fig. 1

The Sligo chair is an old Irish form of three-legged chair. Though three-legged chairs are not themselves that unusual in either vernacular or more cosmopolitan traditions of design and construction, the Sligo chair both has some distinguishing characteristics, and a somewhat iconic status within Irish culture.

The drawing on the left [fig.1] is of a chair in the collection of the National Museum of Country Life at Turlough Park; the one on the right is taken from an illustration in Irish Country Furniture 1700-1950 (Kinmonth, 1993), which is in turn taken from a book of 1841. To address its iconic meaning: the Celtic Revival of the late nineteenth century was the movement within the arts that accompanied the political need for an individual Irish identity. It drew on traditions of Celtic literature, music and art as distinct from those of English culture. The poet William Butler Yeats was central to this movement—his early work seems 'fragrant with turf smoke.' In the early twentieth century Yeats acquired a medieval castle, Thor Ballylee in County Galway, which he restored and furnished with reproductions of vernacular furniture including a number of Sligo chairs. He wrote:

[I dreamt] of making a house that may encourage people to avoid ugly manufactured things—an ideal poor man's house. Except a very few things imported as models we should get all made in Galway or Limerick. I am told that our neighbours are pleased that we are not getting 'grand things but old Irish furniture.'
The Sligo chair continues in small scale production by Corrib Crafts in Tuam, County Galway.