadh held in Strandhill.
Country music star Patrick Feeney entertained the crowds at the Riverstown Vintage Festival while traditional music kept the huge crowds at the County Fleadh entertained right throughout the weekend.
Strandhill had perfect weather for the street entertainment that was on offer. But inside the seaside towns's bars, there was plenty of singing sessions, ceilis  and for the more serious trad lover, the competitions were a must-see.
This year was the 12th year of the Riverstown Vintage Festival, which was held in the Sligo Folk Park.
This is the 12th year of the event, which was held on Saturday, June 3 from 12 noon to 5.30pm, with further entertainment on the following day. A special attraction this year was the Marshall steam engine from county Monaghan. There were crafts displays, vintage cars, stationary engines, cycle displays, horse drawn coaches and traps and antique tools. As part of the festival there was a special Childrens Day on Sunday  last from 2-5pm.

May 31st 2006

Canon Ahearn cleared of charges

Canon Niall Ahearn, a Strandhill based parish priest, has welcomed the decision by the DPP not to proceed with complaints of child sexual abuse against him. He will soon resume his parochial duties. In a statement issued at the weekend he said he was relieved to be able to put the matter behind him: 'I am aware that I am neither the first nor the last priest to suffer from untrue allegations' He added that he was not bitter over having to face such charges in which a priest has to abandon his duties to prove his innocence. He has been parish priest in Strandhill since last September and Cathedral administrator for the past ten years.

Harley Davidsons at Strauss Ball

The Sligo Weekender reports that: 'Motorbike mayhem and masquerade surprisingly went hand-in-hand at this year's Strauss Ball. The second annual ball was successfully hosted by Sligo Academy of Music in association with SHOUT(Sligo Hospital Oncology Unit Trust) at the Clarion Hotel, Sligo. The night was a huge success as almost two hundred people arrived decked in both black tie and costume dress.

Peadair O'Fionain and a lady friend arrive in style for the Strauss Ball

Unexpectedly, it was a group of Harley Davidson motor-bikers that added a new twist to the event, allowing guests to get up close and personal with the beautiful motors outside the hotel. They also joined the party later in the evening much to the delight of the black tie and masquerade guests. Strauss Ball committee organiser Robert Fitzpatrick said: "It was a coincidence that there was a Harley Davidson convention taking place in Sligo and that they happened to be staying at the Clarion. "They joined the party and added more colour to the event."

A fire and firework extravaganza was another popular highlight of the night. This year, proceeds from the sold-out ball benefited two worthy organisations: Sligo Academy of Music, to help provide scholarships and build a permanent facility for the 350 students currently benefiting from the charity, and SHOUT (Sligo Hospital Oncology Unit Trust), to improve cancer care for patients in the North West Region. The evening's entertainment also included champagne and music from the senior academy students in the Clarion's renovated chapel, Cannis major. A raffle and auction were held following a gourmet banquet, again with all money raised going to charity.

The Sligo Viennese Orchestra provided music as guests danced to old-time waltzes, arranged by dance cards. The Glen Miller Legacy Band played into the night at what was described as 'the social event of the year.' Mr Fitzpatrick said: "Every single person pleaded with us to carry on hosting the ball next year. "It was a most colourful and entertaining night."'

First with the news: Read the Sligo Weekender

May 24th 2006

Demise of the family butcher shop

An article in The Sligo Weekender reports that: "Over the past twenty years two-thirds of family owned butcher shops have closed in Sligo town. Around 14 butchers have shut up shop in the last two decades, leaving just seven fresh meat stores to keep the tradition alive. With the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores consumer shopping patterns have changed to wrapped and pre-packaged meats. The huge increase in chicken consumption, which can be bought in almost any shop, and the upsurge of fast food outlets has added to the decline in sales of all uncooked meats.

Clarke's butcher shop Dec. 1956

It is with great sadness that many Sligo family butcher shops have closed over the decades. Apart from the few remaining, gone are the days when people could ask about cooking times and tips for their joint of meat, with their local butcher able to tell them exactly. One long-established Sligo butcher believes that there is no skill attached to selling meat any more. He said: "You can purchase almost any food item at a petrol station forecourt now. From the professional butcher's point of view gone are the days when a housewife could go to her butcher and ask for a pound of rashers cut to her particular requirements."

