SLIGO County Council has agreed that 2018 will be known as the Year of Sligo Gaol to mark the bicentenary of the jail’s opening in 1818.
At the December meeting of Sligo County Council, councillors unanimously supported a motion by Cllr Marie Casserly, herself a member of Friends of Sligo Gaol, calling for the council to recognise the jail’s 200th year anniversary with this accolade. Her motion was seconded by Cllr Michael Clarke.
Director of Planning, Community and Economic Development with Sligo County Council, Dorothy Clarke, welcomed the compilation of a Scoping Document on the building, which is in council ownership. Ms Clarke also said that “the council regard the jail as a potential flagship project for Sligo and the region”.
“There is a lot of work to be done but I think that a scoping study and a feasibility study would be good first step for the Council and the Friends of Sligo Gaol,” said Ms Clarke.
Speaking of the jail she said “There is a huge interest by people everywhere, schools, teachers and the wider community who are interested in the whole area of the history of gaols. There is a cohort of people who are very much interested in what could be the development of a very interesting project for Sligo. We in the Council will be on this journey together with the Friends of Sligo Gaol,” said Ms Clarke.
She added that the council can look forward to developing it and perhaps identifying the milestones needed to go through to actually develop it into the future.
The move has been welcomed by Friends of Sligo Gaol (FOSG), the voluntary group whose aim is to provide community support for the conservation of Sligo Gaol, as well as promoting greater understanding and public awareness of its history and heritage
The group is now extremely busy preparing for a weekend of celebration to the mark the jails bicentenary. The event will take place next September and will commence with the launch of the group’s first book; a children’s story, which will be distributed to national schools throughout the county.
The main character of the book is based on an 11-year- old girl, Brigid McFadden, a figure from the historical record who was incarcerated in Sligo Gaol in 1838.The book will illustrate Brigid’s time in Sligo’s prison, showing the history of the nineteenth century jail, the daily schedule and conditions of Sligo Gaol at that time.
Saturday will feature a host of speakers discussing different aspects of prison life and will be a day- long event.
As 2018 also marks 100 years since the incarceration of Michael Collins at the jail, the weekend will conclude on the Sunday with a day of visits at the jail and some readings from his diaries from the Cork man's time in the gaol..
Commenting on the naming of 2018 as the Year of Sligo Gaol in the county, FOSG Chairperson Tamlyn McHugh described it was a monumental step for the group. “Today is a significant day for FOSG as we now have an agreed way forward with the key Gaol stakeholders, Sligo County Council. It’s a great position for us to be in going into this historic year and marks an important milestone for group. We welcome the council’s enthusiastic support, and we look forward to the scoping document exploring options for the future of Gaol.”
Tamlyn said the support from all councillors and the executive as well as the constant support of Heritage Officer Siobhan Ryan has given the group extra confidence and vigour in their effort to promote, preserve, conserve and hopefully see the full time opening of the jail as a public resource for the county.
For more information on the bicentenary weekend of celebrations and the group’s ongoing work you can follow them on Facebook or on this website.