How it all Began – Celebrating 100 years of Sligo Chamber

Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber

On this Week in 1923

How it all Began

Arthur Jackson
Harper Campbell Perry

Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber

On this Week in 1923

How it all Began

Senator Arthur Jackson

This year 2023, marks the centenary of the foundation of Sligo Chamber of Commerce.   There were already Chambers of Commerce in existence for many years in other major urban centres and seaports, notably Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Drogheda and Waterford.  It was unusual for an important town and seaport such as Sligo, not to have an established Chamber of Commerce.   The emergence of the new Irish Free State in 1922 irrevocably changed the political landscape in Ireland.  The new legislative and administrative environment altered the business conditions for industry and traders in Sligo.   The need to advocate for the business community of Sligo Borough and the surrounding district was apparent.

It was against this background that Sligo Chamber of Commerce was founded.   The history of Sligo Chamber in its early years of the 1920s and 30s is inextricably linked to the challenges of the new Irish Free State.  To celebrate the one hundred years Sligo Chamber of Commerce has served and represented the interests of the business community in Sligo, a compilation of twenty five articles have been written.  These articles will be released to Chamber members and to the wider Sligo community every second week over the next fifty weeks from now until December.  Each week’s article will reflect on an event that happened during that week on a particular year during the first thirty years of the Chamber from 1923 to 1953.  Over the course of this year 2023, readers will get an insight to the challenges faced by Sligo Chamber and how they were addressed in the best interests of the business community.

In this, the first article, we go back to the beginning, to how it all began, with the establishment of Sligo Chamber of Commerce on this week in 1923.

It all began arising out of a suggestion made by Senator Arthur Jackson, D.L., at a meeting of the Sligo Harbour Board on the 2nd of November 1922, that a Chamber of Commerce should be established in Sligo.  Mr. A.C. Cook and Mr. R.S. Gorman, both members of the Harbour Board and in attendance at the meeting, “kindly promised to compile a list of names of those who would be willing to support the movement, and if sufficient number be obtained, a meeting be called for the purpose of inaugurating the Chamber”.  A letter signed jointly by A.C. Cook and R.S. Gorman and dated the 5th of December 1922 is sent out with a return slip attached.  The letter details the suggestion that a Chamber of Commerce should be established in Sligo for the safeguard and benefit of all traders and asks:-

if you are in sympathy with this movement, you might please sign the attached slip, and return it to any of the undermentioned.

Yours faithfully,

A.C. Cook

R.S. Gorman”.

Cafe Cairo Menu

57 names are received and a list of those names compiled.  A meeting is called for the 29th of December 1922 at the Café Cairo on Wine Street for the purpose of inaugurating a Chamber of Commerce in Sligo.  22 people attend the meeting and on the proposition of Mr. H. Campbell Perry, seconded by Mr. H.R. Woodmartin, Senator Arthur Jackson, D.L., was moved to the Chair.

As Chairman, Senator Jackson addressed the meeting and explained the objects and desirability of establishing a Chamber of Commerce in Sligo.   Noting that the response to the letters sent out by Mr. A.C. Cook and Mr. R.S. Gorman was very encouraging indeed, he advised that Mr. Cook was unavoidably absent in England, and Mr. Gorman was prevented from attending by a bad cold.  Senator Jackson went on to say that there was scarcely an important town in England, Wales or Ireland, and certainly not a seaport, which had not a Chamber of Commerce in existence for many years.  In connection with projected legislation, far more importance was paid to representations from Chambers of Commerce than to similar representations made by municipal bodies or harbour boards.  If a Chamber were established, it would at once be affiliated with the other Chambers throughout the country and would benefit from the combined experience of these bodies.  He formally moved that a Chamber of Commerce be established in Sligo.   Alderman H. Campbell Perry seconded the motion, which was agreed to, the members present expressing their unanimous opinion that a Chamber of Commerce should be formed.

There followed two important appointments of individuals who would go on to serve the interests of Sligo Chamber until well into the 1930s.  Mr. J.A. McLoghry was appointed Secretary, pro tem, and in relation to the position of President, it was

“Proposed by:                  Mr. Arthur Jackson D.L.

 Seconded by:                   Mr. W. J. Tolan and Resolved:-

 That Mr. H. Campbell Perry be and is hereby appointed President for the year ending 31st December 1923 –


Harper Campbell Perry

The subscription for the year ending 31st December 1923 was set at £2.2s.0d and the newly appointed Secretary was instructed to collect same.  A letter was read from Dublin Chamber of Commerce relative to the formation in the Free State of an Association of the Irish Chambers of Commerce (now Chambers Ireland).  The letter makes for interesting reading outlining that hitherto Ireland has been included in the legislation of the Imperial Parliament which was very largely adapted to the circumstances and requirements of British trade, and had little regard for Irish conditions.  Under the new regime Irishmen will have little to do with the course of British commercial legislation, but home legislation will vitally concern them, and will demand increasing vigilance if it is to be wisely framed.  The Council of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce urges that a new departure in commercial combination in Ireland should be initiated by the formation of an Association of the Irish Chambers of Commerce in the 26 counties within the jurisdiction of the Free State Parliament; the other six counties will still be concerned with legislation in the Imperial Parliament, and will doubtless continue their connection with the Association of British Chambers of Commerce.  “We are not, however, without hope that the time is not far distant when the jurisdiction of the new Administration will extend to the whole of Ireland.  There is double need just now for such a body in Ireland, where for a considerable time legislative and administrative effort cannot be expected to reach a level of excellence only attainable by prolonged experience of public work”.   The letter goes on to give an example of the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into matters affecting trade in which the business committee had been practically ignored, and professional and expert elements have had undue promise.   “Unless determined organisations and methods are quickly adapted, commercial interests will have no right to complain of future neglect.”  On the suggestion of Senator Jackson as Chairman, it was decided that the Secretary be directed to reply to Dublin Chamber of Commerce that Sligo would be willing to assist in the promotion of the objects mentioned.

