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June 2019
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2002-06-16 My memories of old Sligo shops

I am about to age myself considerably, but how many of the Sligo shops of my youth are still operating? Apologises in advance if I leave out your personal favourites.


As a little boy with a very sweet tooth, I paid frequent trips to Fennels (now Higgins) or Rooneys (now Drummonds bookies) on the way from school. I loved shopping with Mum, particularly if it meant stopping off at Thomas Street Bakery (now ESB) where the smell of fresh bread wafted tantalisingly into the street. After we got our batch loaf and an iced log we headed down to Five Star (now Tesco arcade) for the main shop or there was Liptons which had a more continental feel. Sometimes we went to Blackwoods (now Sligo Supply) or Blackwoods Corner Shop at the end of OConnell Street, both part-owned and run by my grand-uncle Allan (Stevenson). For more specialised items we popped into the old Café Cairo in Wine Street, Bellews (now Cordners), Tanseys in Market Street,or more usually Cosgroves (still there). Kevin and Mary Cosgrove would treat us to a taste of the latest delicacy followed by my favourite Turkish Delight.

For clothes, we shopped at Goods (Moffitts), Mullaneys (still there), Stephensons or Johnstons all in OConnell Street, or sometimes Strongs or Meehans in Castle Street. Mum shopped at Smartwear. I was always fascinated by the cash rails in Johnstons and Blackwoods - never tills - where our money was put into a little container which disappeared magically along a rail to some greater power above and reappeared even more magically with our change. Shoe bargains were found at Carrolls Dry Foothouse in Castle Street.

For fresh meat we went to Clarkes (still there) though there was a huge choice of butchers in Sligo - Kilgallons, Cavanaghs, Essex Williams, Bennetts, Thady Foleys, or Quirkes, that is before Michael Quirke pursued his incredibly unique talents. For fish there was Moodys of Grattan Street or on certain days the open stalls in the Market Yard.

During the summers I helped my Dad in our shop in Castle Street and Market Street (now Greenes). When I was very young, the floor was still cobble-stones and flag-stones. An amazing spiral staircase led to the watch and jewellery repairs shop, as the 32lb Lough Gill stuffed pike looked down on the proceedings from his glass display. Of course I am biased, but it had to be one of the most unique premises in the town, and as the sign said the name of Nelson did stand for high quality and satisfaction!

I loved any excuse to spend my wages. The nearest shop, Peebles, resembled an old Dickensian Curiosity shop. Billy Peebles supplied me with comics. Step inside for sweets, or The Pixie for toys (and sweets). There was Kellys souvenir shop and next to it The Smokers Own for Grandpas pipe tobacco (and more sweets). It seems quite incongruous that I used to frequent a smokers shop, considering my intolerance of the cancer stick, but I expect it was the welcoming Mrs Bree who got me to spend my pennies.

I spent a lot of time browsing for sheet music in Fitzgeralds, or sometimes Conways. Whytes (still there) and more particularly Brees in John Street were favourite stopping-off points.

For stationery there was Keaneys (still there) or the Sligo Bible and Bookstore, run by Mr. Barker. Our shop sold jewellery, hardware and fishing tackle but for anything we didnt have in the latter section there was Barton Smiths (still very much there). For hardware, you could try Woods (still there), Meldrums, the Western Wholesale or the Wood and Iron - what a fascinating big old store that was.

Kilduffs supplied fruit and veg, but we usually went to McGanns where we got the warmest welcome by Beezie who always threw in a few carrots for my sisters pony. Then I sneaked nextdoor to McGees (more sweets) or down to Woolworths - a childs Utopia and sweet heaven.

The first film I ever saw was Swiss Family Robinson at the Savoy, preceded by a lovely meal at the Bonne Chere (more often called the Bon Shereee). Speaking of mispronounciations - does anyone remember the Gross-veener, or was it the Grosvenor in Grattan Street?

Apart from those already mentioned,Wehrleys, Feehilys, Horans, Keohanes, Brodericks, Tahenys, the Carlton Café and others are still thriving, but I think no-one can dispute the fact that many Sligo businesses have simply disappeared within the last 30 years.