Next Branch Meeting
Lunch at Templehouse, November 2019 - Report
Thirty -Three members enjoyed a lovely ‘Fine Dining’ Lunch in Templehouse on 13th November 2019. This is the 6th largest lived – in house in Ireland and has been in the Blue Book of places to stay for some years. Owner, Roderick Perceval, whose family have lived here for over 350 years, gave us a potted history of the house, family and estate, before we sat down to eat, in the glorious drawing room.
Before leaving we posed for a photograph on the magnificent staircase (see below).
Kilkenny Trip, October 2019 - Report
Just 9 Members finally made it to Kilkenny for a 3-night stay in October. We travelled by train – Sligo to Connolly, Dublin, the Luas across the city and a train to Kilkenny. The Free Travel Pass is a wonderful card to have! Our hotel, the Kilford Arms, was very central and an excellent choice. Our first night was spent in the hotel, eating, chatting and then relaxing with a nightcap and good live music in the bar. The next morning saw us in the company of Neven, as he led us through the city on a 2-hour walk along the Medieval Mile with history, archaeology, fun and even magic. After a light lunch in Alice Kyteler’s (the witch of Kilkenny) restaurant, we did our own thing. Some visited Roethe House, some to St Canice’s Cathedral, some to the Castle, and some just relaxing in the hotel!
A magnificent meal that evening in Petronella’s restaurant was overshadowed with a Member taking ill beforehand and spending the night in hospital. Thankfully he recovered and was discharged next morning. From Petronella’s, we went to the Watergate Theatre, where we enjoyed an excellent production of Vivaldi’s “Esmeralda “ by the Irish Operatic Society.
Next day saw us visiting Kilkenny Union Workhouse, now beautifully restored as the Kilkenny Famine Experience. We heard the heartbreaking and poignant human stories recorded in local newspaper articles and minute books from the Board of Guardians – a true reflection of the Famine from the perspective of the Workhouse inmates and staff.
From Famine to ‘Fine Dining’ that evening in Zuni, a 1-star Michelin restaurant. Such wonderful food, ambience and fun!
Next morning it was back to the train station and homeward bound. A truly wonderful time spent in a great city. Thank you to Doris, our secretary for organising everything. Perhaps, next year more Members could join in these trips??
Brief History of Sligo Branch of RTA
Records, and personal recollections, reveal that the Branch has been in existence at least since 1987. Members met in the old Technical school/Education Centre in Quay St. Sligo. Annual Memorial services were held there for deceased members. In 2000, the venue was changed to Scoil Ursula. In 2001 meetings were held in The Great Southern Hotel, followed by the IT College and finally, in 2003, to the Sligo Park Hotel where meetings have been held since.
Two meetings are held each year. The General Secretary visits the May/June meeting and brings Members up-to-date on interesting topics such as Pensions, Health Insurance and Medical Cards! A Guest Speaker attends the December meeting and this is always followed by a Christmas lunch. We have had a great variety of Speakers, from Social Welfare People to Poets, Gardaí Protection Officers to Toastmasters, and everything in between to help Members with retirement!!!
Some Members meet informally, every Monday morning in the Sligo Park Hotel, to chat over tea and coffee. During the months of November, ‘Fine-dining’ lunches have been enjoyed.
One of the first successful outings for the Branch was a visit to Áras an Úachtaráin to meet President Mary McAleese in 1999. Members presented a Sligo Crystal Book to her. Other outings have included visits to Dublin Castle, Malahide Castle, The Chester Beatty Library, Farmleigh House, Derry City, The Titanic Centre, Belfast, Turlough House and Westport, Croke Park, Strokestown House, The National Stud, Japanese Gardens, Newbridge, Powerscourt House and Gardens, Enniskillen, and The GPO 1916 Exhibition. Tours abroad have been to Strasbourg, Barcelona and to The Lake District.
In 2004, there were 108 members in Sligo RTA. In 2006, this had increased to 125 and in 2016 we have 160!
Tour to Heaney Home Place and the North - June 2018
Our next stop was at Lissan House, near Cookstown. This is a 400yr-old Plantation house, owned by and lived in by the same family – the Staples – until 2003, when it was handed over to a Trust. The last occupant, a woman, had no children and was in her 80s. The house is managed by the Business Manager, John-Paul Coyle, who served us with homemade shortbread, tea and coffee and gave us an animated history lesson and guided tour of the house.
RTA Member, Mairead Jennings, was persuaded to play the 100+ yr-old Bechstein Grand Piano and we all joined in the singing. On hearing that the piano had been valued some years ago at over £120,000stg, Mairead felt very honoured!
Our final stop of the day was at the Killyhevlin Hotel outside Enniskillen. The weather had been glorious all day and we were blessed with the position of our tables for dinner, overlooking the River Erne, watching the boats and water skiers. Dinner was excellent and was the ‘icing on the cake’ on a wonderful day! We arrived back in Sligo town at 11pm, exhausted but happy after an interesting, educational and fun day!
September 2017 Trip to Dungarvan
Fourteen people enjoyed a 3-day/2-night trip to Dungarvan at the end of September. Organised by Marathon Travel and our Secretary cum Group Leader, Doris Clements, we set off on the green Paddywagon minibus! Unfortunately, we didn’t take a photograph of this and when we thought about it on our last day, it was much too wet to pose!!! We were not the typical passengers on the Paddywagon!
Our hotel, The Park, in Dungarvan was excellent, providing lovely spacious rooms, great food and caring, attentive staff. Thanks to Michael, our busdriver, we arrived safely at all our pre-booked tourist destinations. These included Kilkenny and a trip on the ‘town train’, time for a visit to the Castle and Kilkenny Design Centre shops and restaurant. Next day we visited Waterford Crystal Factory and shop, with some fitting in a quick trip to the excellent Waterford Museum. Michael took us on a bus tour of the city so that we could get a taster for future visits. Then a coastal drive taking in lovely seaside villages such as Passage East and Dunmore East. An hour in Tramore gave us time for a brisk walk along the promenade before returning to Dungarvan. Once again, Michael took us around and dropped anyone interested in shopping off, before returning the exhausted ones to our hotel.
We awoke to a very wet final morning but a good breakfast set us up for our journey home. At least we realised that the ‘Sunny South East’ got heavy rain as we do in Sligo! Our first stop of the day was Lismore Castle but it really was too wet to have the guided tour of the gardens. The entry to the Art Exhibition in the West Wing entailed a steep flight of steps so we gave that a miss too. However, the Heritage Centre in Lismore town provided us with an excellent potted history of the Castle and the Dukes of Devonshire, as well as a great shop for those last minute purchases and souvenirs.
On then, cross-country, to New Ross and the Dunbrody Famine Ship. The constant heavy rain gave us an inkling of what the 8-week journey across the Atlantic must have been like for those desperate people escaping the Famine in Ireland, and under miserable conditions as steerage passengers! The 2 actresses on board, who acted the parts of a steerage and first class passenger, brought the tour to life for us. The Dunbrody Experience also had a good restaurant so, once more, we were seen tucking into some lovely food, to sustain us for the long wet journey back to Sligo.
Many thanks to Marathon for organising this tour, to Michael, our driver who went out of his way to ensure an interesting, safe trip and to Doris, our Group Leader.
June 2017 Outing
Giving Slieve League Cliffs a miss because of misty rain, we travelled on to the Glencolumbcille Folk Park where the sun came out and shone brightly for the rest of the day. While half of us were given a guided tour of the cottages, the other half enjoyed a lovely lunch in the restaurant. Then a swap over and eventually a group photograph. The schoolhouse brought back many memories of our own school days not to mention of our teaching days! Chalk and blackboard, springy canes, long desks and inkwells reminded us of the great changes in our educational system during our lifetime!
On then for some shopping therapy in Donegal town. Just as well that a boat trip was next up or else the credit cards would have suffered in Magees shop! The Donegal Waterbus was a great experience with the guide giving us a full description of the fauna and flora, nature and waterlife, history and geography of the area. We were blessed with a beautiful evening and the sight of about a hundred basking seals on the sandbanks. Our guide also entertained us with a great singsong!
