From March 30th 2012 Sligo Borough will commence a twelve months celebration of the 400th anniversary of a grant by James I of a Charter by which Sligo Borough with its burgesses, freemen and Provost (Mayor) was established. Prior to this event, Sligo had been one of the very few urban developments subject to a Gaelic lordship, in Sligo’s case, that of the O’Conors Sligo. With the receipt of the charter the town of Sligo became a separate administrative entity, independent of local lordship. The corporation consisted of twelve burgesses who selected the mayor from among their own number and selected replacement burgesses from the freemen of their own class. The Borough also had the election of two MPs to the Parliament in Dublin. In time the corporation and its parliamentary representation became the creature of the Wynne family of Hazelwood. Law of the early 1600s and subsequent documents show that this was a corporation from which Catholics were excluded, a situation that was to hold until the passing of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act of 1840. And, even then, the change of representation was fiercely fought over.
This year-long celebration, organized by Councillor Rosaleen O’Grady, Mayor of Sligo and Sligo Borough Council 400 Committee, planned the publication of a calendar of Sligo images and memorable events in its history, an exhibition stand of Sligo Borough history to be displayed in City Hall during the year and a commemorative volume of articles by Sligo authors to be published later in 2012. Under the leadership of Dónal Tinney, County Librarian, the 2012 calendar was launched in December 2011 . The calendars were donated by the Borough Council to local charities and selling at €5 each, the proceeds went to the charities.
As its contribution to this celebration, Sligo Field Club (established 1945) has dedicated its 4th summer weekend conference, Friday 11th to Sunday 13th May, to a celebration of major events in the history of Sligo Borough. Visit the Conference page on the Sligo Field Club website
The conference will be officially opened by Councillor Rosaleen O’Grady, Mayor of Sligo Borough at 7,30pm on Friday, 11th May, followed by the opening lecture Mapping Sligo’s Urban Development by Fiona Gallagher, a native of Sligo. In 2008 Fiona published The Streets of Sligo, a definitive history of the streets, families and businesses of the town over seven centuries. She was also the primary author of the Sligo edition of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas published by the Royal Irish Academy in February 2012.
One of the early “foreign” influences on the development of urban Sligo was the foundation of the Dominican Friary of the Holy Cross; a subject Dr. Rachel Moss, Research Associate at the Royal Irish Academy will expand on in her lecture “The Sligo Friars & the formation of Medieval Sligo on Saturday morning. Following the Elizabethan resolve to find a solution to England’s problem in Ireland, the weakening Gaelic lordship of Sligo was finally destroyed in the aftermath of the Nine Years War and in his lecture The Controversies of the O’Conor Sligo Estate 1588-1641 Kenneth Nicholls, one of the most widely respected historians of medieval and early modern Gaelic Ireland, will look at the dying days of the O’Conor landholdings, mortgages and marriage settlements that led to the final loss of their lands by the mid-17th century. During the final days of the of Gaelic Ireland, Sligo played a strategic role in the passage of armies through to and from Connacht and Ulster during the Cromwellian and Williamite Wars, Sligo town being the site of several delaying sieges in both phases. The topic will be the subject of Sligo: Strategic Gateway to Connacht 1645-1691 by Dr. Pádraig Lenihan, lecturer in History at NUIG.
Because of the subsequent and total supplanting of Gaelic families by planter dynasties, eighteenth century Sligo town provides a special example of planter urban politics. In his lecture Urban politics in the 18th Century Dr. Eamon O’Flaherty, senior lecturer in the School of History at UCD will speak about the inter-family power struggles of those times in Sligo town. Extensive urban and commercial growth followed in the 19th century, mapped in The Advance of Sligo in the 19th Century, a lecture by Derry O’Connell of the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Planning at UCD. Derry, a native of Sligo has also recorded many of the buildings and shop-fronts of Sligo town. The total electoral representative change brought about by the first County Council elections of 1899, the parliamentary elections of 1918 and a need to represent minorities were instrumental in The First Use of Proportional Representation: the Sligo Borough Elections of January 1919 a lecture by Dr. Pádraig Deignan of Sligo. Pádraig is the author of The Protestant Community in Sligo 1914-1849.
The Saturday evening lecture, Down by the shelly waters … Sligeach alias Sligo … a name ancient but not unique, by Dr. Nollaig O Muraile of the Department of Irish at NUIG will entertain and inform conference attendees.
On Sunday morning, the story of further Anglo-Norman influence under the lordship of Richard de Burgo, builder of Sligo Castle on the site of the modern City Hall in the 13th century, will be told by Dr. Kieran O’Conor, Department of Archaeology at NUIG. A specialist in Gaelic & Anglo-Norman settlement patterns, Kieran will develop this theme in his lecture The Castle of Sligo. Following that final lecture Jack Flynn, an Honorary Life Member of Sligo Field Club will lead the conference group on a tour of the town. Jack has amassed a mine of information and anecdote about the buildings of Sligo and the people that lived in them; a fitting way to end this celebration of the Charter of Sligo.
The conference will take place in The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo, with registration starting at 18.30 on Friday, May 11th. Fee for the conference is €60.00 (some concessions apply). Full details on www.sligofieldclub.ie . Enquiries to: Sligo Field Club, c/o Pat O’Brien, Ballygawley, Co. Sligo. email@example.com 0871304843.
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