Now technically Michael Quirke’s shop isn’t just a shop, Michael is a craftsman, artist and gentleman. He makes his wonderful woodcarvings from his shop and I went in to find out more about him.
Michael showed me this photo of his father which was taken in 1928 in the shop that is now Clarke’s Butchers in Wine Street Sligo (across the road from Michael’s shop). His dad was born in 1898 in Mallow and moved to Longford to escape the Civil War and from there moved to Sligo. He built his own butcher’s shop in 1930 (the shop that now belongs to Michael). He smoked all his life and died when he was 90 years old.
Michael went to school at Summerhill here in Sligo. It’s a boys’ school and there were 45 boys in Michael’s class. He was telling me he wasn’t academic at all, mainly because he knew he was going to be a butcher and take after his dad. Twenty three of the boys in his class went into the priesthood, that’s over half the class!
When Michael was 28 he started making 3D figures. He had no interest in drawing so he stuck to making figures from clay and plasticine and moved on to wood. For years he carved his figures and was still a butcher. On the 23rd of May, 1988 (he thinks it was a Tuesday), Michael decided not to order any more meat and gave up the butchering to be a full-time woodcarver. Some of his customers thought he was mad! All these years later he’s still there.
Michael is a real pleasure to talk to. He’s a wonderful storyteller and a great ambassador for Sligo. He also has a brilliant sense of humour, I love the sign he uses when he goes for lunch. He welcomes visitors to his shop so if you are in Sligo do pop in and say hello. You’ll be glad you did.