Abbey Street Businesses recalled with James Reddiough

 In History

The recent passing of Andy Forde prompted the scribe to reflect on the commercial life of Abbey Street in bygone decades.  Andy of course had a lovely grocer shop and deli in the centre of the street and it was always full.  He would always be dressed in the white coat and blue apron and he sold a variety of goods – he was a friendly lovely man and may his gentle soul rest in peace.

There were older shops then you had Cathal Gilmartin who had a pub and shop and a Volkswagen van on the road as a travelling shop for the rural districts – the country women used to sell their eggs to him and then use the money to buy the groceries.  Maggie Finlan had a merchant business and pub also with the old -fashioned snug at the back and the yard too where people from the country could leave their bikes and ass carts whilst they shopped in the town.

Maggie used to weigh the tea, sugar and cut the butter and parcel all the items – these were the days before there were pre packed goods.  Also she sold items for the farmers like hay forks and rakes and balls of twining for tying the hay cocks among other agricultural items.  Tuffys and Finlans were similar to this. 

Annie Lynch and Mrs Lavelle had lovely sweet shops that were very popular with children then you had Jimmy Ralph’s at the top of Abbey Street and there was Nina Roaches and Mrs. Culkins in a later era for sweets and food stuffs.  Mulherins had the Social Bar and there was Tuffy’s shop and bar where Katie‘s Corner is today.  All of these places would be full to the door when the fair was on in Ardnaree especially during the 1940’s and 1950’s.   Smith’s bar was where Breatnnach’s is today.

Bill Kearney had a bicycle shop that did a thriving business and he ran a hackney service too as did Jack Murray from Attymass in later years.  Nearby there was Barry’s bar and beside this or a little further up was the oldest merchant’s business on the street Hannicks.  At the bottom of the street near the Bridge there was Arthur West’s Hardware shop and on the same side of the road there was Conlon’s Undertakers.  Wests did a good trade and you could buy everything there for builders and the household.  Fox’s pub was on the corner across the road from Wests’ in a later decade. You also had Murrays and Treacys hairdresser’s shops around the Brook area.

Then there was Eileen Molloy’s grocer shop nearby the brook.  This was a room in the corner of the house where she sold foodstuffs and the place was always full – she was especially popular with the country people who came in from the Behy and Breaffy areas and the Attymass and Bonnioconlon areas.  They would come – some of them- to collect their pensions and other payments in the Post Office in Ardnaree and then they would spend part of their money in Eileen’s and other shops on Abbey Street including Andy’s.

So Andy has passed on RIP, but the place where he worked and the way of life that he represented is not forgotten.  This was the era when shopkeepers knew many people by name and they spoke with each other when people would take the time to chat outside the shops the familiar expression, “I am going to Ardnaree to pull out” comes from the yard in Finlans where they used to have their bikes and carts.  It was a more relaxed, colourful time before the onset of modernisation and the businesses of today on Abbey Street are part of that older, former tradition.

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