The linen manufacture was introduced into Sligo by the spirited exertions of Lord Shelburne, who, in 1749, brought thither a colony of weavers and settled them on his estate at Ballymote, then a thinly inhabited and almost uncultivated waste, whose population was employed solely in the herding of cattle. The death of this nobleman for a time checked the progress of the manufacture, but it revived under the guidance of Mr. Fitzmaurice, who, on succeeding to the estate, after having made himself practically acquainted with all the processes of the trade, superintended the establishment in person, and thus powerfully stimulated those engaged in it. Each weaver was provided with a cottage, half a rood of land for a potato garden, and grass for a cow, thus affording him the means of subsistence for his family without allowing his time or thoughts to be distracted from his main business by the details of a small farm. This well-devised exertion gave a turn to the public mind throughout the country, and led to the establishment of the manufacture on a general scale, which flourished for many years.

The manufacture of unions, a mixed fabric of linen and cotton, has been introduced and is carried on extensively. Mr. Fitzmaurice also encouraged the erection of bleach-greens upon a large scale, and having built very extensive bleach-works near the town of Denbigh, in North Wales, he purchased the brown linens in every market of Sligo and the adjoining counties, and thus greatly benefited both Wales and Ireland. The linen trade is still the staple of the county, and though by no means so prosperous or extensive as formerly, a brisk trade in it is still carried on: there are four bleach-greens in full operation, finishing nearly 40,000 pieces annually, which are principally shipped for England and generally destined for the American markets.

Coarse woollen cloths and friezes are made for domestic use, and a very extensive trade is carried on in the purchase of flannels, druggets, stockings, and other fabrics of Connaught manufacture. Merchants from many parts of Ireland, but particularly from Ulster, come to Sligo to meet the Connaught factors. The only other branches of trade, except as connected with the port of Sligo, are tanning, distilling, and brewing. Kelp is made around the greater part of the coast, but since the reduction of the duty on barilla, this source of employment has declined considerably, and by much the greater portion of the plant now collected is used as manure, being dried by the peasantry near the shore, by whom it is sold to the farmers of the interior, who draw it home to distances of 20 miles and upwards.

Fish is taken in large quantities off the coast, of which cod, haddock, and turbot are the most abundant kinds, except herrings, which appear here in vast shoals; but as the boats and nets are badly constructed and very incomplete in their equipments, little advantage is taken of this productive source of wealth. Sprats are also taken in great quantities; indeed this is the only kind of fishing for which either the boats or tackle are adapted. Oysters of excellent flavour are found in several beds: those of Lissadill are the most sought after; great numbers are sent to Dublin, where they are sometimes more highly esteemed than even the Carlingford oysters. A very extensive and profitable salmon fishery is carried on at Ballina, on the river Moy, which separates this county from Mayo; there is another very valuable fishery at the town of Sligo, and others of minor importance in some of the smaller inlets.

County Sligo | Sligo Towns and Baronies | Sligo Topography | Sligo Climate | Sligo Agriculture | Sligo Geology | Sligo Manufacturing | Sligo Rivers | Sligo Antiquities | Sligo Society | Sligo Town

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