Mr. H.C. Lyons – Managing Director, H.C. Lyons & Co. Ltd.

Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber

Mr. H.C. Lyons

Managing Director, H.C. Lyons & Co. Ltd.

1884 – 1945

Henry Cecil Lyons

Mr. H.C. Lyons was one of the original founding members of Sligo Chamber and was elected by ballot to the first Committee of the Chamber at its inaugural meeting held in the Café Cairo on the 15th of January, 1923, securing 14 votes from the 22 members present.  Although never elected to the office of President, the Minutes of Chamber meetings clearly show that he was a respected leader and was one of the most active of all Chamber members over the next twenty years until his death in 1945 following a protracted illness.

He was managing director of the well-known and respected Sligo firm of H.C. Lyons and Co. Ltd., being the grandson of the founder of the firm which was established in 1835.  Under his direction the company grew to become one of the most important businesses in the Borough of Sligo.  This wonderful building is still under the stewardship of Richard Lyons, Past President of Sligo Chamber and grandson of the late H.C. Lyons, and a building where many individual businesses continue to flourish and serve the people of Sligo and beyond.

Through his work as managing director of H.C. Lyons, he understood the needs of businesses operating in Sligo at that time.  Consistently committed to raising and supporting issues of concern to businesses in Sligo, he advocated at local level through the Chamber and Sligo Corporation where he was an elected Councillor and at national level at meetings of the Association of Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State (now Chambers Ireland), and at deputations to the Minister of Finance and other Government Ministers.  Particular issues of concern he spoke out on included income tax, telephone communications, postal delays, train schedules, impacts of a Government supported transport monopoly, and tourism where he advocated for the setting up of an office in Sligo dedicated to supporting tourism in Sligo and to providing information for visitors.

In relation to tax, he spoke with alarm at the Chamber meeting of the 11th of May 1923 on the proposal of Government to devolve on Employers the collection of income tax arrears due by their staff regarding it as a “dangerous abrogation of a prime duty of Government and a confession of weakness” likely to produce unpleasant relations between employer and employed.

Interior of Lyons Café

H.C. Lyons was a generous man who was embodied to a high degree with civic pride.  Recognising that the meeting room in the Café Cairo on Wine Street was not suitable for conducting the business of the fledgling Sligo Chamber, the minutes of the Chamber Meeting of the 12th of July 1923 record that he “very kindly offered the use of the Dining Room in the Sligo Warehouse (Lyons)” for future meetings, an offer which was graciously accepted.  On the 27th of February 1944, a Chamber Meeting was held to support the Irish Red Cross Society appeal to raise £500,000 for funds to help countries that had been devastated by World War II.  Mr. Lyons had been unwell for some time and had been communicating to Chamber meetings by letter.  He suggested that the Chamber should make a subscription to the appeal, going on to write that “Those people who were engaged in commerce fully realised that if Eire, which was a neutral state, did not do something to relieve the dire need for food in other countries, it would look very bad in the eyes of the world and would be bad for post-war commerce.  As a gesture for their neutrality, which they all considered a great blessing, they should do their best to help the Red Cross appeal” He then proceeded to show his enthusiasm for the appeal by generously offering for raffle a beautiful three-piece suite of furniture valued at £50 and which subsequently raised over £121 when raffled.

Lyons Sligo Warehouse

Popular with his business colleagues and with the community of Sligo, H.C. Lyons was at the time of his death in 1945 a member of the Harbour Board to which he had been elected in 1924 and was a member of the Corporation of Sligo, elected in August 1942 as a representative of Sligo Chamber.  He was Vice-President of The County Sligo Golf Club and together with Senator A.P. Jackson had helped to establish in 1923 the West of Ireland Golf Championship.  He presented a very valuable trophy, the Lyons Cup to the club for use in competition.  Interested in furthering education to the betterment of others, he was a Member of the Borough Vocational Education Committee.  A religious man, he was a member of St. John’s Church where he was one of the Select Vestry and had held the appointment of Church Warden.

Although he had been ill for a period  of time in 1944, he had recovered well enough to attend meetings in person and spoke out at the Chamber Meeting on the 22nd of September on the late arrival of the Dublin train to and from Sligo, and on the Corporation intention not to allow the Great Northern Railway to move their Bus Depot to a house the company purchased in Quay Street and proposed to retrofit with offices, waiting room and toilet facilities.

Lyons Furniture Warehouse

Although his health had been failing, Mr. Lyons’ passing in Spring 1945 was unexpected, his having attended the annual general meeting of Henry Lyons and Co. Ltd., on the day before his death.

The news of his death was met with sadness.   “A Great Citizen” passes was the headline in the Sligo Champion.  The Sligo Chamber minutes record the words of the Chair, Vice-President Frank Nally, who “referred to the great Civic spirit possessed by the late Mr. Lyons and the keen interest he displayed in the affairs of this Chamber”.  

Henry Cecil Lyons died on Friday the 30th of March 1945 at his residence, Thornhill, Sligo. He was 61 years of age.

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 “The Burden of Taxation – A Menace to Commercial Development” will be released on Tuesday the 11th of April 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary