Like most rural Irish towns, Manorhamilton is seeing considerable social and physical change. Farming is still a dominant sector yet traditional industries and livelihoods are being replaced by new forms of economic activity. There has been a growth in the services available and the recent enabling of broadband in the town will hopefully plug business into the emerging knowledge economy. Construction in the area is undergoing a boom time with hundreds of new homes having been built in recent years when previously there was almost no building development in the town of any sort.
Scene: O'Donnell's Rock
Date: circa 1950
10' x 8' printed on quality photo paper
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Read about Manorhamilton below
Manorhamilton (Irish: Cluainín Uí Ruairc) is a small town in County Leitrim, Ireland. It is located on the N16 to the north of the county. The name is a great example of history contained in town names. The Irish name means 'O'Rourke's small meadow' as opposed to English language reference to Hamilton, the Scottish Planter's, manor house (Castle). O'Rourke was the local Gaelic chieftain based in nearby Dromahaire whose land was seized by the English and then granted to Hamilton for his services in the European wars of the 17th century.
Manorhamilton is located 27km from the town of Sligo, county town of neighbouring Co. Sligo. Many of its inhabitants work in this larger centre and this role as a dormitory town has seen considerable housing and some associated retail development in recent years, supported by government tax incentives, such as Sligo's designation as a Gateway City. Manorhamilton was - until recently - headquarters of the regional North Western Health Board [NWHB]. The NWHB has now been merged into the national Health Service Executive [HSE], and there is uncertainty as to the future role of the former NWHB HQ. It may be fortunate that the new head of the HSE, Dr Brendan Drumm, grew up in Manorhamilton where his parents were instrumental in founding the local secondary school.
In nearby Rossinver, on the border with Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, is the Organic Centre. This Centre, founded in 1996, is a key location for the development of organic food production in Ireland, and offers courses to the public, as well as disseminating information on organic farming and gardening. It could be seen as the main tourist attraction for this area of the Republic.
Manorhamilton is also home to the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. This is an arts centre that, as its name suggests, is particularly focused on sculpture. It offers facilities for artists to carry out technical work related to sculpture (e.g. bronze casting and stone working) as well as providing more general support for the broad variety of visual artists that live in the vicinity - many of these having moved from elsewhere in the world. The Glens Centre, which focuses on a range of activities from drama to community development, is a fine complement to the sculpture centre, as is the Bee Park Community Centre, home to numerous community-based groups and the weekly Farmers' Market. Finally the Green Box tourism initiative -located in a stone building next to the Hamilton Castle - is attempting to develop eco-tourism in the broader region. The Hamilton Castle itself though is under-utilised, with its gates locked and sparse information. The adjacent square, which was donated to the council, languished for many years as a council depot before being slowly turned into a public square. Their attempt at making the square welcoming can be seen with one piece of sculpture, sourced from the local Leitrim Sculpture Centre. Many hoped that the aforementioned Farmers' Market would inject some life into this square, returning it to its former use, but clearly such ideas were not on the cards.
Like most rural Irish towns, Manorhamilton is seeing considerable social and physical change. Farming is still a dominant sector yet traditional industries and livelihoods are being replaced by new forms of economic activity. There has been a growth in the services available and the recent enabling of broadband in the town will hopefully plug business into the emerging knowledge economy. Construction in the area is undergoing a boom time with hundreds of new homes having been built in recent years when previously there was almost no building development in the town of any sort. Nevertheless Manorhamilton can be seen to be lacking many services to cater for its rising population. For example, bus services are largely not for the town itself, but involve the passing bus for Enniskillen, the county town of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, in the United Kingdom. Those at school, college or work in Sligo, or who choose to visit the town in the evening, will find it hard to return unless they themselves drive. Campaignsfor the national bus carrier, Bus Eireann, to provide a convenient hourly service to Sligo seem to have been ignored, as it seems easier inconvenience a small number than make a large number do something about it. The bus fare continues to rise yearly, now over €6 for a day return.
A noticeable change in the demographics has been the huge influx of migrant workers especially from Eastern European countries and Asia. They find work mostly in the construction, manufacturing and service industries. This is in welcome contrast to the mass emigration of young Irish people from the area to the U.S. and England, which continued for generations, right into the nineties. Thankfully there are better educational and work prospects in Ireland today. However due to the small and remote, and largely inbred nature of the population in North Leitrim there is a limited range of quality employment openings and business opportunities available. The vast majority of those who receive a third-level education still have to find work outside the region. Although many may not settle again in Leitrim, travelling and seeing the world is nowadays more of a choice - not the enforced exile of the past. Though for those who reside in Manorhamilton, it is indeed recommended.
There are many sporting organisations and activities available for people to engage in. The principal sporting and cultural organisation in the area is the Glencar Manorhamilton (Gleann an Chairthe Cluainín), the local Gaelic Football Club.