Arrival of Electricity Supply to Sligo

Gas Lamp on Castle Street

It may be difficult for readers today in 2023 to appreciate that when Sligo Chamber of Commerce was inaugurated a hundred years ago there was no electricity supply in Sligo.  Street lighting in the immediate Town centre was by gas but predominantly streetscapes around Sligo Town would have been in darkness after nightfall.

The first reference to electric lighting in the Chamber minute book is on the 8th of May 1924 when “Mr. J. Nally, Vice-President, asked if this Chamber intended taking any action in support of the proposed Electric Lighting Scheme for Sligo.  He expressed the opinion that the business houses of the Town are anxious that Electric Light should be installed.  After some discussion, it was decided not to take any action at present pending the result of the Public meeting on 13th inst. called to consider the proposed Bill”.  It must be surmised therefore that the Chamber was waiting to see what the general public thought on the matter rather than having the conviction to directly lead out in support of what would ultimately prove to be a real game changer, not only for Sligo but for the entire country.

The Chamber does not record what transpired at the public meeting and we have to wait five years for the next reference to electricity supply in Sligo and the holding by the Chamber on the 9th of October 1929 of a Special General Meeting.  Such meetings are uncommon in the Chamber Diary at that time, so it must be assumed that there was great concern which led to the Special Business of the meeting, Mr. F. Nally, Vice-President in the Chair, which was to consider the action of the Electricity Supply Board in putting down poles in the streets of Sligo. “A discussion took place relative to the placing of wooden poles in the streets of the Town by the Electricity Supply Board.  A plan of the proposed sites having been examined, it was pointed out that most of the sites chosen would be a great obstruction to traffic, and where the footpaths are narrow, dangerous to the public”. It was the opinion of the meeting that in a progressive Town like Sligo either steel poles should be erected or an underground service substituted for the proposed wooden poles. The following resolution was:

Proposed by: Jas. J. Nelson

Seconded by: D. M. Hanley and Resolved:

Wooden Electricity Poles on Quay Street

That we The Sligo Chamber of Commerce in special meeting assembled desire to urge upon the Sligo Corporation the desirability of withholding their approval of the proposed sites for the poles to be erected in the Town by the Electricity Supply Board as shown on map.  We suggest that the Corporation should ask the Electricity Supply Board not to proceed with the work until such times as the sites are amicably approved of as it would appear from the maps that most of the sites chosen would be a great obstruction to traffic and dangerous to the Public.

                                           Passed unanimously”.

Copy of the foregoing Resolution to be sent to the Sligo Corporation, Electricity Supply Board, and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Local Government Branch.

Gas Lighting outside Victoria Hotel (later known as The Grand Hotel)

The Chamber Resolution gained immediate traction as reported a further Special General Meeting only nine days later on the 18th of October, H Campbell Perry, President in the Chair.

Mr. D.M. Hanley and Mr. H.C. Lyons explained that as requested they interviewed the Electricity Supply Board in Dublin on behalf of this Chamber in connection with the erection of Electric poles in Sligo.  They were received by Mr. Wm. Murphy and Dr. McLaughlin, Chairman and Manager respectively and urged that an underground system of wiring be adopted.  This was turned down and as an alternative they suggested that steel standards should be provided instead of unsightly wooden poles.  After discussing the matter the Board agreed to send down an Engineer to consult with the Corporation”.

High Street with former Dominican Friary

The Chamber records are silent on the matter for several years although they never gave up on their desire to have the electric wires put underground.  The Chamber meeting of the 5th of March 1935, A.H. Henderson in the Chair, records that “The Secretary, (J.A. McLoghry), was directed to write to the Electricity Supply Board and request them to have the Electric wires in the Town placed underground and to point out to them that the wires, as they are at present, so close to the Buildings, are a danger to Tradesmen and others painting and repairing premises and in case of fire there is grave danger of accidents happening by the fire escape coming into contact with the live wires”. No record is evident of any response being received from the Electricity Supply Board.

The Sligo Chamber Deputation, Mr. D.M. Hanley and Mr. H.C. Lyons were received by the Chairman and Manager of the Electricity Supply Board, Mr. Wm. Murphy and Dr. McLaughlin in connection with the erection of the Electric Poles in Sligo on the 17th of October, on this week in 1929.

Researched and written by Conor McCarthy

Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:

  • Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
  • Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
  • Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication

The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled

On the Buses” will be released on the 23rd of October 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary