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2003-03-18 Beautiful Sligo is let down by a few old crumbling buildings

When I arrived home on one occasion and saw that my old national school had been lovingly transformed into the "Model Niland", it came as a relief to know that one of Sligo's unique buildings had not been left to decay and die. The changes in the face of Sligo over the past few decades are too numerous to document in one article, but on almost every trip home I notice some new addition or refurbishment which is, almost without exception, an improvement.

 

Many of the bank buildings have always impressed - the Ulster, AIB and Bank of Ireland in Stephen Street, the old Bank of Ireland in Grattan Street, the Courthouse, the Town Hall, the Railway Station, the two cathedrals, and many of the smaller churches (though I have never been a fan of the `New Friary' in High Street) and of course the amazing job that has been done down by the Garavogue on Rockwood Parade, Water Lane and Tobergal Lane.

 

However, and I hate to introduce a `but' at this stage, but, because of all the improvements, the few eyesores that remain inevitably stick out like sore thumbs. Those who pass through Sligo en route to the North (or from the North back to the N4) can't help but notice the former Western Wholesale at the end of Wine Street which has been boarded up for some time now, and without being too specific, Adelaide Street has much room for improvement - just think of the impression our town gives to those passing through?

 

The recent removal of the badly damaged Russian ship cleaned up the face of `the Quays', though there is still room for improvement in that area. I have always thought that more could be made of the Old High School which dominates the vista at the end of Markievicz Road. If one continues towards the centre via Markievicz Road there is an area at the very back of the Silver Swan on the river which is rather ungainly. The old Savoy Cinema in Market Street has long been in need of a lick of paint or a makeover. I saw my first film there - "Swiss Family Robinson" - and every time I pass the Savoy, I try to picture what the interior must look like now. Can we at least start by fixing the exterior?

 

I wonder if even more could be made of the Market Yard. I am a big fan of the `English Market' in Cork which radiates a special charm and individuality. I am not suggesting that Sligo develops something similar, but maybe the Market Yard could return part of the way from whence it came.

 

St Columbas in Asylum Lane is for me one of the most striking yet sadly wasted buildings in Sligo, and it is no small wonder that it continues to be a topic for discussion. There have been suggestions that it might make a beautiful hotel, and so it might, but I have always felt it is crying out to be a university campus, and it is conveniently located next door to the present IT.

 

A while back, a gentleman from Dromahair wrote to this paper and wisely suggested that the sculptures in Hazelwood needed an overhaul or even replacement. Finally, is it not part of the duty of Sligo County Council to care for the general upkeep of Sligo cemetery? At first sight, it looks like many of us have little or no respect for our deceased. I understand that many people are unable to tend to their family graves for one reason or another, and if that is the case, surely the Council ought to then step in, or maybe those doing `community service'?

 

On a recent trip to Punta Arenas in Chile, I was passing the town cemetery and was so drawn by this tranquil haven that I went in and sat for a while among the cypress trees. People were tending to the resting places of their loved ones, and the communal areas were being cared for by uniformed workers.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love my town, and I constantly broadcast its merits and attractions to others, but Sligo has come such a long way, I thought it no harm to point out some of the areas that might next merit a little attention and TLC.