We were all ready for a 4-course dinner in the Abbey Hotel when we came ashore. So with full tummies and tired bodies we boarded our bus for Sligo. A truly enjoyable day!
Ten members of the Co. Sligo Branch of the Retired Teachers’ Association departed by Ryanair from Knock Airport for Barcelona, on 24th April. After an uneventful flight, we travelled the sixty-two miles from Girona Airport to our hotel by taxi, on a three-lane motorway.
The hotel, which was excellent in every way, with very courteous staff, opened only a few months previously. It has the rather unusual name of Ink 606. Only breakfast was served, which meant that the evening meal each day was elsewhere.
On the first day we went on an open topped bus tour of the city, which took about four to five hours, on three different bus lines, red, green and blue. Ear phones were provided, which plugged into the back of the seat in front and there was a very good commentary. This is a very good way to get a general overview of the city. One very interesting place visited was the harbour area, which is very extensive and has a marina so large that it is almost impossible to see where it ends. One of the many historic buildings that we saw was Barcelona’s first university, which is about five hundred years old. Barcelona has now eight universities.
Barcelona has many fine buildings but the most famous ones were designed by the architect, Gouda. He is responsible for the Cathedral of the Holy Family (Cathedral de Sagrada Familia), a very remarkable building, which is not yet completely finished! Gouda also designed a park which attracts visitors by the thousand and has many unusual features, including what was meant to be an ordinary dwelling-house, but was most unusual and is now a museum.
Visits to those buildings occupied most of our second day. That was beautiful sunny day, so to recover from our visits to Gouda, most of us lay in the sun, on a balcony of the hotel, until it was time to get ready for dinner.
Another architect, whose name I cannot remember, has left a significant mark on Barcelona. At all main street crossings, where normally there would be right-angled corners, instead what one sees is a kind of ‘cut-off’ on each corner giving a much more open entrance and exit. Naturally, this makes it much easier for traffic.
On the third day, while many hit the beautiful shops and art galleries, the writer visited the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat, in the mountains, which is quite a distance from the city. It meant taking a metro and two trains….in all a journey of one and a half hours. The views and the scenery towards the end of the trip are really breathtaking. On arriving, one discovers not just a monastery, but what almost amounts to a small town. There are large buildings of varying kinds, so much so that it is a cause of wonder as to how so much building material was transported to such a height. The centre-piece is the monastery church, which is a basilica, and a magnificent building. At the back of the high altar is a statue of the Blessed Virgin which is reached from outside the church. The queue approaching this was so long and about three deep, that I did not join it. The basilica is a public church.
The other place that I did not have time to visit there was where the monks make liquor. A man, who had been there, told me there was no restriction on how much could be consumed!!
On that night, our last, we had dinner at a place in the port area called Restaurante Mussol, five floors up on a circular building, which in former times was a bullring.
On the next morning, it was time to pack and prepare to leave. If there is any criticism one could make of the trip, it would be that it was too short.
Those who took part are most grateful to our secretary, Doris Clements, who organised the whole thing and made all the arrangements.
Trip to the Titanic Exhibition in Belfast
Many teachers, during their teaching careers, may well have secretly entertained the fantasy that school tours would have been perfect if the children could have been left at home. That is exactly what happened on 6th June when fifty retired teachers and some friends assembled, in giddy anticipation, in Sligo to travel by Feehily’s luxury bus to the Titanic Exhibition, in Belfast. Had one of the erstwhile Junior Infant teachers intoned a verse of ‘The Wheels of the Bus go Round and Round’ the happy band might indeed have chimed in with similar ditties, until they reached Quinn’s Restaurant near the Ballygawley Roundabout, where they enjoyed a mid-morning break. Such was the mood of quiet excitement.
Then without much ado we continued on to the Belfast dock area to the exact location of the Harland & Wolff Shipyard.
Some time was allowed to visit the Titanic souvenir shop and the Galley Restaurant for lunch. The Titanic tour itself involved almost three hours of an absorbing interactive experience. Brilliantly remastered contemporary photographs and authentic film footage, with moving foreground silhouettes from 1912 Belfast and the silhouettes of the viewers gave a powerful impression of inclusion. The Arrol Gantry and Shipyard Ride on a swerving, undulating rail carriage recreated the illusion of joining the workers on the construction gantry. Details of the types of innumerable rivets that were used to join the plates and the roles of the workers in the riveting teams were fascinating. The holograms of passengers in the three classes of cabins drew us in to examine the exquisite detail of the quality finish of the fit-out. We learned of the challenges of providing food and linen for the voyage. The drama and human error involved in the neglect of iceberg warnings were presented with vivid and compelling clarity. The speed, horror, immediacy, confusion and the heartbreaking experience of impending death or possible escape, surrounded us with a multi-media cacophony that aptly recreated the final minutes of the celebrated ‘unsinkable vessel’. The Titanic Beneath Theatre brought us face-to-face with the rediscovered wreck on the ocean bed with almost all the external features of the ship still intact. The pictures of the wreck under glass floor tiles were truly realistic. We finally experienced the impact of the disaster with a recreation of the mortuary in Halifax and the worldwide media reaction to the calamity.
Our efficient tour leader, Doris Clements and our skilled driver, Alan, ensured that we were transported without delay to the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen for our main meal. This was excellently prepared and speedily served.
The final stage on the journey through the picturesque Glencar valley with Sligo Bay in the evening foreground was in restful contrast to the animated stimulation of our day in 1912 Belfast, in Southhampton, Cobh, the north-east Atlantic and in traumatised New England.
By Neal Farry
Sligo RTAI tour To The Lake District
Our driver, Pat McInenery, and our guide, Mary Glasson, had an exciting and varied itinerary planned for us, combined with excellent accommodation in the Skiddaw Hotel in Keswick, in the heart of this historic and scenic area. There was something to suit all tastes and the glorious sunny weather every day made sightseeing a delight.
Some of the highlights included a visit to the historic Dove Cottage, the home and garden of William Wordsworth, in the exquisite village of Grasmere. No wonder he was inspired to write his great poetry in such surroundings! We relived our childhood with a visit to the home of Beatrix Potter in Boweness. That day we also enjoyed a magical steam locomotive trip followed by a cruise on Lake Windermere.
A visit to Holker Hall and Gardens – the Lake District’s answer to Downton Abbey- gave an insight into the life of the super- rich Cavendish family. The 400 year old Great Holker Lime is considered one of the grandest trees in Britain and has an amazing girth of 7.9 metres!
Next day we had a pleasant meander around the Farmers’ Market in Keswick where it was possible to buy excellent local produce and art. No worries about cold toes in Sligo this winter as they will be cosy in Keswick sheepskin! Keswick’s Pencil Museum provided a fascinating history of Britain’s only pencil factory and a chance to buy some quality samples.
Off to Carlisle then to visit the first class Tullie House Museum – a great amenity for local schools and a chance for us to catch up on our history of the Scottish- English borders, on that historic referendum day in Scotland.
After a visit to the magnificent 900 year old Carlisle Cathedral we travelled across the border to Scotland . A visit to Gretna Outlet for some retail therapy concluded a very full day for us. Shopaholics were well catered for on this tour with visits to the Lakeland Store and endless craft and souvenir shops.
Fields were full of the famous Herdwick sheep so loved by Beatrix Potter that she bequeathed 4000 acres to the National Trust to graze the Herdwick flocks. After hundreds of years of grazing the pastures of Cumbria, they were almost destroyed in the Foot and Mouth outbreak thirteen years ago that caused such grief in the Cooley Peninsula too. Thankfully they are back in their rightful place again.
Fabulous scenery, superb weather, a terrific itinerary and great company made this an unforgettable holiday for us all.
Written by Iris O’Sullivan (a friend and a Retired Secondary School Teacher)