New Road in “a 100 years’ time”

Sligo’s service area reach as an employment hub extends far beyond the county boundaries as is demonstrated by the thousands of people who travel daily for work from North East Mayo, South Donegal, North Roscommon and Leitrim.  The Sligo Chamber vision is that by the year 2040, Sligo will be the centre of regional economic development in the North West serving 400,000 people and driving regional and rural growth in Sligo, Leitrim, North Mayo, South Donegal, North Roscommon and North West Cavan.  Connectivity is a key enabler to that growth in Sligo, and in the North West region.  Linkages radially, southwards to Galway and to Dublin; westwards cross-border to Enniskillen and Belfast; and, northwards to Letterkenny and Derry are crucial to the development of the North West.  Sligo Chamber strongly advocated for the upgrade of the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin and the New Western Distributor Road, both of which are now completed.  The Chamber continue to advocate for the N17 upgrade between Collooney and Charlestown and for improvements to the N15 to provide better interconnectivity along the Wild Atlantic Way and Atlantic Economic Corridor.  The Eastern Garavogue Bridge is another objective of the Chamber to provide a strategic link from the Donegal Road bypassing the centre of the town to connect to Cleaveragh.

A bypass of Sligo Town centre has been the subject of debate for many years.  We first read about a proposed bypass in the Sligo Chamber Minutes in 1949.  The intended route is from the Donegal Road to Cleaveragh, bridging across the River Garavogue.  The stance adopted by the Chamber to this bypass route is very different to the supportive stance of the Chamber to the Eastern Garavogue Bridge today.

Frank Nally

At the Chamber Meeting of the 11th of January 1949, F. Nally, President, in the Chair, the possibility of a new road bypassing the town under the Town Planning Act is discussed.  Several of the speakers present assure the members that such an event would only take place in “the very remote future (if then)” and the matter was left in abeyance.  But the matter does not go away.  Later that year in October we read that the Secretary, T.J. Hamilton, is instructed to write to the Town Clerk protesting against “any attempt to bring the Bypass Road through Cleaveragh into being”.

Mr. Hamilton writes to the Corporation and sets out the Chamber’s protest against the scheme embodied in the Town Planning Act which envisages a bypass road from the Cemetery through Cleaveragh, bridging the Garavogue, and on to the Donegal Road.  The Chamber considers this scheme would be dangerous to the trading interests of the town.

Sligo Champion, November 1049

At the next Chamber Meeting on the 8th of November, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair, (having succeeded Frank Nally earlier in the year), it is Mr. Nally who speaks out and makes a very strong protest against any attempt to implement the new bypass road.  Mr. I. Peebles, having listened to Mr. Nally, then reports that the Chamber’s letter of protest had unanimous approval at the recent Corporation Meeting.  Many Councillors spoke out against the scheme, saying it should be changed to protect the rate payers and that they should strive to get the Town Planning Architect to “see eye-to-eye” with them.  The Mayor, Councillor M. Nevin, said that the Architects, McDonnell & Dixon had attended a meeting already, had explained the scheme and it was accepted by the Council.  The Mayor went on to say that while the Councillors might not be in favour of the scheme now, the time would come when it would be necessary.  However, the Town Planning Act was not adopted yet and the new bypass road would probably not be in place for about 100 years and there was no immediate need for anyone to be concerned about the matter.  Mr. Peebles then said that the County Manager, Mr. D. M. Candy, explained that indeed “a very long period would elapse before the project would be seriously considered”.  Mr. Candy agreed with the Mayor that the Council had already approved the scheme and that they could do nothing further except to send a copy of the Chamber’s correspondence to the Dublin based Town Planning Architects, McDonnell & Dixon.

It would appear that Messrs. McDonnell & Dixon were not overly impressed with the Chamber letter.  They respond to the Chamber in January and at the Chamber Meeting of the 7th February 1950, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair, Mr. A.P. Macarthur reports that he had not as yet quite completed his draft of a proposed reply to McDonnell & Dixon’s comments “on the attitude of the Chamber” to the bypass road.

It is evident that the Chamber’s interests in roads lay closer to the centre of the town and to matters that had a more immediate impact on their members than plans for a road in the far away future.  Of direct concern at the time was provision of parking on Lower O’Connell Street and the condition of the surface of Tobergal Lane and Smith’s Row.

Sligo Champion 1949

At the Chamber Meeting in December 1949, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair, Mr. M. Martin mentioned that the surface of “Tubbergal Lane” was in very bad condition. Mr. A.P. Macarthur reported similarly bad conditions together with the absence of lighting at Smith’s Row even though improvement work had been sanctioned by the Corporation.  The Secretary was instructed to write to the Town Clerk on the matter.

Today, we would know Smith’s Row as the road access leading from John Street to the Wine Street Car Park.  As Fiona Gallagher outlines in her book “Streets of Sligo”, it was originally known as John’s Lane.  It had a row of eleven houses with no toilets and there was a slaughterhouse with a manure pit at the end of the lane. Even though the houses were condemned by a Government Inspection in early 1900s, they remained occupied until the mid-1930s, with the road surface being reported by Mr. Macarthur as still being in poor condition entering the 1950s.

Earlier in 1949, following a recommendation from Mr. J.P. Quinn, Borough Engineer, the County Manager said he was in favour of the surfacing of Tobergal Lane in concrete and that Smith’s Row could also considerably benefit from a concrete surface.  However, only one lane could be included in the estimates each year and priority would be given to Tobergal Lane.  With no work having been carried out in 1949, and the Secretary having written to the Town Clerk, a reply was received in January 1950 saying that action would be taken to provide lighting on Smith’s Row and that “provision would be made in the next estimates for the resurfacing of Tubbergal Lane”. 

Cleaveragh House

However, as the year 1950 passes, no work is carried out and it appears that the allocated funds for the lanes are to be diverted to part of the bypass road at Cleaveragh House.  This draws severe criticism and protests at the Chamber Meeting of 4th September, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair.  The Secretary advised the meeting that two gates had recently been erected at the Cleaveragh Estate, one at the Riverside entrance and the other at the Cleaveragh side.  As a result, free access along an existing road connecting these entrances was prevented.  The Corporation had now decided to divert the funds allocated for Tobergal Lane and Smith’s Row to build a link road in the Cleaveragh Estate to bypass Cleaveragh House.  Several members spoke out against the Corporation’s proposal noting that the lanes required urgent attention as they were both used extensively by a large number of traders in the town in the course of their everyday business, Mr. A.B. Woods going as far as to remark that the proposal “was ridiculous”.  Concluding the discussion, the President said they should send a strongly worded protest to the Corporation against the Council’s failure to carry out its promise to resurface both lanes.  It was decided to request the Corporation “to rescind the decision to apply the funds to a by-pass road at Cleaveragh House”.

A conference was held between the County Manager, the officials of the Corporation and the officers of the Chamber.  At the next meeting of the Chamber on the 17th of October 1950, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair, the President asks the Secretary to report to the members on that recent conference.  “The nett result, stated the Secretary, was that the Corporation would be advised to re-allocate the balances of the E.S.V. Grant (1950/1951) to the concreting of Tubbergal Lane, any surplus being used to tarmacadam Smith’s Row.  Failing funds for the latter purpose, Smith’s Row to be a priority case next year”.  The outcome of the conference proves successful as the Secretary reports in December that work on Tobergal Lane and Smith’s Row are to be substituted in place of the work on the Cleaveragh by-pass road.  The Chamber consider this very satisfactory and at the Meeting of the 13th of March 1951, T.P. Toher, President, in the Chair, Alderman and Chamber member G. Bergin advises the meeting “that Tubbergal Lane and Smith’s Row would be concreted during the month of April 1951”.

And so the matter of the surfacing of both lanes is finally resolved and the condition of Tobergal Lane has continued to improve over the years to today where it facilitates pedestrian access from O’Connell Street to the busy Latin Quarter and to the river.  The Cleaveragh bypass from the Cemetery across the Garavogue to the Donegal Road remains only a dream today nearly 75 years later and is highly unlikely to be completed in the 100 years from 1949, proving Mayor Councillor M. Nevin to having been correct in his foresight.  Although, the Chamber however is confident that the Eastern Garavogue Bridge will be complete in 2026 to provide improved connectivity from Cleaveragh to Sligo University Hospital, the ATU and yes, to the Donegal Road.

The very bad condition of “Tubbergal Lane” and Smith’s Row was first raised at the Chamber Meeting on the 6th of December, on this week in 1949.

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

Personalities Who Shaped the Early Years – Arthur Jackson and Dudley Hanley” will be released on the 11th of December 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary