The entire county of Sligo seems to be a magnet for people from just about everywhere with a passion for food and the drive to make something special happen. Something very special indeed is happening down Skreen way on a Saturday, and Marguerite Quinlan has had more than a little to do with it. She was a founder member of Beltra Country Market, a delightful gem in a wonderful old hall which no weekend visitor to the area should miss.

A native of north Cork, between Mallow and Kanturk, Marguerite has been in Sligo about ten years having moved here with her Kilkenny born husband David and their children. She considers herself fortunate in choosing the Skreen area to live in, where she found like minded people and a big welcome.  Her nursing background isn’t a natural precursor to setting up a country market – so how did it happen?

“It came out of a coffee morning group”, explains Marguerite slightly obscurely, “A group of us used to meet socially in each other’s homes. A few of us had poly tunnels and the talk turned to what could be done with a glut of fruit or vegetables. After tossing a few options around, a market seemed to be the obvious step”.

And so it proved. They liked the Country Market co-operative model, held a meeting where a huge crowd turned out and over 20 people signed up – and a market was born. It’s been going from strength to strength ever since. Marguerite began as Vice-Chair, served in the Chair and is now a regular producer still helping out where she can.

From the beginning they had high aspirations for the fledgling venture. “We wanted it to be much more than just a market”, says Marguerite, “We really wanted it to be a place for social interaction and networking. A local place for people to get a cup of coffee and have a chat”. The small kitchen in the lovely old hall which was once the local dancehall and theatre, has now been converted to a teashop. It attracts many regulars including the older generation who enjoy the atmosphere. They use the proceeds to fund their regular workshops held in the market where all sorts of skills are shared from stone painting for children to international mornings with Sligo Global Kitchen. The latter were hugely popular, introducing international cuisine and an opportunity to meet refugees and people in direct provision, and to share in their culture.

When she’s not cooking delicious savouries for the Market or juggling her busy family life, you might find Marguerite strumming a ukulele! Travellers on the special Sligo Food Trail Chew Chew Train would have heard her in action with her friend Mary. Their rendition of the original ditty “Beltra Market on a Saturday Morning” is sure to end up a classic!

Visit Beltra Market

Radio Interview

Listen in to Marguerite interview with Claire Ronan on Up & Running Business Show recorded on the train.