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Sligo Food Trail celebrates 5 Years with a super Calendar of Online Events

Sligo Food Trail are celebrating their fifth birthday with taste and in trademark style, launching a commemorative video entitled “A tasty trip around five years of Sligo Food Trail” as well as a series of exciting online events showcasing some of the talented members. It’s grown to become a strong and vibrant network which has put the north-western county firmly on the food map. It’s quite a milestone for the network which began in 2016 and has matured into one of the best recognised food networks in the country.

Cllr. Marie Casserly, Chair Sligo Food Trail said, “I’m so proud of all that Sligo Food Trail has achieved. Over the five years it has put Sligo firmly on the map in terms of food and drink, drawing national and international attention to our county. The strength of a network like this and the power of the collective working as a group is really visible”.

The new video, will be released online to kickstart celebrations, is voiced-over by Aoife Carrigy, Chair of the Irish Food Writers Guild, who was guest speaker at the official launch of Sligo Food Trail, in The Model, Sligo, back in 2016. It’s a real trip down memory lane, featuring showcase events like the Harvest Feasts and the special Sligo ‘chew chew’ train that brought media on a culinary journey from Dublin to Sligo town. Taste The Island, networking events, several series of videos and the Irish Food Writers Guild visit are all remembered in glorious technicolour. 

Members of Sligo Food Trail and media celebrating Sligo Food on the special train event

Everyone is invited to join in an appetising series of online food and drink events. The tastings, demonstrations, recipes and Zoom events will run from Tuesday 4th – Friday 14th May showcasing some of Sligo Food Trail’s talented members. Try a tasting, learn tips and techniques from the experts, and marvel at the breath-taking showstopper created by one very talented chef.

Events Calendar:

  • Thursday 6th May - Grainne Gilmartin from Sligo Wellness Centre focusses on cooking for teenagers in her live Zoom event ‘Teenage Brains’.
  • Friday 7th May - It’s the ice cream man - Neil Byrne from Mammy Johnston’s in Strandhill. ‘Creptastic facts and ice cream trivia’ will be entertaining and educational in equal measure.  
  • Saturday 8th May - Anthony Gray, owner of EalaBhán and Hooked Restaurants, takes to the stage, demonstrating a delicious “DIY Smashed Burger” recipe. 
  • Sunday 9th May - “Aw Shucks” is the intriguing title of a demonstration where Aisling Kelly of Sligo Oyster Experience shows everyone three ways to serve the delicious bivalves. 
  • Tuesday 11th May - The seaweed queen herself, Prannie Rhatigan (Irish Seaweed Kitchen) presents ‘Seaweed the Superfood’, introducing everyone to cooking with seaweed, making seaweed pesto and even a seaweed smoothie. 
  • Wednesday 12th May - ‘Brew Coffee with Carrow’, is a Zoom event with Andrew Willis of Carrow Coffee inviting everyone to join in as he talks about their new Peruvian coffee 'Alberca' while brewing with an aeropress. You can purchase some in advance if you’d like to brew along with him. 
  • Thursday 13th May - Dave Raethorne and Ollie Alcorn (head distiller) of Lough Gill Distillery present a virtual tour of their distillery in Hazelwood combined with an Athrú Whiskey tasting. 

The finale of the celebrations is entitled ‘Pure Poetry in Chocolate’, by executive chef Alan Fitzmaurice from the Glasshouse Hotel. Alan will be drawing together the very best of local food and ingredients from the Sligo Food Trail producers and inspired by the landscape and beaches, to create a floral-style centrepiece, fit to grace the finest dining table in the land! 

Registration is required for the live events and I'm told that the website almost crashed on the first day with bookings, so register your place at Today!!!

Keep up to Date with Sligo Food Trail via their Social Media at





A Story about the old pre-1855 Six-arch River Eske bridge in Donegal Town and my Donegal Castle print

(Warning - This story does not include any Irish food!)

About 25 years ago, I bought a print of a castle, set in a frame mount, in Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway. Having been born and grown up in Donegal Town, I instantly recognised the scene in the print. It depicted O'Donnell's Castle, which sat beside the river Eske right outside our front door at Waterloo Place. What was unusual about the picture was that a bridge crossed the river from behind the castle across to Waterloo Place, not where the bridge is now. A signature, Lewis, was visible in the corner of the picture.

The Print of Donegal Castle that I bought in Kenny's Bookshop, Galway 

The print had a hand-written sticker on it saying "Castle of Arran". I asked the man in the shop where was the Castle of Arran? "Up in Malin Head, I think", he replied. But I knew it was our castle in Donegal Town and the Castle of Arran may have been a reference to Lord Arran, former landlord around south Donegal. There was something else special about this print. I could faintly see printed writing coming through from the back of the picture.

My father, Vincent Gallagher, was a printer, and from a very young age we grew up learning about type styles and mechanical printing, long before there was anything like PageMaker or Microsoft Publisher. I knew by the impression of the writing and the font type, that the print was quite old. So I bought this lithographic print, for £30.

Taylor and Skinner Maps of the Road of Ireland 1777
showing the bridge crossing the river to Bridge End 

As a boy, I had been told that there was once a bridge that crossed over from behind the castle to Waterloo Place and that the main road to Mountcharles and Killybegs ran on from end of the bridge, straight up Meetinghouse Street where the Forge Pub is now. However, the late Eileen McBrearty (previous owner of the Forge pub) had always insisted that the old name for that road and hill was "Bridge End". In fact, the Forge pub was formerly known as "The Bridge End Bar".

The printed writing on the back of my Print

When I got back home, I opened up the mount to see what the writing on the back of the print was. It was part of a narrative account of the history of the O'Donnells and also about a plot by Sir John Perrott to capture the young Red Hugh O'Donnell in 1587. It was fascinating to read, although incomplete, and the paper and ink type pointed towards the document being well over 100 years old. The print had the words "Donegal Castle" printed under it. This was also the first representation of an older bridge crossing the River Eske that I'd ever seen. So I put it in a frame and it's been hanging on my wall ever since... until covid-lockdown-3 came along!

Copy of The Dublin Saturday Magazine from the collated collection printed in 1865

In January 2021, I decided to clean the inside of the glass of the frame. When I took out the print I noticed a piece of the paper which was taped to the mount and was folded over itself. I gently took it off the mount and unfolded the paper. There, at the top of the print was a torn magazine title. There was enough visible to be able to make out the name "The Dublin Saturday Magazine" with "Vol.1, No.14, Price One Penny", printed under it.

And so began a few months of research into the origin of the print and the authenticity of the picture showing the bridge.

Title Page of the Dublin Saturday Magazine Volume 1.

I discovered a book of multiple Dublin Saturday Magazines, was published as a collective in 1865, by J. Mullany, Dublin, under the title "The Dublin Saturday Magazine: A Journal of Instruction and Amusement, Comprising Irish Biography and Antiquities, Original Tales and Sketches, Poetry, Varieties, Etc,". There is a physical copy of this 1865 compilation in both the University College Dublin (James Joyce Library) and in the National Library of Ireland with copies in various UK and US libraries. This compilation is printed in black and white. My print was coloured.

As my print had the words "Vol.1, Price One Penny, No.14" printed on it, this indicates that the original individual weekly magazines were printed separately, before this 1865 compilation book. I managed to access and download a full copy of this Dublin Saturday Magazine, Volume 1. This therefore dates my print of the castle and the old bridge to at least 156 years old.

Each of these magazines consisted of stories and news from around Ireland and historical accounts, with lithographic prints and an attached descriptive article. I have no idea how my print came to arrive in a mounted frame in a bookshop in Galway, but it had definitely come from an original Dublin Saturday Magazine.

I decided to look for any information on that original bridge that crossed the river Eske, from behind the O'Donnell Castle and I uncovered some interesting drawings, maps and descriptions.

My print was signed "Lewis" with "S.L." also inscribed in the left hand side of the bridge. I uncovered that a cartographer and publisher named Samuel Lewis had travelled around Ireland in the early 1800s, writing and drawing maps and sketches for "A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland", which was published in Two Volumes, in 1837. Was it possible that this drawing for the magazine was done by Lewis or maybe taken from an earlier sketch of the scene?

A Description of entering Donegal Town by Richard Twiss in "A tour in Ireland in 1775"
note: "where there is a tolerable bridge of six arches"

In 1775, Richard Twiss, in his guide book "A Tour in Ireland in 1775", wrote "I then went to Raphoe, and traversing bogs and mountains arrived at Donegal, where there is a "tolerable bridge of six arches, and a large ruined castle." In 1777 Taylor and Skinner compiled a "Road Map of Ireland" with drawings showing the bridge crossing the river Eske at the rear of the castle.

Part of the Griffiths Valuation map and Donegal Town Plan, c.1860
which shows the two bridges in situ at the same time.

According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage , the existing "three-arch road bridge over the River Eske, was built c. 1855, having a footpath extension to the south elevation added c. 1975" and "replaced an earlier six-arch bridge, which was located adjacent to the north-east of the present structure. Both bridges appear to have co-existed for a period c. 1860" (earlier bridge indicated above as 'old bridge' on the Griffiths Valuation map and Town Plan, c.1860. This makes sense as they would have still have had to use the old bridge while the new bridge was being built.) The location and style of this earlier bridge also suggests that it may have also replaced an even older bridge dating to the pre-1700 period.

The 1837 First Edition 6" Map by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland shows the approach to the original bridge from Bridge Street, carrying on straight behind the castle, the bridge crossing the river and the road continuing up Meetinghouse Street (previously known as Bridge End) and on towards Mountcharles. The road goes straight through the land on which the outbuildings behind the Methodist Church now stands and therefore gives credence to the old name of Bridge End, for that part of the town. It also shows a Salmon Weir crossing the river, to the north side of the castle.

pre-1855 Donegal Bridge as shown on the 6 inch OSI map First Edition c.1837

The approach to the bridge from the centre of town shows the road coming down Bridge Street and turning in behind the Castle grounds, going straight through where the parallelogram-shaped building (which incorporates Julies Beauty Salon) now stands. This building was only built after the new bridge of 1855 was finished and is so shaped because of the space available due to the road turning to the approach of the new bridge.

