The Secret Scripture walking tour

Book a ticket for the guided Secret Scripture walking tour and discover Sligo town at the turn of the 20th century, from the perspective of one Sligo family, follow in their footsteps and see where they lived, worked and played. The Sligo secret scripture trail, is a local history and literary tour based around Sligo town. The award winning author Sebastian Barry, set his novels in Sligo town and wrote about his family who resided in Sligo at the time. This tour will take you through the streets of Sligo where the characters walked, combining the books and social history of Sligo.

Organiser: Melcoo Tours

Email: melcooireland at gmail dot com or info at melcoo dot com

Walking tour Sligo
Book a local history and literary tour of Sligo

 

Self-guided App Tours

You can also download an app I have created for the Secret Scripture tour.  The walking tour app is available on iOS and Android

Instructions:

Go to the Apple or Play store and search for Guidigo, download this free app, then search for Sligo Secret Scripture trail and sign in with a gmail, facebook or email account.

The app, guides you around several locations, the majority of which, can be reached on foot, the locations further out from the town, have been placed towards the end of the tour. We have suggested an order to explore the places but feel free to take the tour at your own pace, in whatever order suits you best. The map suggests a route of numbered stops but where you start and stop is entirely up to you. Instructions and directions are provided and you can check the map at any time, during the tour.

The tour is based around the books of author Sebastian Barry who set his novels, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman in Sligo.

Book the Sligo Secret Scripture Walking Tour

Guided Walking Tour – Sligo Secret Scripture

The Sligo Secret Scripture Trail, is a literary & local history tour based around Sligo town and county.  The tour takes a snapshot of Sligo in the 1920’s and 1930’s from the viewpoint of one semi-fictional family, who lived and worked in the town.  The award winning author Sebastian Barry, set his novels in Sligo town and wrote about his family who resided in Sligo at the time.  This tour will take you through the streets of Sligo where the characters walked, giving you a sense of the local history and architectural heritage of the locations during this time

Click on the contact form on the blog or send a mail to melcooireland (at) gmail dot com to book private group tours.

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The Secret Scripture trail is also available to download as an app from Guidigo.

Walking Tour App available on iOS and Android

Go to the Apple or Play store and search for Guidigo, download this free app, then search for Sligo Secret Scripture trail and sign in with gmail, facebook or email and download the tour to your smartphone.

The app, guides you around several locations, the majority of which, can be reached on foot, the locations further out from the town, have been placed towards the end of the tour. We have suggested an order to explore the places but feel free to take the tour at your own pace, in whatever order suits you best. The map suggests a route of numbered stops but where you start and stop is entirely up to you. Instructions and directions are provided and you can check the map at any time, during the tour.

The tour is loosely based around the books of author Sebastian Barry who set his novels, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman in Sligo. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the tour and no major spoilers are revealed, as the tour combines the books, social history, fashion and architectural heritage, to paint a picture of Sligo in the 1930’s.

Sebastian Barry Literary Trail – Café Cairo

Are you a fan of the Secret Scripture ?  this café is referenced throughout all three books and provides the backdrop to many scenes from the books.  As a child Eneas’s mother brings him here for tea as they sheltered from the rain in The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, “usually they would not go into such a place, out of respect for the expense of bought tea..” after visiting the Cathedral.

The Café Cairo did exist in Sligo town, it opened for business on 13th January 1911, an announcement in the Sligo Champion newspaper at the time, declared that the owner a Miss Murtagh “begs to state that she will undertake to cater for all dinner, supper and luncheon parties” and as in the book it was located on Wine Street in Sligo town.

The original Egyptian themed café changed owners over the years and expanded to include a delicatessen and grocery section, it closed in the late 1970’s, it was located in the building on Wine street, now occupied by Cara Pharmacy.

Download the Sligo Secret Scripture Walking Tour

Sligo Walking tour

In The Secret Scripture, Rose Clear works here as a waitress and it is where she becomes acquainted with the McNulty brothers.  “The café served everyone in Sligo without criticism.  It was owned by a Quaker family, and we were told to run no one from the doors.”  Rose in her old age remembers her time working in the café fondly, serving the dames of Sligo, the lonely pensioners and Tom and his brother Jack,  “China tea and a deadfly bun.  Earl Grey for the brother.”

Then: Café Cairo circa 1930’s

Cafe Cairo 1930s
Source: Tom Harte Family Copyright – Owner of Café Cairo in the 1930’s

The café was well established in Sligo by the 1930’s and sponsored sporting events in the town.  In the café, an orchestra played daily to entertain customers and in The Secret Scripture, Rose played the piano in Tom McNulty Senior’s Orchestra in the dance hall at Strandhill.

An advertisement from the Café Cairo in the 1930’s, when Tom Harte owned and ran it.

Menu Café Cairo in the 1930's

 

Then: Nuns from Nazareth Order, walking on Wine street outside the Café Cairo in 1959

Cafe Cairo 1950s Sligo
Source: Jim Eccles Photography Copyright

Notice the Egyptian decorative motifs running along the side of the building front.