A temporary Committee was appointed to draft Rules and Regulations, same to be submitted to a General Meeting of the Chamber.  The temporary Committee met on the 5th of January 1923, at which the Bye-Laws of Waterford Chamber of Commerce were read.   The Committee being of the opinion that they were suitable and having made modifications where necessary, decided that the Bye-Laws be submitted for adoption at a General Meeting of the Chamber to be held in the Café Cairo on the 15th of January, 1923.  The Committee also recommended to the next General Meeting of the Chamber that Mr. Frank Nally be appointed Vice-President for the year ending 31st December 1923.

The Sligo Champion of the day was not impressed that the “wise captains of industry” were only now moving to establish a Chamber of Commerce.  The Champion of Saturday the 6th of January 1923 reported that “The commercial and trading interests of Sligo have at last awakened to the need for such an institution as a Chamber of Commerce for the borough and district.  It goes without saying that the necessity always existed, but apparently wise captains of industry and leading traders had been so successful in watching local interests that the want of an organised and incorporated body was not felt.  The transfer to a National Parliament of legislative and administrative powers has altered the outlook in the eyes of those whose vision lies in the direction of commercial and industrial prosperity.

 Home legislation now vitally concerns the individual manufacturer and trader, and experience has proved that the advice and recommendations of incorporated Chambers of Commerce carry a weight that representations from other public bodies do not reach.  Now and for years to come there will be a great need in the Free State for expert and experienced direction of legislative and administrative effort, and this can only be given by those having the prolonged experience of public work which may be expected from the class of which the members of Chambers of Commerce are composed”.

 The First General Meeting of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce is then held in the Café Cairo at 11.30 a.m. on Monday the 15th January 1923, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair and 22 members present.  The Draft Bye-Laws and Arbitration Rules submitted by the temporary Committee were considered.  Bye-Law No. 3 with regard to those eligible for membership was discussed and on a vote having been taken, it was decided to confine Membership to persons interested in the trade and commerce of Sligo and surrounding district within a radius of 12 miles.  “A few other modifications having been made it was:-

Proposed by:      Mr. D.M. Hanley

Seconded by:     Mr. R.S. Gorman and Resolved

That the draft Bye-Laws and Arbitration Rules as now read be and are hereby adopted, copies of same to be printed and distributed amongst the Members of the Chamber.

Passed- Mr. G. R. Williams dissenting from Bye-Law No 8 being adopted”.

Following on from the recommendation of the temporary Committee, Mr. Frank Nally is appointed Vice-President.  A new Committee of nine for the year ending 31st December 1923 is elected by ballot and the appointment of the Legal Advisor by lot fell upon Messrs Fenton & Lyons, Solicitors, the President declaring them duly elected.

Sligo Businesses

At a Committee Meeting held in the Café Cairo on the 5th March 1923, the Draft Memorandum and Articles of Association as drawn up by Messrs. Fenton & Lyons, Solicitors, were discussed.

Sligo Warehouse Lyons Cafe

The necessary alterations having been made, Messrs Fenton & Lyons were instructed to proceed with the incorporation of the Chamber.

By this time, the Chamber was outgrowing the Café Cairo for meetings.  At the General Meeting held in the Café Cairo on the 12th of July 1923, Frank Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair, Mr. H.C. Lyons mentioned that the present meeting room was unsuitable for conducting the business of the Chamber, and kindly offered the use of the Dining Room in the Sligo Warehouse until such time as the Chamber acquire permanent Rooms.  “It was decided that future meetings be held in the Sligo Warehouse, and the best thanks of the Chamber was accorded to Mr. Lyons for his kind offer”.

We move on to the 21st of September 1923 and the First Statutory Meeting of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce (Incorporated) in accordance with Clause 13 of the Articles of Association is held in the Sligo Warehouse. The Minutes of the last Meeting of the Unincorporated Chamber were read and the President, Mr. H. Campbell Perry, informed the Meeting that the business of the Unincorporated Chamber was now completed, and he read a letter from Messrs. Fenton & Lyons, Solicitors, enclosing 50 copies of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the new Chamber, also Certificate of Incorporation showing that this Chamber was registered as a Company on the 25th of July 1923

And so what all began as a suggestion made by Senator Arthur Jackson, D.L., at a meeting of the Sligo Harbour Board on the 2nd of November 1922 has led to the establishment of Sligo Chamber of Commerce which has represented the interests of the business community of Sligo for one hundred years.  Over the course of this year 2023, we will in these bi-weekly articles reflect through the minutes of the Sligo Chamber Meetings on events that happened during those years and on the personalities that shaped them.

The first of those Chamber Meetings was held in the Café Cairo on Wine Street on the 15th of January, on this week, one hundred years ago in 1923.

Researched and written by Conor Mc Carthy.

Supported by The Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:               

  • Catherine Maguire – Admin and Photographic Research
  • Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Director
  • Aidan Doyle – Production and Circulation

The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled “First Sligo Chamber Annual Dinner” will be released on January 30th 2023.