The Sligo Literary and Polytechnic Institute (co-ordinates 54.2696 -8.4745) was established in October 1860, acquiring the former Congregational or Independent Chapel which was built in 1791 in West Gardens (formerly Waste Garden Lane or Back Lane) as a meeting place.
Membership of The Polytechnic Institute was open to anyone, regardless of their creed or class, meeting regularly for a number of activities such as lectures, discussions and classes with the intention of to keep in “free from sectarian or party principles”.
One year later in October 1861 a full programme of lectures were announced covering subjects such as astronomy, commerce and economics. Admission prices for a single lecture was 6d or 1/6d for a series of lectures.
At a meeting of the Institute in September 1862, the following resolution was adopted “That members of the Sligo Literary and Polytechnic Institute, feeling the benefit to be derived from a good knowledge of ancient and modern history, do resolve to form themselves into a class for the purpose of acquiring such knowledge; and that the class be held every alternate Wednesday evening, in place of the recitation class now done away with, such class to be called The Polytechnic Historical Debating Class.”
The Institute had its own library with 1,000 volumes, donated mainly by members and supporters, these included a variety of periodicals and magazines, local and national newspapers.
The third annual Soiree took place in October 1864, attracting 300 people and presided over by Francis MacDonagh accompanied on the platform by The Mayor of Sligo, Charles Sedley, Alderman H. Lyons, R. Hunter and T. H. Williams.
During the Soiree the Mayor, addressing the audience said he “regretted that the institute was not as well supported by the young men of Sligo as it deserved to be”, The Treasurers Report revealed a credit balance of £9 12s 9d on the years activities. Subscriptions amounted to £28 13s 0d, and miscellaneous receipts, mostly from renting’s of the premises totalled £35 1s 0d. The principal outgoings were £15 5s 0d for newspapers and periodicals and £13 3s 6d for heating and light.
The Sligo Literary and Polytechnic Institute ceased to function by the end of 1864 after being in existence for a mere four years, nd whilst its closure was attributed in some quarters to financial difficulties, the main reason for the institutes demise seems to have been for ts failure to gain the confidence and trust of all creeds. Catholic‘s mistrusted the motives of the promoters who were not of their faith, and were reluctant to be associated with a premises which had long been a protestant place of worship.
Their apprehensions were well founded when regular gospel readings were organised under the auspices of the Institute, there were also allegations over the few years of the Institutes existence of sectarian overtones. “The Sligo Champion” referring to “The Hall” as “a refuge for non descript biblical rantings from the likes of Ned Nagle (1799-1883 founder of the Achill Mission and Rector of Screen 1852-1873) and others of his kin”.
Members of the Institute were often referred to as ‘Polys’ and the meeting place as ‘The Poly Hall’ or ‘The Hall’
‘The Hall’, the building used by The Sligo Literary and Polytechnic Institute would more recently be remembered by most people in Sligo Town as the former headquarters of the FCA.