Life in Sligo 1939 - 1945
Far removed as it was from the battle fronts, local areas all over Ireland suffered the hardships brought about by the on-slaught of the European War. As example, there follows the short tale of my local town, Sligo, during the "Emergency". The is derived from an article in the Sligo Champion Special 70th Edition magazine.
One of the earliest events to tell the inhabitants of Sligo of the war that raged over seas was the following telegram received by Sir Jocylynn and Lady Gore-Booth of Lisadell in Jan 1940:
"Admiralty deeply regrets to inform you that your son Lieut. Brian Gore Booth is believed to have been on board H.M.S. Exmouth and is therefore regarded as missing, presumed dead"
Many more such messages would arrive soon, and they would be reported within the pages of the Sligo Champion, the local County Sligo newspaper. As with all papers in the country, this found itself much slimmed down due to the severe shortage of newsprint brought about by the war. Later that year, 1940, the local news was joined on the front pages by reports of the invasions of France and the Low countries and then the evacuations from Dunkirk.
Among those at Dunkirk were 2nd Lt. JW Lyons from Thornhill, G. Mitchell of Holborn St. (wounded) and Guardsman D. Smyllie from Knappagh Road (missing) all hailing from Sligo. These reports shared the front pages with the stark reality of the effects of the Emergency on the people of Sligo
In the gear up for the Emergency, a good response was received at a rally at the town hall. At this rally, Canon Feeley, Adminstrator St. Marys Parish, told the assembled crowd that...
"We will defend our God given right to breath the Irish air into our Irish lungs without any hindrance from anybody"
That autumn, the newspaper was reporting the sky rocketing prices, supplies shortages, rise in unemployment and uncertainty in trades and businesses.The people of Sligo were hit-hard by the price increases. All general supplies such as coal, gas, petrol, flour, sugar, butter and candles among other things had all dramatically risen in price.
Sligo port was very badly effected by the Emergency. The dramatic fall in visiting vessels saw in the period Sept. 1939 to Nov. 1940, 60 less vessels enter the port compared to the preceding period of time. Accordingly, the ports tonnage fell off.
Workers returning from England brought with them the terrible stories of the Blitz. While shocking to the locals, they to had their own hardships to endure. The fuel crisis was on the verge of a crisis and in April 1941 plans were drawn up help try to solve this. 1,000 men were put to work in an effort to cut 75,000 tons of turf. Local villages were requested to help in the organization of the work and the County Council were given rights for compulsory access to the boglands where the turf would be cut.
The local LDF units rehearsed for their anti-invasion role busily. April 1941, saw an anti-invasion exercises carried out in Sligo-Leitrim. That same month saw the arrival of bombed out refugees from Belfast, that city having suffered Luftwaffe air attacks.