Fish Market shown on the left side at Bridge Street, Donegal Town c.1837

On the 1837 map, there are no buildings on the left hand side of Bridge Street from Kearney’s building (recently the Tattoo Shop) down to the end of the present bridge. The terrace of buildings which includes Henderson’s, The Scotsman’s, La Bella Donna and The Reel Inn were all built at the same time, in c1860, after the new bridge was finished. Before that time, this whole area, from Henderson’s Hardware down to the rear of the Castle is shown as a vacant space with a low wall around it and described on this map as a "Fish Market".

The Old Methodist Church in Donegal Town which is now the complete ground floor of the Masonic Hall

In researching, I discovered that before the Methodist Church was built at its present location, it was located on the site where the Masonic Lodge stands today. On the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage website it states that "The present Methodist chapel in Donegal Town replaced an earlier one in the town which was located at the corner of Waterloo Place and New Row a short distance to the north-east of the present edifice on the site now occupied by the Masonic Hall". I discovered maps and photographs that show the original building, with a hipped roof, that was the old Methodist church.

Old Bridge and Castle Drawing showing Stepping Stones c1820

When I was growing up in Waterloo Place, the old neighbours used to talk of a second wooden bridge situated to the western side of the now present Iron Bridge. I found a lithographic print dated from 1820, in the National Library of Ireland, which depicts the old six arch bridge crossing from behind the castle and also shows Stepping Stones crossing the river on the northern side of the castle, one of which is still can be seen standing in the river today.

Donegal Castle 1838 showing foot bridge and old bridge. Note that the Church of Ireland seen to the left background was built between 1825-1828.

However, on another lithographic print I found in the National Library, dated 1838, it shows the old six arch bridge but also shows another smaller bridge made up of stone built stanchions with a wooden deck raised simply to road level. In this exact same position on the 1837 Ordnance Survey map, a structure is also shown here and is identified as a "Salmon Weir".

As a young boy growing up in this area of town, I was aware of the "lay of the land" around the castle and was also very aware of the existence, once, of this walkway bridge. You can still see the remains of this today. If you walk down to Waterloo Place, stand at the river wall opposite the second house back from the bottom of the Iron Bridge steps, facing the Castle. Look down over the river wall and you will see a stone-built abutment, (which is a structure built "to support the lateral pressure of an arch or span, e.g. at the ends of a bridge") which comes up to just below the present road level. There are small bushes growing on it now but you can see that it is built up about 2 metres up from the river bed. If you look straight across to the castle-side of the river parallel to this structure (and behind the newer-built water and sewerage scheme inspection manhole) you can see a similar abutment, topped with grass and bushes, which would have been the other side of this walk-bridge.

This walk bridge would have given a short-cut access from the Town centre to New Row, before the Iron Bridge was built in 1895. Another similar stone and wooden bridge was also in place on the site of the existing bridge beside Magee's factory at Water Street, would otherwise have had to been used.

"Donegal Cas, 1833, From JS Lever" from James Stark Fleming's sketchpad

I recently found two pencil sketches in a leather-bound notepad attributed to James Stark Fleming, 1834-1922, an artist “who produced on-the-spot sketches and also copied older original drawings located in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin”. One is a drawing of the Old Franciscan Abbey at the pier here in Donegal Town, showing many of parts of the building that are no longer standing. The other of these drawings is exactly the same as my print, except it is signed in James Stark Fleming's handwriting as "Donegal Cas, 1833, From JS Lever".

Donegal Castle c1800 by Unknown Artist with old bridge in sketchbook in the Royal Irish Academy

Then, I found in the National Library of Ireland, an older and similar drawing, showing the castle and bridge (but with even more of the old castle wall to the gate-house to be seen) as part of a Sketchbook of "Fifty sketches of antiquities and landscapes in various parts of Ireland. Includes castles, abbeys, cathedrals and ruins", created at some time between 1770-1830, but the artist is unknown.

These are pencil sketches that were later used to produce more completed drawings and engravings and it is plain to see that they form the basis for my print, signed "Lewis", which was represented in the Saturday Dublin Magazine. Was the SL Lewis signature actually a JS Lever signature misinterpreted? I do not know.

When the present stone bridge was built, a new road was cut in, creating the triangular "Green" where the Red Shed stands, to give more direct access to the new bridge from the Mountcharles Road. The Methodist Church acquired the land at the end of the old bridge to built a new church, a three-bay double-height over basement church, built between 1857 and 1859, on its existing site.

My reconstructed representation of the old stone six arch bridge that crossed the River Eske from behind the Castle, as it would have been pre-1855.

I finally decided to create an image showing a representation of what this old six arch bridge and this part of Donegal Town may have looked like before the 1855 bridge was built. Using photography, computer design, watercolour paints and with thanks to Richard Cave and Nuala Toland, it is completed and I am delighted with the finished drawing, shown in the last image here.

This has been an exciting journey of research and discovery which now adds yet another little layer to the recorded history of Donegal Town.


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