Now:  Former buildings of Café Cairo on Wine Street, today it is a pharmacy business.

Original site of Cafe Cairo Sligo melcoo

The windows and shop front remain largely the same and the shop sign attached to the building, is in the same spot as the original sign for the café in the 1950’s.

Original building of Cafe Cairo

A fire engine outside the Café Cairo in 1959, a small fire had broken out in the building but it continued to trade for another 20 years.

Cafe Cairo 1960s
Source: The Sligo Champion

This old postcard from the Francis Frith collection in 1960, shows the inside of the café serving cakes and selling groceries and cooked meats at its delicatessen counter.


In The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry uses the Egyptian theme in the café, to describe the ladies, the dames of Sligo, chatting and gossiping, “rising from them like dust from a desert caravan of camels” and in The Temporary Gentleman, Mai is one of the fashionable ladies of Sligo,  drinking tea in the Café Cairo, “arranged among the tables like the fabulous beasts of some impossible watering hole”.

Barry creates a wonderful picture of the exotic sounding cafe in his novels, the café operated for nearly 70 years in Sligo town, it closed before I was born, although I remember my mother mentioning it.

In the Secret Scripture movie released in 2017, the main character Rose, played by the actress Rooney Mara, works in a cafe referenced in the movie as the less impressive sounding Prunty’s.  This is an ode to the character in the books who owned the cafe, Rose in the books refers to the Quaker owner as Mrs Prunty.  Let us know in the comments section, if you ever visited the Café Cairo in Sligo ?

Check out other locations that inspired Sebastian Barry’s novels here.

Also, available on Android and iPhone, download the Guidigo App from the Play or Apple store and search for Sligo Secret Scripture.

You can also check out the guided tour here.

This blog post was first published in 2015 and updated in 2017.

Featured Image Source: Brown Betty tea room – Shorter College, c.1920

Literary Trail – Sebastian Barry – 2nd Location

Literary Trail based on the novels – The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman.

Welcome back, the next point of interest on the Sebastian Barry Literary trail, is located only a short walk from the main street in Sligo Town.  (You can click here to view the 1st point on the Literary trail.)

2. The Lungey House

The second location is only a 2 minute walk from our first point of interest on John Street, it is a street with an usual name called The Lungy.  There was an old 17th century house on this street, on the site now occupied by a 3 storey apartment block called Cathedral View.  According to The Lungy House website and The Streets of Sligo book by Fiona Gallagher,  Lungy House did exist and lay in ruins for many years on The Lungy Street, which is at the top of Charles Street, the street next to where Sebastian Barry’s family had there first ancestral home.   The original Lungy House was demolished completely in the 1980’s, this is most likely the house that the McNulty family refer to, although in the books, it is spelt as the Lungey House.

Sligo Town 19th Century
The original Lungy House in the centre of this photo and Sligo Town, source National Library of Ireland

Tom McNulty senior, tells Eneas about how there are descended from a noble family, who once lived in The Lungey House and were butter exporters.  The Lungey House is described as been in ruins at end of the yard, as Tom talks to  a young five year old Eneas about it “an old jumble of walls and gaps, with brickwork about the empty windows..

The Lungey Street
The Lungy Street, entrance to the Peace Park in Sligo Town.

In the opening pages of the book, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty,  there  is a reference to the Lungey House which is now home to black rooks that inhabit the ruins and fly over the nearby Presbyterian graves.  The Sligo Presbyterian Church is located on the corner of Church Street, right on the intersection of Charles Street and The Lungy Street and St John’s Cathedral, graveyard is behind Charles Street.

Church Lane, Sligo town

The Lungy street, sligo

Later on in the book, The Secret Scripture, Roseanne recalls Tom Junior telling her, how his family were originally butter importers or exporters, she can’t quite recall.    Also, in The Temporary Gentleman, Jack McNulty recounts the same family history, his father told him, “…we had once been butter exporters in Sligo and had lived in a mansion called the Lungey House, just around the corner from our quarters on John Street. This old place was by then a charmless and festering ruin.”

19th century house Sligo
The Lungy Glebe House Sligo circa late 19th Century

There is another old large 19th century period house still standing on The Lungy Street, located on the corner of Church Lane and The Lungy, behind a large stone boundary wall, which dates back to 1840’s, it is a detached four-bay by two-bay, two-storey stone house, which was a former Glebe house for the clergy, this is not the original Lungey House, that is referred to in the book, but it is similar in stature, to the one, which Tom is referring to as he talks to young Eneas.

Glebe house, at The Lungy, 19th Century
Former Glebe House, today the home of the Sligo Social Services

This former Glebe house is now the home of the Sligo Social Services, it is a beautiful old  19th century building and if you have a interest in architectural heritage, it is worth viewing, you can walk through the stone wall archway on The Lungy Street and into the Peace Park, to view the building from the outside. The Peace park itself, may also have possibly inspired Sebastian Barry, as there is reference to a People’s park in the books, which was said to have been named after a priest called Father Moran.  The Peace park, was built in the last 40 years, after the land was donated to the Sligo people by the then Bishop of Elphin.

