“Historically, Sligo town is a fascinating place. There are records of the ancient Greeks trading at Sligo port; Sligo Abbey was founded in 1252. It’s an old town, then, and the centre of the town reflects that: the streets are narrow, and there are plenty of interesting alleyways down which a man might wander who is not himself mean. The modern town incorporates many sprawling suburbs, some of which are more salubrious than others, which again makes for an interesting juxtaposition. In certain parts of Sligo, literally crossing the road can make the difference between real estate selling for €80,000 and €400,000. That in itself creates a certain tension.Not that you’d know it from the excerpt Sydney posts from THE BIG EMPTY, a Harry Rigby private eye novel of mine currently out under consideration. To wit:
“There’s a saying in the West of Ireland that the Celtic Tiger never learned in swim, which is why it never crossed the Shannon into Connacht (said Tiger, presumably, being too dim to use one of the many bridges that cross the Shannon). Sligo was one of those towns that didn’t benefit hugely from the boom years, although it has transformed itself in the last decade or so. Today it’s a brash, progressive place – you can sip your café mocha on the remodelled riverfront with the best of them – but there is a sense that many of the changes are superficial, and you don’t have to go very far from the centre of town before you notice the shabby and threadbare corners, the boarded-up shop-fronts. All in all, I find it a fascinating place – but then, I’m biased. I love it.”
It was better out in the suburbs, and it was mostly all suburbs, but the town was a heart-attack of concrete and chrome. Old streets, high and narrow, arteries that had thickened and gnarled so the traffic trickled or didn’t move at all. The light a frozen glare shot with greens and reds, blinking pink neon, fluorescent blues. Boom-boom blasting from rolled-down windows, the deep bass pulsing out muscles of sound.For the interview in its entirety, clickety-click here ...
On a bad night it took fifteen minutes to crawl the two hundred yards along Castle Street into Grafton Street. The mob shuffling out of the chippers wore hoodies over baggy denims, the dragging hems frayed. Night of the Living McDead. The girls in cropped tops over bulging bellies with hipster jeans showcasing cheese-cutter thongs. In case someone might think they weren’t wearing any underwear at all, maybe.
I skipped O’Connell Street, heading east along John Street, turning north down Adelaide and then west at the new bridge onto Lynn’s Dock, a grapefruit moon hanging low above the quays. Finn playing The Northern Pikes, Place That’s Insane. On along Ballast Quay to the docks proper, a spit of land jutting out into the sea, maybe forty acres of crumbling warehouse facing open water. Behind the warehouses lay a marshy jungle of weeds. Once in a while there was talk of turning it into a nature preserve, a bird sanctuary, but no one ever did anything about it. The birds came and went anyway.
Down at the breakwater the Port Authority building was nine stories of black concrete, a finger flipping the bird to the town. Sligo’s Ozymandias, our monument to hubris, built back in the ’60s when Lemass had all boats on a rising tide and the docks were buzzing, a North Atlantic entry point for Polish coal, Norwegian pine, Jamaican sugar, Australian wool. Oil tankers moored down at the deepwater. Russians slipped ashore and never went to sea again. The first African, a Nigerian, was a celebrity. They called him Paddy Dubh and he never had to pay when he bought a pint of stout.
Then the ’70s slithered in. Crude oil went through the roof. The coal stopped coming, then the sugar. The channel silted up. Paddy had to buy his own stout. Things got so bad the Industrial Development Authority had to buy the PA building and then lease back two of the nine stories to the Port Authority. Even that was a farce, the IDA loaning the PA the money to pay the lease.
Then the ’80s, a good decade to be a weed or a rat. Everyone forgot about the docks, or tried to …”