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Irish: Sligeach
County Sligo
Rockwood Parade Sligo.jpg
Garavogue River, Sligo
Grid reference: G685354
Location: 54°16’0"N, 8°28’60"W
Population: 19,452  (2011)
Post town: Sligo
Postcode: F91
Dialling code: 071
Local Government
Council: Sligo
Sligo–North Leitrim

Sligo is the county town and the most populous urban area in County Sligo. With a population of 19,452 in 2011, it is the largest urban centre in the province of Connaught, after Galway and the twenty-fourth overall in the Republic of Ireland.

Sligo is a major economic, educational, administrative and cultural centre of the north-west of the Republic.

Sligo is a major commercial port on the west coast of Ireland and the country's most northerly on the Atlantic Ocean. In recent years, Sligo and its surrounding suburbs have experienced significant economic and population growth; over the last decade, Sligo was the fastest-growing settlement in the region. The town is also one of Ireland's most important tourist destinations, owing mainly to the renowned natural beauty of the surrounding countryside and its literary and cultural associations, which include significant ties to poet and Nobel laureate W B Yeats and comedian and writer Spike Milligan.


Sligo's Irish name Sligeach - meaning shelly place - allegedly originates in the abundance of shellfish found in the river and its estuary, and from the extensive ancient shell middens unearthed in the vicinity.[1] [2] The river (now known as the Garavogue 'rough river') was also called the Sligeach.[2][3]

The Ordnance Survey letters of 1836 state that "cart loads of shells were found underground in many places within the town where houses now stand". At that time shells were constantly being dug up during the construction of foundations for buildings. This whole area, from the river estuary at Sligo, around the coast to the river at Ballysadare Bay, is rich in marine resources which were utilised as far back as the Mesolithic period.


The significance of Sligo in the Early Neolithic period is demonstrated by the abundance of ancient sites close by, not least Carrowmore, on the Cuil Irra peninsula, two miles from the town. The excavation for the N4 Sligo Inner Relief Road in 2002 revealed an early Neolithic causewayed enclosure (c. 4000 B.C.) overlooking the town. It would have been enclosed by a ditch and palisade, and was perhaps an area of commerce and ritual. According to Edward Danagher, who excavated there, 'Magheraboy demonstrates the early Neolithic settlement of this area of Sligo, while the longevity of the activity on the site indicates a stable and successful population during the final centuries of the fifth millennium and the first centuries of the fourth millennium BC'.[4] Sligo town's first roundabout was constructed around a megalithic tomb (Abbeyquarter North, in Garavogue Villas [5]). Maurice Fitzgerald, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, is generally credited with the establishment of the mediæval town of Sligo, building the Castle of Sligo in 1245. Sligo was burned several times during the mediæval period. In 1257, Geoffry O'Donnell, chief of Tirconnell, marched on Sligo and burned the town. The annalists refer to this Sligo as a sradbhaile ('street settlement'): a village or town not defended by an enclosure or wall, and consisting of one street. By the mid 15th century the town and port had grown in importance. Amongst the earliest preserved specimens of written English in Connacht is a receipt for 20 marks, dated August 1430, paid by Saunder Lynche and Davy Botyller, to Henry Blake and Walter Blake, customers of "ye King and John Rede, controller of ye porte of Galvy and of Slego". Over a century later an order was sent by the Elizabethan Government to Sir Nicholas Malby, Knight, willing him to establish "apt and safe" places for the keeping of the Assizes & Sessions, with walls of lime & stone, in each county of Connaught, "judging that the aptest place be in Sligo, for the County of Sligo…"[6]

Sligo Abbey, the Dominican Friary, is the only mediæval building left standing in the town (Bram Stoker, whose mother came from Sligo or hereabouts, has cited ghost stories about the abbey as part of the inspiration for his infamous novel, Dracula). The abbey was founded by Fitzgerald in 1253 but was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1414, and was rebuilt in its present form. When Frederick Hamilton’s soldiers sacked Sligo Town in 1642, the Abbey was burned and everything valuable in it was destroyed. Much of the structure, including the choir, carved altar and cloisters remains.

