The Uphill Climb to the Bus

In the Ireland of 2023, climate change is very much to the fore and the Government has in place a Climate Action Plan to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, with an ultimate objective of reaching net-zero emissions by the year 2050.  Part of the drive to cut emissions and create a greener cleaner economy and society is to encourage the public to make a paradigm shift away from the car in favour of active travel.  One of the Action Plans in the area of transport is to deliver bus priority measures on the national road network.  Town bus services are to be converted to electric buses with bus depots to be upgraded to facilitate those electric buses.  For this to happen would mean change and upgrade at the existing Sligo Bus Depot off the Strandhill Road in the overall grounds of the Railway Station.  Were this to occur, it would not be the first time for change in bus operation facilities in the town.  Sligo Bus Depot experienced significant upheaval in the late 1940s and Sligo Chamber was heavily involved in discussions surrounding the change and in other matters of concern to the community in relation to the bus service at that time.

Great Southern Hotel Entrance on the hill up to Railway Station

At the Chamber Meeting on Monday, the 18th of October 1948, F. Nally, President, in the Chair, a letter from the Strandhill Development Association was read by the Secretary, T.J. Hamilton, in his first meeting as Secretary having replaced the long-serving J.A. McLoghry in July of that year.  The letter was protesting against the decision by C.I.E. “to transfer the omnibus depot from Lord Edward Street to the Railway Station”.    C.I.E., or Córas Iompair Éireann,was founded on the 1st of January 1945 under the Transport Act 1944 and was responsible for most public transport within the Republic of Ireland.  It took over from Great Southern Railways who in Sligo up to that time had operated both the train service and the bus service.

Having discussed this matter and related information that C.I.E. could apparently no longer run a train from Sligo to Claremorris, the following resolution was passed “ on the proposition of F. Armstrong seconded by J.A. Stevenson that:

The Sligo Chamber of Commerce request C.I.E. to arrange for one or more responsible officers of the Company to confer with the members of this Chamber on a date to be arranged on the subject of the road and rail services in the Sligo area”.

The Secretary was also instructed to write to C.I.E. conveying the Chamber’s disapproval of the change in location of the bus terminus, “which change is adverse to the business interests of Sligo”.  A copy of the letter from the Strandhill Development Association was also forwarded to C.I.E. with a request that “the complaints of the association receive favourable consideration”.

Bus Depot (former O’Connor Sawmill)

Prior to 1948, the bus terminus was on Lord Edward Street at the junction with Adelaide Street on the site of what is now the bus garage.  Readers might recall the newsagent’s shop owned by Keville Burns directly opposite the then bus terminus and aptly named “The Bus Top” which continued to operate until the end of 2017.  While a move to the Railway Station might not today seem very far, it must be remembered that there was a steep incline rising from the road to the Railway Station and most people using the bus would have been on foot, probably carrying shopping provisions purchased in the Market Street area of the town.  Also, steps we see in place today leading up to the embankment to the Railway Station were not in place in 1948.

At the General Meeting of the Chamber the following month, F. Nally, President, in the Chair, there was only one item on the Agenda, the conference with C.I.E. representatives.  Indicative of how seriously C.I.E. took the Chamber’s letter requesting attendance at the meeting, two senior officials of the company travelled from Dublin to be present, Mr. Stewart the Traffic Manager and Mr. Martin the Manager of the Passenger Section.

Sligo Railway Station

Addressing the meeting, Mr. F. J. Wynne outlined the position of the Chamber to the C.I.E. representatives.  Mr. Wynne referred to the distance from the shopping centre area of the town “e.g. ½ mile from Market Cross”; the “hardship of the steep hill to the Railway Station for elderly persons”; the dangerous turn into Lord Edward Street; the exceptionally dangerous turn “into Knappagh at obtuse angle”; the possibility of time-lag in the provision of “duplicate buses” due to the point of departure not being the bus garage; and the danger in tourist season from cars “entering bus passage” from the Southern Hotel, (there being no direct access from the hotel to the Strandhill Road in 1948 as there is today).

Mr. Wynne was supported by other speakers including Messrs. Nally, McLoghry, Macarthur, Lyons, Woods, Toher, Orr, Noone, Armstrong and McGoldrick who in addition, placed the position of the bus and train services in general before the meeting, clearly stating the various complaints to the C.I.E. representatives present.  The Chamber’s viewpoints having been made, the President, F. Nally, requested the C.I.E representatives to respond.  Mr. Martin proceeded to address the points “seriatim” and gave the following undertakings:

To reduce the distance to the shopping centre area of the town, Mr. Martin indicated a willingness for the Strandhill bus to stop in O’Connell Street provided the sanction of the Gardai can be obtained, and requested the assistance of the Chamber in approaching the Gardai.  He was also prepared to grant an intermediate stop in Sligo before arrival at the Grand Hotel and suggested this be near the Congregational Church in Stephen Street.

Sligo C.I.E. Buses

To improve the safety of the access turn for buses into the new bus terminus, he proposed that the entrance gates of the Railway Station be considerably widened at the Knappagh Gate.

Going on to respond to the various complaints about the bus services in Sligo, Mr. Martin said the company would give favourable consideration to requests for additional bus services between Sligo and Strandhill and Rosses Point with particular reference to school buses and that there was a willingness to operate bus services on Sundays during the summer holiday season from the Town Hall to both these seaside resorts.

This concluding the discussions on the Bus Depot and bus service, the President, Mr. F. Nally, then turned to the train service, in particular the Sligo to Claremorris train which he outlined was “one of the best pre-war trains in Sligo”.  He went on to mention that persons on that line now had “to spend 3 days in Sligo if they were to do business”.  He then “instanced Swinford, Charlestown and Kiltimagh as towns outwith the present bus service to Galway” and called on the C.I.E. representatives to state their position on the matter.

It was Mr. Stewart, the Traffic Manager who responded, clearly making the point that a Sligo – Claremorris train line would not pay, however he undertook to give the line a trial run during the Christmas week of 1948 to see how it would work out.

The conference with the C.I.E. representatives now having concluded, the President proposed a vote of thanks to the visitors which Mr. Woods seconded.  “This vote was passed by acclamation”.  Returning thanks, Mr. Stewart said it had been a pleasure to come to Sligo and hear the Chamber’s viewpoint first-hand.

C.I.E. followed through with the trial of the Sligo-Claremorris line as at the Special General Meeting on the 30th of November 1948; F. Nally, President, in the Chair, a letter from the company is read stating that a train from Sligo to Tuam and back would be run from the 16th of December to the 23rd.  This was approved by the meeting and the Secretary instructed to write to the Swinford Parish Council informing them of this decision.  The Chamber also decided to have handbills printed with the Secretary to distribute them to the Stationmasters on the Sligo-Tuam line.

However, in relation to the bus service, no progress was reported since the conference with C.I.E.  It was decided to appoint a deputation of Messrs Macarthur, J. Martin, Wynne, Daly and the Secretary to interview the Garda Superintendent to ascertain the police regulations regarding the new proposed bus stopping places.  The meeting with the Garda Superintendent was arranged without delay.  At the next meeting of the Chamber two weeks later, F. Nally, President, in the Chair, Mr. F.J. Wynne reported that the deputation, “had interviewed the Garda Superintendent” and the Chamber’s requests for additional bus stopping places had been forwarded to Garda Headquarters in Dublin for sanction and a reply was awaited.  It did not take long for the reply to arrive.

Frank Nally President Sligo Chamber 1945-1948

The next Chamber meeting was the Annual General Meeting which took place on the 11th of January, 1949, F. Nally, President in the Chair.  This would be the last time Mr. Nally would be in the Chair.  During the course of the business discussions he intimated his intention of vacating the chair after the meeting.  He recorded his sincere thanks to the Chamber for their co-operation with him in the discharge of his duties and stated it has always been a pleasure.  Frank Nally had served as President for three years.  He had been a great servant to the Chamber, being one of the founding members in 1923.  He had served loyally as Vice-President from 1923 to Presidents Campbell Perry and Hanley before assuming the role of President in 1945.  Mr. F. Crawford, then Vice-President extended to Mr. Nally the Chamber’s best thanks for the fine services he had rendered.  The vote of thanks was passed by acclamation.

The meeting then turned to the reply from Garda Headquarters.  It was not positive.  The Secretary read the letter received from the local Garda Authorities indicating that “the proposal to have the Strandhill bus come to O’Connell Street did not meet with approval of headquarters in Dublin”.  Already aware of the content of the letter, Mr. F.J. Wynne advised the meeting that the previously appointed deputation had interviewed Mr. Lacey the local C.I.E bus superintendent.  While wishing to co-operate, Mr. Lacey indicated that “unfortunately, C.I.E. could not move without police sanction”.

Frank Wynne

Undeterred, the deputation did not give up.  Mr. Wynne advised they then went on the Town Hall and “waited on the Town Clerk” and had arrived to the conclusion that a method whereby the Chamber could obtain Garda permission was through the local body, the Corporation.  It was unanimously agreed that the Chamber communicate with the Corporation and request their support in obtaining the necessary sanction from the Gardai to permit the Strandhill bus to go to O’Connell Street.

A Special General Meeting of the Chamber was called for the 8th of February 1949 for the purpose of the election of a President, Mr. F. Nally acting as Chairman until the time of the election.  Mr. J. W. Lyons proposed F. Crawford as President.  Mr. Crawford explained his inability to accept the honour, whereupon Mr. A.P. Macarthur proposed and J.W. McMullan seconded that T.P. Toher be President of the Chamber, “This was passed by acclamation, Mr. Toher suitably returned thanks”. Interestingly, Mr. Crawford who was the outgoing Vice-President duly accepted with thanks his re-election to that role.

Returning then to the matter of the bus stop, Mr. B. Peebles informed the meeting that the Corporation had approved of the proposed bus stop in O’Connell Street, and had sent the necessary memorandum to the Garda Authorities.  This breakthrough ultimately paved the way for the required sanction to allow the Strandhill bus into O’Connell Street and the bus stop outside Wehrlys, continues to exist to this day.  The Chamber was not as successful with the Sligo-Claremorris-Tuam train, with C.I.E advising in January 1949 of the financial returns of the train which they stated “rarely covered the cost of coal consumed, and which train they regretted could not be continued”.

The General Meeting of the Chamber at which the conference with the C.I.E. representatives took place was held on the 11th of November, on this week in 1948.

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 – W.D. Peebles” will be released on the 20th of November 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary