First Sligo Chamber Annual Dinner

Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber

On this Week in 1946

First Sligo Chamber Annual Dinner

On the 10th of February this year we will celebrate our President Tara, our Chamber Board, our member firms and all our members at the Sligo Chamber Dinner and Excellence Awards.  It is fitting that we will be able to return to having our celebration awards dinner in this the centenary year of the foundation of Sligo Chamber, not having been able to hold such a dinner since 2019, because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Prior to the pandemic, the Annual Chamber Dinner was a staple of the Sligo social calendar, a formal black-tie event looked forward to by Chamber members and their guests and by the business community, an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends, old and new.  Historically, the dinner celebrated the Sligo Business Person or Company of the Year.  In more recent times, it has transformed through the Excellence Awards to showcase the best in business across the Sligo community in categories of innovation, professional development and climate action.  It has been the tradition to have a guest speaker of national prominence, usually a Government Minister or senior politician. This year, in our Centenary Year, it is an honour for Sligo Chamber to have An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., as the guest speaker.

Chamber Annual Dinner Menu

What is most interesting in researching the Minutes of Sligo Chamber since its foundation in 1923, is that it was not until 1946 that the Chamber held its first annual dinner.  And indeed, the idea of holding the dinner was not an original one of Sligo Chamber.   It was in fact because of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce that the concept of having the dinner formulated in the minds of the Chamber members.

What is most interesting in researching the Minutes of Sligo Chamber since its foundation in 1923, is that it was not until 1946 that the Chamber held its first annual dinner.  And indeed, the idea of holding the dinner was not an original one of Sligo Chamber.   It was in fact because of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce that the concept of having the dinner formulated in the minds of the Chamber members.

Dudley M. Hanley RIP

At the Chamber Meeting in February 1946, we read that Frank Nally is in the Chair, and that there are two main items of business on the Agenda, to appoint a President and Vice President and to consider the question of having a dinner.  The matter of the appointment of President has arisen due to the death on the 4th of January of Mr. Dudley M. Hanley, the second President of Sligo Chamber and one of its founder members.  Elected President in 1935, Mr. Hanley was “an outstanding man in the commercial life of Sligo and was prominently identified with national affairs for the past thirty years”.  Mr. Frank Nally served as Vice-President to Mr. D.M. Hanley having previously served in the same role to the First President of Sligo Chamber, Mr. H. Campbell Perry, serving as Vice President for a total of twenty-three years.  It was fitting therefore that Mr. Frank Nally was elected at the February meeting as the third President of Sligo Chamber.  The business of the meeting then moved on to consider the question of having a dinner.

The Grand Hotel

Mr. Michael Martin said that in company with Mr. W. Middleton he attended the annual dinner of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce as a representative of Sligo Chamber.  It was a very successful function with over 50 people present comprising the commercial and professional life of Ballina.

The question of having an annual dinner in connection with Sligo Chamber was then discussed and all present having expressed their views in favour of same, it was:-

“Proposed by:-     Michael Martin

 Seconded by:-     W. Middleton and

 Resolved:-         That this Chamber hold a Dinner in the Grand Hotel, Sligo on Tuesday the 26th inst. at 7.30 p.m., the tariff to be £1-1.0.

Passed unanimously”.

It was decided that the following Guests be invited to attend the Dinner:-

Sean Lemass, Minister for Industry & Commerce
Rev. Father V. Hanly,
Rev. C.J. Tyndall,
D.M. Brennan T.D.,
P.J. Rogers T.D.,
Mr. M. Flanagan, Mayor,
R.G. Bradshaw, Town Clerk,
E. Gilbride, Chairman, County Council,
M. Powell, Secretary, County Council
D.A. Hegarty, County Manager,
Chief Supt. Liddy,
C.A. Flattery, District Justice,
G. Pettigrew, Chairman, Harbour Board,
The President, Irish Tourist Board,
The President, Ballina Chamber of Commerce,
The Secretary, Ballina Chamber of Commerce,
A.M. Lyons, Solicitor,
R.N. Harvey, Pianist,
H. Hallowes,
The Press.

The guest list is informative to get an appreciation of those the Chamber considered influential in the context of their activities.  We see the local Sligo representation drawn from the Corporation and Council as well as the Harbour Board; the judiciary and An Garda Siochana; the Chamber Solicitor; local T.Ds and press in addition to the Clergy of both the major denominations, Very Rev. Canon V. Hanly, Admin., St. Marys and Rev. C.J. Tyndall, M.A., Rector in Calry.  Tourism was important to the Chamber at that time, hence the President of the Irish Tourist Board.  