Between 1847 and 1851 over 30,000 people emigrated through the port of Sligo.[7] On the Quays, overlooking the Garavogue River, is a sculpted memorial to the emigrants. This is one of a suite of three sculptures commissioned by the Sligo Famine Commemoration Committee to honour the victims of the Great Famine of 1845–1849. A plaque in the background, headed 'Letter to America, January 2, 1850' tells one family's sad story:

I am now, I may say, alone in the world. All my brothers and sisters are dead and children but yourself... We are all ejected out of Mr. Enright's ground... The times was so bad and all Ireland in such a state of poverty that no person could pay rent. My only hope now rests with you, as I am without one shilling and as I said before I must either beg or go to the poorhouse... I remain your affectionate father, Owen Larkin. Be sure answer this by return of post.

The Lady Erin monument was erected in 1899 to mark the centenary of the 1789 insurrection.[8]

Sligo town recently highlighted its connections with Goon Show star and writer Spike Milligan by unveiling a plaque at the former Milligan family home at Number 5 Holborn Street.


Sligo has hosted an array of festivals over the years such as Sligo Live which happens every October, The Sligo Summer Festival which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Sligo town and the Fleadh Cheoil which Sligo hosted in three consecutive years (1989, 1990 & 1991) and is due to host it again in 2014.


  • Newspapers:
    • The Sligo Weekender
    • The Northwest Express
    • The Sligo Champion
    • Sligo Now (monthly magazine)
  • Radio:
    • Ocean FM
    • iRadio


  • The Blue Raincoat Theatre Company, founded in 1990, is Sligo’s professional theatre company.
  • The Hawks Well Theatre is in Sligo


  • Basketball
    • Sligo All-Stars
    • Sligo Giant Warriors
  • Football:
    • Sligo Rovers, founded in 1928, with a home ground at the Showgrounds
    • Junior football clubs including Calry Bohemians, Cartron United, City United, St John's FC, Merville United and Swagman Wanderers
  • Gaelic Games:
    • Calry/St Joseph's GAA
    • St John's GAA
    • St Mary's GFC
  • Golf:
    • Co. Sligo (Rosses Point) Golf Club
    • Strandhill Golf Club
  • Rugby: Sligo Rugby Football Club (Hamilton Park, Strandhill, five miles west of the town)
  • Surfing: Sligo (in particular Strandhill) has a strong surfing tradition with many visitors learning to surf in the area.
  • Others: Other popular sports in Sligo and surrounding areas include Athletics, Boxing, Hockey, Horse Racing, Martial Arts, Rowing, Sailing, Swimming and Tennis


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Sligo)


  1. Wood-Martin's History of Sligo, 1882
  2. 2.0 2.1 "History of Sligo". Sligo Borough Council - About Us. Retrieved 2008-05-13. "The scallop shells [...] were once abundant in the estuary at the mouth of the Garavogue - a river once known as the 'Sligeach', or 'shelly place', giving Sligo its name" 
  3. Joyce, LL.D., M.R.I.A., P.W.. "Irish Local Names Explained". Library Ireland. Archived from the original on 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2007-07-03. "Sligo; (not correct)named from the river: Sligeach [Sliggagh], F. M., shelly river (slig, a shell).It is more likely to have originated from "Slige atha da" anglice "the place of two fords or crossings. These were at Cartron and Ballisodare (Ballydrehid) in the days when travel was on shanks mare. Ireland was heavily wooded hence most travel was coastal. Sligo was a place of importance on the north/south way. The Cuill Iarra peninsula lies in the middle between the Sligo River and Ballisodare Bay, with the Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery in the middle. This cemetery would have been an important place of pilgrimage for travellers to visit. Through elision etc the sound of the name altered down the centuries, hence the 'shell theory'." 
  4. Danaher, Edward (2007). Monumental beginnings: the archaeology of the N4 Sligo Inner Relief Road. Wordwell Books. ISBN 978-1-905569-15-1. 
  5. Bergh, Stefan (1995). Landscape of the monuments. A study of the passage tombs in the Cúil Irra region, Co. Sligo, Ireland. Stockholm: Riksantikvarieämbetet Arkeologiska Undersökningar. ISBN 91-7192-945-2. 
  6. Wood-Martin, W.G. (1892). History of Sligo, County and Town. From the accession of James 1. to the Revolution of 1688.. Vol. 2. Dublin: Hodge & Figgis. 
  7. Norton, Desmond (2003). "Lord Palmerston and the Irish Famine Emigration: A Rejoinder". Cambridge University Press, the Historical Journal (46): 155–165. 
  8. "Lady Erin statue". Sligo Town website.