A recent survey of Sligo town shows that there are now only two shops where one can ask for and get specific service. In the late 1990s the BSE scare did untold damage to the butchering trade and during that time over 200 butcher shops closed throughout the whole of Ireland.
Very few young people are willing to take up the butchering trade in recent times. The skilful trade requires a two-year apprenticeship to qualify. Well-known Sligo Butcher Séamus Dolan began his apprenticeship in Manorhamilton in 1958 before moving to Sligo in 1962. He has been a butcher for 48 years. He believes that butchers give a special customer service, which can't be got in other establishments. He said: "There are only a handful of butcher shops here in the town today and with the changing business trend, it's hard to stay in business.When people like me retire there's no-one to come in and take over the business, so the shop goes."

Town walk brings back memories

Ian and William Clarke at work in their shop this week (missing Keith Clarke)

In bygone years wandering through the old avenues of Sligo was a different experience to what we see in the Sligo streets today. Fewer cars, no traffic jams, nobody competing for precious parking spaces, and a butchers shop or two on nearly every street.
A walk down Mail Coach Road towards the town centre and we would have passed Mannion's butcher shop. Down Connolly Street, formerly known as Pound Street, and there were more shop fronts with meat hanging in the windows. Over in Teeling Street, butchers working in the award-winning Gray's would have been seen cutting meat and making sausages. Castle Street was home to more meat houses, with Grattan Street also adding to butcher shop numbers in the town. Master butchers and their apprentices assessed and traded livestock, slaughtered animals on the premises, cut and de-boned meat.

Sligo town never had a central slaughter house so most of the animals were killed in-house. The introduction of EU rules and health regulations demanded the upgrading of standards, which proved too expensive for some butchers. This too inevitably contributed to the decline in these traditional meat shops. Learning about spices, how they are mixed to compliment each other, and how to create new recipes from scratch was all in a day's work for old Sligo butchers.

Take a walk along Wine Street today and you will hear the story of the butcher who became a woodcarver. For a number of years the shop took on a dual role, selling both meat and wood carvings. Owner Michael Quirke, a butcher since 1957, finally gave up the meat cleaver almost 20 years ago and now spends his days carving fantastic figures from Irish mythology. Three pork and bacon shops, one on Wine Street, another on John Street and  one on Old Market Street, also ended up on the chop-list. Yet some butcher shops have remained to this day, keeping the tradition alive. Clarkes on Grattan Street is one of the oldest established family meat shops in Sligo, celebrating its 50th birthday last December." First with the news: Read the Sligo Weekender

Whale calf dies

Sligo residents were saddened to hear that the carcase of the whale calf, mentioned below, was washed in at Enniscrone in recent days. When the mother was in her death throes at Lislarry it was noticed she was leaking milk. This gave rise to the opinion that she was a feeding mother without whom the infant would not survive.

"It's a rare species and it's strange that we've had about four strandings around Ireland and Britain in the last few months," said Dr. Don Cotton. "It's a worry. Are they connected? We don't know but strandings are rare with this mammal so it's a concern when these things happen and we don't know why. This is a deep water species. It should be out further, around the edge of the Continental Shelf."

May 17th 2006

Beached Whale on Sligo Coast

Local lads, Darren and Gavin Rooney (left) view a bottlenose whale that became stranded on Lislarry beach, Co. Sligo on Friday last. This is an extremely rare occurence in these waters. It's calf too almost washed ashore but was pushed out to sea by local people and survived — for a time anyway as experts believe it won't last for long being too young to survive without its mother's milk.

The stranded eight metre female, weighing several ton, could not be refloated. Local people who tried to help were distressed to see their efforts end in failure when this magnificent creature died within two hours of being washed up on the shore. Dr. Don Cotton, an expert on such matters, believes the adult whale was injured following a collision with a boat. The species have a tendency to be curious about such objects in the water, to their detriment. Another peculiarity of the species is that they tend to congregate around an injured member. This too contributed to their decline as whalers, knowing this, would injure a bottlenose, secure it with a rope, and then kill the other members of the pod as they approached.

Crime, standards and sexual assault

In other news there has been a four fold increase in the number of sexual assaults in Sligo and Leitrim in the past year. Last year there were a total of 57 sexual assaults, an increase of 218 percent. This included 12 rapes, a 20 percent increase on 2004. It is the third highest recorded statistic for sexual crime in the country with only 37 detections.

Are these figures any surprise when an Irish TV programme called 'Rodge and Podge' degrades and insults women and human sexuality generally. Hilda Kennedy in an article, ‘Musing on Life’ this week in the Sligo Weekender looked with a very clear eye indeed at the ‘Rodge and Podge’ show, aired weekly on RTE. Biddy of Glenroe soap opera fame was a guest. Acording to Hilda the puppets 'masturbated while making lewd comments about her.' In another scene the dialogue went like this:

“(Q) What would you expect from a date?”

“(A) A hole and a heartbeat!”

Are my overseas readers shocked? Am I naive? Have standards sunk so low in other countries too?

Why should we be surprised then at an increase in sexual assaults in Sligo and Leitrim? Porn channels and videos for private viewing are one thing. Given the absence of any moral standards for a general audience, even on our State funded national TV station, isn’t an increase in such crime what we should expect? Toleration of such filth as the norm diminishes us all and filters into society in general. If we sit around the set and snigger at such depravity why should we complain about ‘date rape’, or any sexual assault or violence against women — even if it happens to members of our own family? We must expect it.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. We can’t have it both ways.

Famine Walk

Don't forget the Famine Walk next Saturday:

Afri Famine Walk 2006

  With: Christy Moore, Dr. Owens Wiwa, Vincent McGrath

Saturday 20th May 2006, from Doolough to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo


May 10th 2006

Celebration of Sligo-Crozon twinning

Sligo is twinned with Kempten, Germany, Tallahassee, USA and Crozon, France. The 25th anniversary of the Crozon twinning was celebrated at a banquet (turkey and ham, Sir, or roast beef) at the Sligo Park Hotel last Wednesday.

Mayor of Crozon, Jean Corneoc and Mayor of Sligo Rosaleen O'Grady

"Co. Sligo Sidhe Gaoithe Strawboys" were invited — but since Strawboy visits are a wedding tradition the leader wanted to know who was getting married. 'No one,' said they, 'we just want a bit of craic, we hear ye have great dancers and musicians.' 'We do', says they, 'but no wedding, no Strawboys! That's the rule. What about the Mayor of Sligo and the Mayor of Crozon hooking up,' the Strawboys suggested, trying to be helpful, 'they look like they'd be game for a bit of excitement.' 'Oh, hold your tongue,' says the inviter, 'sure aren't they married already!' 'Well,' says they, 'Couldn't they get married again for the night. Strawboys can do that sort of thing y'know. We don't know about the O'Grady wan but sure isn't yer man from Crozon far away from home. Who'll know?

Well, yer man's face fell a mile. He couldn't believe what was being suggested in holy Catholic Ireland, but do you know what, they went for it! Everyone had a great night. There's the happy couple in the picture on the right and, I don't know about Rosie, but, if you look close, behind Mayor Jean Corneoc's Cheshire cat smile there's a twinkle in them thar eyes: Look out Rosie. You know what they say about them French uns! You can't be too careful, and while we all want to be good Europeans there's only so much we're prepared to give up for the cause of fraternité!

Children's graveyard memorial almost ready

Sculptor Kieron Melody working on memorial

Mullaghmore Heritage Group was formed by a number of people, natives of Mullaghmore, who came together in 2005 with the intention of erecting a memorial at the children’s graveyard known locally as Cill na Muckaun. The cemetery is situated approximately one mile east of Classiebawn castle.

As the graveyard is ancient, and infant mortality common in previous times, it is safe to say that most Mullaghmore residents have relations buried there. The committee's intention is to recognise the infant bones interred in this place, the dignity of life, and the grief and trauma of bereaved parents who were denied the comfort of interment of their beloved in consecrated ground.

The memorial is almost ready and will be installed some time next August. For more information go to bottom of page HERE.

Au revoir, now, back next week with more. Don't forget the famine walk:

May 3rd 2006

May Customs in Sligo and Ireland

This week we will deviate from just strictly news to talk about Mayday customs. I hope you don't mind. Anyway there's nothing so earth-shattering happening around Sligo that it can't wait for a week!

When we were growing up the nuns taught us that May was Mary's month. To their smiling approval we made May altars ( yes, even the boys). We brought fresh flowers every few days and said fervent prayers to Mary. Somehow we just knew she appreciated it. It felt nice and special and gave us a warm feeling. The nuns beamed beatifically when, in answer to their questions, we vied with each other as to who had the best altar. It all made us feel close to the Blessed Virgin who lived in that mysterious, faraway place: Heaven.

Even the little blue and white plaster statue had a pleasurable look about it and Mary smiled a never ending smile, all through the whole month — which is more than could be said for our parents who scowled and barked orders a lot more than they ever smiled. Do this, go there, feed the calves, put the hens up on the roost, put out the ashes; did ye do yer lessons? The sally rod was always close by so there was no point in putting up a fuss. Children had no rights then and parents thought it, not just their duty, but a virtue to use the 'shtick'. 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' was dogma. The miseries were never-ending, so no wonder then that Mary's altar was a haven of peace, tranquility and a promise of better things to come.

No one ever told us then that Mayday was the beginning of the old Celtic quarter festival of Bealtaine. Or that May was Baal or Bel's month and the word Bealtaine derived from 'Bels fire', the fire of Belenos, Celtic God of the Sun. Maybe they didn't know! It might have taken 1,500 years but by the 1900s any taint of paganism that existed when St. Patrick came here was well squeezed out of us. Or was it?

If it was, then why did my mother and father gather mayflowers (Marsh Marigold) on May eve? And, if they did gather them, why didn't they put them on Mary's altar? They didn't, they threw some up on the roof and more on the threshold. Strange behaviour but it was to bless the house they said, and to bring good luck for the coming year. Practical people then! Better to keep all sides with you. Tenuous it may have been, but the old Gods held their place.

Of course there was the fairies to take into account as well. They were part of the old creed too and particularly busy about their mischief at this time of year. People bought milk from neighbours then. There was always someone with a cow in milk. No point in going to the shop. They didn't have any. There was no call for it! If a neighbour came in for milk on Mayday things were different to any other day — they'd be very lucky to get any. No offense meant, but one could be giving away their luck by allowing the milk out of the house. If they relented, a drop of salt was put in the milk to neutralise any harm. No ashes was put out on that day for fear of throwing away the luck.

Neither was the cow byre cleaned out. The list was endless. And of course we still went to Mass on Sunday to cover the other side of things. You couldn't be too careful.

A load of superstitious nonsense I hear you say? Well, I don't know, certainly it never did us any harm. And like an old man said one time, 'People don't do this sort of thing so much anymore but that doesn't say they're any the better for it!' He has a point, so I think of the old innocent people and the beliefs that sustained them when I, and many others in Co. Sligo, carry on the ancient tradition of welcoming natures rebirth by bedecking the house with Mayflowers and glorious whin on May Eve. I hope you will next year as well!

Beannachtaí na Bealtaine agaibh go léir.


April 26th 2006

Hazelwood House Sold

The Sligo Weekender reports that the former Snia factory on the banks of Lough Gill in Sligo has been bought by a local consortium for between E7 and E10 million. The consortium, fronted by Sligo businessmen Ken McMoreland and Jackie McMahon bought the factory site which included Hazelwood House, a Georgian mansion in need of restoration.

One local group are hoping that the new owners will restore the Georgian house to its former glory, but the plans for the house, the factory and the land included in the sale are unknown.
The house was built in 1772 and was one of the most important ascendancy houses in Sligo for many years, being the seat of the Wynne family.  It also served as a mental hospital and during the second world war was occupied by the Irish army.

While the plans for the Snia factory and Hazelwood House have not been revealed to the general public, it is expected the new consortium will develop a mixed-use scheme for the site, possibly featuring recreation facilities, holiday homes and maybe a hotel. As regards the future of Hazelwood House, any development or proposal will be closely followed by the Hazelwood House Action Group.

What else is new around Sligo?

Collooney: Is to get a new 10 lane bowling alley. Sandra Loftus, Happy Days Creche, Lisnalurg Sligo will be the proprietor.

Ballinode: As noted in an earlier news item this is the lambing season. Dogs play havoc at this time of year. The worst of a number of recent incidents happened on Tuesday morning at Ballinode. Padraig Devaney, responding to a telephone call from a neighbour, found 23 of his lambs dead when he went out to the field at 5.30 am. There have been other similar incidents at Glencar and Mullaghmore

Sligo: Following the appointment of a palliative care specialist, Dr. Donal Martin, the eight bed unit of North West Hospice is now open after being closed for the past 16 months.

Union Rock: On Easter Sunday morning a large crowd gathered atop Union Rock to hear Fr. A.B. O’Shea of Sooey celebrate Mass and watch the sun rise. The Mass is inspired by the ancient custom of rising on Easter Sunday morning to greet the rising sun, pagan symbol of renewal and Christian symbol of the risen Christ

Swanning about!

This adventurous swan was spotted recently wandering down Quay Street in Sligo town. The cheeky bird caused a number of cars to come to a standstill as bemused drivers looked on.
It was taxi-driver Johnny Murphy who finally squared up to the strolling swan and regained control of the road. Sligo Weekender's Colin Gillen came across the commotion while returning from the Ray D'Arcy radio show which was broadcasting live in the nearby Factory Theatre, home of the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company.
Apparently, the swan is a regular visitor to the area and is regularly seen stopping by the Tavern Bar, further down the street, for a quick drink.

First with the news: Read the Sligo Weekender


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