Dave Lyons pictured outside the Late and Early store on Davitt’s Terrace, Castlebar.

Supermarkets sounded death knell for corner shops

By Tom Gillespie

OUR younger generation have grown up with superstores, the likes of Dunnes, Tesco, Aldi, SuperValu and Lidl, where shopping is impersonal and advertising driven.

But when I was their age the corner shop was an integral part of every community.

Most streets had a selection of family-run outlets where groceries and the local and daily papers were purchased.

Most households paid their bill either weekly or monthly and each family had a credit book into which the transactions were recored and marked off when settlement was reached.

There would not have been the selection of groceries that are on the shelves today, just the basic requirements that households required.

The Gillespie family resided at Marian Row in Castlebar and over the years there were several different small shops in the vicinity.

My earlier memories were Brett’s, where there was a step down on the footpath, and Hoban’s in Newtown. Hamrock’s was also close by, as was Horkan’s, and on Chapel Street was Mrs. Carney’s where we bought slab toffee.

Brian Hoban’s was the larger of the shops and they sold the daily and local newspapers. Proprietor Brian opened early to accommodate those coming from early morning Mass.

On Gallows Hill and close to St. Patrick’s Boys National School were Nolan’s and Kathleen Brady’s, where her brother Martin sometimes worked. On the corner of Chapel and Tucker streets was Tom Twigs and, of course, the much-loved Lilly McDonald’s and McNiff’s.

On Linenhall Street I remember Sloyan’s, Mrs. Healy’s and Jack Leonard's, opposite the Town Hall, Hoban’s and McNeela’s.

On the Newport Road was Mrs. Neary’s (mother of Archbishop Michael Neary) and further out was McGoff's.

There was also a shop at Moran’s bakery, opposite the present St. Gerald’s College.

On Market Square was Buzzard Munnelly’s. He had a bike shop but at Christmas he had a fairyland of toys on display, and just above it was Leonard’s shop.

On Ellison Street at the top of Castle Street was Peter Dever’s and I recall when I was a messenger boy working for the Kelly sisters, who ran a drapery shop on Main Street (now an e-cigarette shop), I would have to go to Dever’s to purchase freshly ground coffee once a fortnight. I can still smell the aroma as the beans were ground in a large, noisy grinder.

Another task as a messenger boy was to cycle to Gavin’s Bakery on the top of Knockthomas twice a week to purchase a small pan loaf which had to have the crust black, achieved by putting the loaf back into the oven for an extra few minutes.

On a Sunday morning I had to sweep the street outside the shop and bring in turf, for which I got an extra one shilling and six pence - just the cost of the matinee in the County Cinema on Spencer Street, with enough left to visit May Leonard’s or Shane Rodgers' shops to stock up on gobstoppers and slab toffee to chew and share with friends during the film.

At the pig market was Castlebar’s first supermarket, run by Charlie Garavan, which also had a bar on the Lucan Street side, and next door was Doyle’s pub and shop.

On Castle Street was McDonald’s and the legendary Mai Leonard, Byrne’s and Stewards further up who had the best ice cream cone machine in he town. And there was Christy Hoban’s and Phil Keavney in later years.

The sale of ice cream was seasonal and if you had the six pennies the first cone was available from St. Patrick’s Day.

On the Mall was Nellie Hanley’s, next to the Convent of Mercy and St. Angela’s National School and St. Joseph’s Secondary School.

On Ellison Street we had Brady’s, next to the old post office, and Cis Condon’s where Durcan Solicitors used to be.

On Main Street were Condon’s, on the bridge, Connolly’s, the Solarium, McDonald’s, Murtagh’s, the two Wynnes, Richard (in business for 147 years before closing) and Gussie, and McEllin’s, where our family had an account.

I was often sent there for groceries and on one occasion I was given a list to get certain items. But en route from Marian Row the list vanished. So I went to the shop and ordered what I thought was required at home.

Unfortunately, my choice was way off the mark and we were eating bananas for a week.

I spent a lot of time on New Antrim Street where my grandparents Willie and Sara Fahey lived and ran a blacksmith's forge. Next door to them was Hayes’ shop and across the road Tommy Lawless and his daughter Sadie, where you could buy anything from a needle to an anchor.

Also on the street was Lavelle’s and there was also a grocery section in Johnny McHale’s pub.

Still trading on Spencer Street is Rodgers’ (Gavin’s) and long closed are Nora Lyons, Golden’s and Horkan’s.

At the top of McHale Road was Clarke’s and Murray’s (now MacAuliffe's) and on McHale Road, Kevin O’Malley.

At Springfield you had Frank and Mary Quinn, who also had a travelling shop, and Freddie Kelly close to the Fairgreen and Tommy Cullen’s where Scriney’s now trade.

On the Old Westport Road was the TF shop, which served the county hospital, and close by was Griffin’s. Delia Garvey’s was on Lucan Street and Hughes' and Mary Neary on Staball. In later years the Lyons’ brothers, Joe and David, had their Late and Early store on Davitt’s Terrace (pictured).

I am sure there are many shops I have not mentioned but those mentioned above are the ones I best remember.

* Read Tom Gillespie's County Town column in our print edition every Tuesday