Literary Trail – Sebastian Barry – 1st Location



Literary Trail for Sebastian Barry’s trilogy – The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman

This first location in our Sebastian Barry Literary trail, is within a short walking distance of the main thoroughfare in Sligo town, called O’Connell Street.

1. John Street – The McNulty family home was set on John Street and the opening line of the book “The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty”, gives the location of the family home located on John Street, “In the middle of the lonesome town, at the back of John Street, in the third house from the end…” Later, Eneas describes his house “as thin and narrow on John Street.”  Although I would hazard a guess, that Sebastian Barry, could also have been describing the street adjacent to John Street, which would be Charles Street, although this street is not referenced in the book, it is beside the original Lungey House and St John’s graveyard would be located behind this street.

Charles street in Sligo town
Charles street looking up from the direction of John Street Sligo

John Street is located at the bottom of O’Connell Street, it is just 300 metres walk from the Tourist Office, which is located at the top of O’Connell Street, so walk to the opposite end of the street and take a right and you are on John Street. Charles Street is located off John Street, the first left as you come from the direction of O’Connell Street.  Charles Street is on a hill with rows of narrow houses on either side of the street.

John Street’s distinct red bricked window terraced houses.
John Street in Sligo town
John Street

Click here to view the next point of interest on the Sligo Secret Scripture trail.

In the footsteps of Eneas McNulty



Are you a fan of Sebastian Barry’s fictional trilogy about the McNulty family, Eneas, Roseanne, Jack and Mai ? Experience Sligo from the characters’ perspective.  Check out the melcoo literary trail to follow in the footsteps of your favourite characters.

Over the  next few weeks, we will be posting a walking tour series about the streets and buildings in Sligo that helped inspire the novels.  Sebastian Barry’s novels have become a huge success. The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, The Secret Scripture and The Temporary Gentleman have sold millions of copies worldwide and The Secret Scripture is currently been made into a feature film. Sebastian Barry’s play Our Lady of Sligo also referenced places in Sligo.

Sebastian Barry fans can make their way around Sligo to see the locations where the novels are set or book a guided tour with us.

All of the locations are within a short walking distance of the main thoroughfare in Sligo town, called O’Connell street.

Check out the first location on the Literary trail here

 

Featured Image source: National Library of Ireland

My favourite author Sebastian Barry

I’m a big fan of the author Sebastian Barry, I’ve read nearly all of his books, although he started out his career as a playwright, in the last few years he has become more well known as an author.  I really like the McNulty family series, he has written about.  Barry has written several books so far based on the semi-fictional McNulty family who lived in Sligo, in the north west of Ireland in the early twentieth century.

These include the first book called The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, which was published in 1998.  Then came The Secret Scripture published in 2008 and The Temporary Gentleman in 2014 and Days without End published in 2016.

The first book follows the story of the books title character, Eneas McNulty, a former Royal Irish Constabulary police officer, who is exiled from Ireland.  The second book is narrated by Roseanne Clear who marries into the McNulty family, which was to be her undoing and the third book follows Jack McNulty, a soldier and engineer in the British Army, Jack is a brother of Eneas and brother-in-law of Roseanne.  As all of the characters are related, they are mentioned in the three books and some events are re-told from the main character’s point of view, which like in real life can vary the narrative.  These books were loosely based on his Mother’s side of the family from Sligo.

In 2016, Barry released his latest book, Days without End which follows the character of Thomas McNulty, who hailed from Sligo and was an ancestor of the author, McNulty emigrated to America in the late 1840’s to escape the Famine and enlists in the army and takes part in both the Indian Wars and the American Civil War.  This Thomas McNulty was referenced in the other books as the McNulty family in John street had an old tintype photo of a great uncle in a US army uniform.

I especially like these books, as I’m originally from Sligo but due to work have had to move to Dublin and I love the lovely poetic descriptions of my hometown, also I can relate to one of the themes running through the books, about longing for home.


I have also read his books based on the Dunne family, these books are loosely based on his family from his Father’s side of the family, who lived in Dublin and Wicklow.  They include Annie Dunne published in 2002, Annie lives with her Cousin Sarah in Wicklow and is looking after two young relatives for the Summer.

A Long Long Way is set during World War 1 and follows a soldier from Dublin, Willie Dunne, it was published in 2005 and my favourite on that trilogy is On Canaan’s Side.  It follows Lily Bere, the sister of the character Willie Dunne from A Long Long Way, as she flees Ireland with her boyfriend and settles in America, it follows her story from 1920’s Ireland to 1980’s America.

On Canaan's Side
On Canaan’s Side by Author Sebastian Barry, published in 2012 by Faber and Faber, is the third book based on the Dunne Family

 

I think that’s another reason why I enjoy Barry’s books,  as they offer social history of the twentieth century. Sebastian Barry’s book, The Secret Scripture was made into a film by director Jim Sheridan and released in 2017.



Blog first published in 2014 and updated in 2017

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