Moylough (Co. Sligo / South)
The Moylough Belt Shrine
Monument in Moylough village commemorating the discovery of “the Moylough Belt” by John Twomey as he dug “the fourth spit of turf” on his father’s farm in 1945. Slicing through the soft peat, he unexpectedly hit something hard at a depth of c. 4 ft below the surface. Presuming it was a large stone, John bent down and cleared away the soil with a small garden trowel. To his amazement, what was revealed was not a rock, but instead, a glistening, metallic object; this was identified within days as an ornate belt by archaeologists, who arrived too late to prevent further turf cutting from destroying the site, of which nothing is known.
The Moylough Belt Shrine, one of the great treasures of early Christian Ireland, dates from the C8th AD. It consists of four richly decorated bronze segments, hinged together, so that the belt could be placed around the waist. Each segment, bearing a medallion featuring a Celtic cross and ornamented with stamped silver foil, openwork bronze, glass and enamel, as well as animal and bird head motifs, was specifically made to enshrine a strip of plain leather – probably relics associated with a local saint, and thus the real treasure from the belt maker’s viewpoint.
Although this is the only belt shrine to survive, a number of sacred belts are known to have been considered imbued with mystical powers in Medieval times. For example, the girdle of Saint Bridget was reputed to cure any illness, and the girdle/belt of Saint Cronan was used to cure the King of Munster after he was afflicted by a terrible ailment. The belts could also have more formal uses. The sacred belt of Saint Mobhi ‘never closed around lies’, suggesting that it, like many other Irish relics, was used in oath swearing ceremonies.
The Moylough Belt Shrine may well have been used in similar rituals to effect cures or establish truthfulness. Indeed, this probably explains why the belt contains extensive evidence for wear around its hinges and buckle. It appears that it was often taken on and off, probably during specific ceremonies (Photo – NMI)
The belt can now be viewed in the NMI, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Moylough is a rural community named after a small lake colonised annually by whooper swans.
St Patrick’s church (RC) is a simple, unpretentious edifice.
Moylough Heritage & Resource Centre, completed in 2006, hosts an on-going display of items and photographs of historical interest, and is also used for community activities and events.
Tobbercurry (Co. Sligo / South)
Tobbercurry / Tubbercurry (Tobar an Choire – “Well of the corrie”) (pop. 1700), the second-largest town in County Sligo in terms of both population and land area, lies at the foot of the Ox Mountains in the old Barony of Leyry.
Wolfe Tone Square: Tubbercurry is nowadays regionally renowned for its night life, with several decent restaurants as well as traditional pubs, but has also developed an unsavoury reputation as a hub for prostitution – see here.
The earliest record of Tubbercurry is from 1397, when a battle took place locally between the O’Connor Don from Roscommon and the O’Connors from Sligo town.
St George’s church (CoI), built c.1846, has an unusual tall castellated tower.
Pride of Ballyara
Although the Great Famine hit South Sligo as severely as other parts of the country, things would have been a lot worse had it not been for a local merchant family. The Mullarkeys of Teeling Street owned a racehorse called Pride of Ballyara, who won a large fortune for them racing in England over a number of years. Perceiving the difficulties of the local farmers as blight killed the staple crop, the Mullarkey family purchased large quantities of oats, maize and corn in England and had several ship loads transported to Ballina port for distribution to the needy throughout South Sligo.
A severe shortage of horses meant that the famous racehorse had to go into action pulling cart loads of grain over a 50 mile return journey. Such was the respect the Mullarkey family had for this great horse that when died he was buried in the family plot at Ballyara Graveyard. A large headstone bearing verses in his honour is still to be seen in the old Ballyara graveyard (entrance opposite St Attracta’s Community School).
Charles Stewart Parnell addressed a political rally in Tubbercurry in the 1880s.
Tubbercurry Railway Station opened in 1895, closed for passenger traffic in1963 and finally closed altogether in 1975.
The church of St John the Evangelist (RC) is an imposing early C20th edifice with a landmark spire.
Tubbercurry’s first Marist Convent was opened in 1901; the nuns moved to new premises a century later, closing their secondary school but retaining control of the main primary education centre in the town, Holy Family NS, which is now multicultural and interdenominational.
The War of Independence saw the Black & Tans burn a large part of the town in October 1st 1920 as a reprisal for the IRA killing of an RIC inspector at nearby Chaffpool. The ensuing Civil War was also a turbulent time in Tubbercurry.
Tobbercurry’s transformation since 1955 from an agricultural market town to an industrial producer of construction materials was largely due to the Gallagher brothers from Cashel, whose factories have employed hundreds of locals who would otherwise have been forced to emigrate.
The Celtic Tiger years attracted many immigrants to Tubbercurry, notably a large Polish community.
St Attractas Community School opened in 2002 as a result of the amalgamation of the Banada and Marist Convent Schools.
The Tubbercurry Civic Offices & Public Library are housed in Teach Laighne, a modern structure designed by McCullough Mulvin architects on Humbert Street that contains Local Authority offices, a Visitors’ Information Point, Health Board facilities, a courtroom for sittings of the Western Circuit Court and rooms used for meetings and other functions. The Library, which also serves as a venue for a number of different exhibitions and collections, plus workshops, presentations and lectures of interest to local people, is regularly used by the Tubbercurry Historical Society and has been instrumental in facilitating the setting up of a number of other community groups.
St Brigid’s Hall, Tubbercurry’s theatre, has weekly cinema screenings and is also used for activities ranging from Irish dancing to martial arts. Weight-watchers’ meetings and Knights of Malta card drives.
The Phoenix Players are a very active amateur drama group with a penchant for producing Musicals.
The Western Drama Festival, formerly held each March, now seems to be spread out over the year.
One of several musical monuments
The South Sligo Summer School of Irish traditional music, song and dance sees hordes of fiddlers, harpists, pipers, bodhrán players, accordionists, flautists, singers and assorted enthusiasts invade the town for a week of great live concerts, recitals, workshops, seisiúns, impromptu performances and street events every July.
Tubbercurry Old Fair Day Festival traces its origins to 1750. Revived in 1985 after a 15-year hiatus, activities include circus performances, sword and fire acts, a samba band, pig racing, bungee trampoline, puppet show, rodeo bull, dog show, ice skating, treasure hunt etc.
Tubercurry’s annual Samhain / Halloween festival & street carnival would scare anyone out of their wits!
Tubbercurry has a strong GAA club with both Gaelic football and Hurling teams. The Real Tubber FC fields a soccer team. Other sports catered for include Athletics, Badminton and Karate.There is a golf course on the town’s outskirts.
Murphy’s Hotel*** on Teeling Street has an excellent carvery and also serves good bar food.
Cawley’s Guesthouse, a centrally located building operated as a hotel since 1907, has been run by the same family since 1964, has 14 spacious bedrooms, a pleasant restaurant, a bar, a landscaped garden and private parking.
Michael “Fingers” Fingleton, former Irish Nationwide Building Society CEO and key figure in the Irish financial crisis, was born locally in 1939.
Lovers’ Lane on the ouskirts of Tubbercurry.
The beautiful South Sligo catchment area of the River Moy, dotted with picturesque villages overlooked by the Ox Mountains, is ideal for walking, cycling, horse riding and of course fishing. Pleasant / interesting places to visit include:
Banada Friary, founded for the Augustinian Order in 1423 by the chieftain of Leyry, Donnchadh O’Hara, was not suppressed until c. 1613. Long famous for its splendid C15th tower (drawn in 1871 by WF Wakeman), the monastic ruin collapsed in 1897. The adjacent Banada Abbey, built in the early C17th as a residence for the first High Sheriff of Sligo, Sir Roger Jones (whose descendant Thomas Jones erected the lovely bridge over the River Moy), was taken over in 1858 by the Irish Sisters of Charity, who initially ran an orphanage and lace school and later a Secondary School. Since 1997 part of the grounds have been landscaped as the pretty riverside John Hume Peace Garden, home of the Banada Peace Tapestry. A recent addition is the Ancient Ireland Theme Park, a leafy expanse featuring replica dolmens, Stone Circles etc.
Toorlestraun / Tourlestrane (Tuar Loistreáin – “fields of schorching corn”), location of the handsome Kilmacteige parish church (RC), home since 2005 of Our Lady of Banada, a statue said to have special powers – read more here. Nearby Clooncagh (Cluain Chatha – “Meadow of the Battle”) was the site of a C15th battle between two warring clans.
Aclare and Kilmacteige, adjacent villages on the River Inagh / Ineagh / Einagh, part of the Moy River system. They are linked by a signposted circuit walk along country roads and forest trails. A Holy Well is dedicated to is Saint Attracta, who is said to have defeated a dragon that was killing farmers’ livestock. About 1.5km south west of Aclare village is the ruin of Belcare Castle, a C15th Towerhouse constructed by the O’Hara clan. The area is well known for its traditional musicians and singers.
Curry, a village on the River Owengarve, aka the River Curry, a tributary of the River Moy. A monument near the church (1877) commemorates a number of dead IRA volunteers killed during the Civil War. The scenic Curry Nature & Historical Trail allows for several shorter loop walks.
The Yeats County Inn*** is furnished with items of interest from all over the world dating back to the C18th.
The Curry Torc, a pure gold necklace found locally in 1850 by a man saving turf, is thought to date back to the Bronze Age around 2,500 years ago, and is now kept in the British Museum – see here.
Coilldara House B&B, located on a small farm on the edge of Tubbercurry, with great views of the Ox Mountains, has a picturesque garden.
Tubbercurry is linked via the R294 road with Lough Tait on ByRoute 16 through the Ox Mountains.