Monday, 4 April 2016

Insight: Friends of Sligo Gaol

In Ireland, old prisons, used to house famous political prisoners and contain historical momentos are becoming increasingly popular tourist destinations across Ireland. International Tourists love Irish architecture. The history surrounding places draws even more tourists to find out how Ireland today was shaped
and who paved the way. For domestic tourists, the Irish people want a real look at the history of their country and especially with the 1916 Rising Celebrations happening nationwide, the prisons were highlighted significantly and people understood that the time in prison helped define characters such as Michael Collins and Countess Markieviez.
Prisons that are of significant attention in Ireland are Kilmainham, which hosts high historic value due to the fact that the leaders of the 1916 Rising and other famed revolutionaries were imprisoned within it's walls, and Cork County Jail which held Countess Markieviez herself. These prisons have managed to stand the test of time due to increased marketing and government implementation, however, one Gaol (Irish Jail) that has been neglected, unappreciated but certainly holds major historic and architectural significance is Sligo Gaol.
Friends of Sligo Gaol was established as non-profit group of volunteers who share a common passion that is the heritage, history and preservation of Sligo Gaol. The group was established by Sligo local, Tamlyn McHugh, an archaeologist with a keen interest in the
stories and history of the Gaol, both told and untold. 
The group had one main aim to begin with: The awareness and conservation of Sligo Gaol. To date, only in or around 50% of the ground remains as in the mid-20th Century, the local government demolished a considerable amount of cells, the women's prison and cemented over the courtyard in which the prisoners would exercise. This aim then developed into the greater goal, which spoke to a wider audience of people, to re-open the Gaol as a tourist attraction, to take a look around at where the political prisoners were kept, the extant graffiti on the walls and embrace the somber atmosphere when you walk the halls of the abandoned prison.
"The Friends of Sligo Gaol are an independent, volunteer body committed to working in partnership with Sligo County Council, and other stakeholders, in achieving these aims and supporting the ongoing conservation work of the Gaol building complex."  is the extract taken from the Friends of Sligo Gaol website- which shows the level of commitment that is being displayed.
I, myself, have had the pleasure of working with the Friends of Sligo Gaol group on two of their events to raise awareness for the group, get people talking about the Gaol and get community support for a worthy aim. The events undertaken by the Friends of Sligo Gaol group were:

  • Sligo Jail and Bail: This event was an incredibly innovative idea for an event that involved an incredible amount of community participation and support. The process of the event was to
    "Charge" well-known members of Sligo Town for outrageous crimes and from them, in turn, raise their own bail and to pass on the information of the event to friends and customers. The Friends of Sligo Gaol group set up a phenomenal courtroom display, including a jail cell, mugshot wall and a judge. The event ran throughout the day on a Saturday afternoon, in which I helped out as a volunteer (ducking out for a job interview and coming back in the space of 30 minutes like a superhero!) The event was a phenomenal success. The target to be met was €1,200 but through massive local interest and support, a massive €4,500, to which the Friends of Sligo Gaol are appreciative.
  • The next event ventured by the Friends of Sligo Gaol group, that I had the honour of being involved in, was the Women of Sligo Gaol conference and Gaol Tour event. The event was selected to ticket holders, for those interested in the event and the Gaol, which received a lot of interest. The event itself consisted of key note speakers, Historian Gary Burke, Author Liz Gillis and members of the Sligo Heritage Office. The conference delved into the background of women in the Gaol of Sligo at the time, what one had to do to get thrown in a cell and the conditions of the North West at the time, which then developed into the role women has in the 1916 rising, one of Ireland's
    most prominent historic events. Following the conclusion of the conference and panel discussion, a round of tours inside the Gaol commenced, showing how harrowing it felt inside, how it looked after almost 50 years of closure and highlight the importance of the work that Friends of Sligo Gaol are doing but mostly to get a real feel for the history. The tour included the surprise vocals of Sligo girl vocal group, Bua, who used the natural acoustics to chill their audience. This event, like the one previous, was a massive success to which FoSG are pleased.
The work that FoSG (Friends of Sligo Gaol, abbreviation) are doing is not only important for historical purposes but is could be extremely instrumental in the development of Sligo Tourism and give a new iconic, significant outlook to the town.

To support Friends of Sligo Gaol, visit their website
Or contact them via email:
Support FoSG on their mission to restore a piece of Irish History
Read, Comment, Share and Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment