History of Oyster production at Lissadell, Sligo
Lissadell, birthplace of Irish revolutionary Constance Markievicz, daughter of Sir Robert Gore-Booth, is renowned also as the source of Lissadell Oysters, which had an established reputation in London restaurants in the mid-ninteenth century. The Lissadell Oyster Fishery dates back to the 1860s when the Gore-Booth family established an extensive sub tidal oyster bed, growing native oysters (Ostrea Edulis) in the pristine Atlantic waters of Drumcliffe Bay.The quality of the oysters was excellent, and they became a big favourite of the top London restaurants who anxiously awaited the regular sailings of the specially adapted well boats bearing the gourmet oysters from Lissadell. The fishery fell into decline in the 1930s but in 1986 Gigas oysters were introduced to the bay by the current producers. The cultivation of quality oysters has continued to the present day, and the delicious and distinctive flavour of these oysters is now experienced by a worldwide clientele. Through careful management of the production cycle, the current producers ensure the sustainability of this valuable resource.
History of Oyster production in Sligo Inner Bay
Sligo takes its name from the Gaelic word Sligeach meaning “Shelly River”, a reference to the abundance of sea shells found in the bed, and along the banks, of the Garavogue river as it meets the sea in the 7 km long estuary to Oyster Island. Along this stretch of water were rich beds of flat, or native, oysters harvested over generations until finally the stocks were depleted in the early years of the twentieth century. Today the remains of purpose-built watch huts are still in evidence all along these shores, pointing to the efforts of the licensed operators to protect their valuable stocks of oyster.
The southern shore of the estuary gives way to a vast expanse of flat sandy beach, referred to by W.B. Yeats in his poem Red Hanrahan’s Song about Ireland: “The old brown thorn-trees break in two high over Cummeen Strand,…”
Today, Cummeen Strand, towered over by the majestic Knocknarea, is the location for the continuation of the oyster tradition in Sligo, this time with the cultivation of Gigas oyster by Coney Island Shellfish Ltd. As a locally-owned company, Coney Island Shellfish is acutely aware of the historic links to the flourishing oyster trade, and places great importance on the sustainable management of this valuable resource for future generations.