Seán Lemass  Former Taoiseach

The invitation received to attend the neighbouring Chamber in Ballina is reciprocated and of course we see the most prominent invite of all extended to the Minister overseeing a portfolio of significant interest to all Chambers, that of Industry & Commerce.  It is unclear who “H. Hallowes” was, and it would appear that in lieu of payment, the pianist R.N. Harvey is invited to dinner.

The following were then appointed as a Committee to make all arrangements for the Dinner; F. Nally, President, F. Crawford, Vice President, W. Middleton, T.P. Toher, J.W. MacMullen, W.D. Peebles, and the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry.

That the Committee was able to make all the arrangements in such a short time to hold the dinner, within a matter of a few weeks of the decision having been made, is remarkable when compared with all the months of advance planning required for the Annual Dinner today in 2023.  Equally remarkable is the availability of the Grand Hotel at such short notice when today the selected venue is booked a year in advance to accommodate the upwards of 300 people anticipated to attend.  In contrast, we learn at the General Meeting of the Chamber held on the 27th of May, Frank Nally, President, in the Chair, that 62 members and guests were in attendance.  In his report to the meeting, the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry considers the dinner to have been very successful and importantly from the Chamber’s perspective, almost broke even.  “The receipts were £50.8.0 and Expenses £51.0.4 showing a loss of 12/4”.  Working the maths of the old pounds, shillings and pence currency pre-decimalisation, the £50.8.0 would equate to 48 paying members, meaning 14 of the invited 20 guests attended.  There is no mention as to whether the Minister for Industry & Commerce, later to become Taoiseach, Sean Lemass was one of those 14 guests in attendance.

There was no mention either of what topics were discussed at the 1946 dinner.  We do however get some understanding of the issues of the day from the Chamber dinner of 1949.   At the Chamber Meeting held on February the 8th 1949, F. Nally, President, in the Chair, it was decided to again hold a Chamber dinner and to invite the Minister for Industry & Commerce, Mr. D. Morrisey, T.D., who had succeeded Mr. Lemass.  A Sub-Committee was appointed and instructed “to deal with the details of the event”.   As it transpired, this was Mr. Nally’s final meeting as President “having intimated his intention of vacating the Chair” at the Chamber Meeting of the 11th of January.

Sligo Champion April 23, 1949

The dinner was held on Saturday the 30th of April starting at 7.30pm, “Tariff: One Guinea (including Wines)”.  The themes of the day addressed in the speeches at the dinner and which were covered in the Sligo Champion, show a remarkable consistency with themes of interest to the Chamber today.  These included the sad conflict which had crippled Europe; how Sligo had the capacity and ability to support industry; the potential for development around Sligo’s scenic beauty; the needs of the West of Ireland, and how Chambers of Commerce in the West should co-operate and jointly put forward recommendations to Government. 

There were no fewer than 15 speakers in all.  Principal among them were Very Rev. V. Canon Hanly, Adm., V.F., St. Mary’s who spoke about how, with the sad conflict which having crippled Europe for many years now ended, the world was about to enter a period of industrial development.  Sligo, with its industrial past could play its part in this world-wide industrial development having the capacity and the ability “to support an industry with a fair chance of success.”  The Rev. C.J. Tyndall, M.A., Rector of Calry, spoke about tourism. Saying that Sligo “was incomparably the most beautiful spot in the West of Ireland”, he would like to see Sligo’s scenic beauty promoted as an industry.

Last year in 2022, Sligo Chamber signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Chambers of Galway and Letterkenny to work together on matters of mutual interest to the business of the Chambers.   At the 1949 dinner, the President of Galway Chamber said the Chambers of Commerce of the West of Ireland should co-operate together and noted that the Chambers of Galway, Ballina, Westport and Sligo had already linked together.  Together “These bodies would put forward recommendations to the Government regarding to the needs of the West of Ireland”.

Mr. D. Morrissey, T.D.,

The financial outcome from the dinner was poor, unlike 1946 when it effectively broke even.  At the General meeting of the 18th of October 1949, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair, (having succeeded Mr. F. Nally), the Secretary outlined the financial report from the dinner.  Total receipts were £47.5.0 and expenses £75.17.0 leaving a nett loss of £28.12.0.   The total attendance was 67 of which 45 were paying members and 22 were guests. The Minister of Industry & Commerce, Mr. D. Morrisey, was not among the guests, having sent his apology “expressing regret for his absence owing to the death of Mr. T.J. Murphy, Minister for Local Government”.  

As the years roll on, some seventy-five years later in 2023, many of the challenges and concerns of Sligo Chamber remain broadly similar to those of the late 1940s as addressed in the speeches at the 1949 dinner.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  The resolution that Sligo Chamber hold its first annual dinner was passed unanimously at the Chamber Meeting on Friday the 1st of February, on this week in 1946.

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 “Transport Monopoly” will be released on the 13th of February, 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary