Above: Sovereign Street is Pearse Street today
Donie O’Sullivan, age 78, remembers a different Clonakilty, as he walks through the town with Mary O’Brien.
A carpenter by trade, in the old days Donie used to make wheels for horse carts. His father and grandfather before him were also carpenters. Part 1.
Donie starts his stroll down memory lane on Strand Road and Faxbridge where his gran aunt ran a small huxter shop, continuing on up as far as Western Road. Every second house in the town back then was some kind of a huxter shop — a ‘small ramshackle shop selling a variety of goods chaotically organised’.
“A lady known as ‘Bay Bell’ had a little grocery shop there too,” recalls Donie. “Then there was Paddy Hayes’ electrical shop, McCarthy’s and Jerry Nugent’s grocery shops. Next to Jerry Nugent’s were McCarthy’s Farm Rate Collectors followed by two pubs.”
Donie recalls that there was a harness making business where Richie’s Restaurant is now located. “It was owned by a man called Jer Harte (known as Jer Joker), who also owned the field between Strand Road and the bypass. It was in this field that that Charlie Cullinane’s famous tourist caravan’s used to park overnight. It’s a well-known story that on one occasion a couple of the men who looking after the caravans got a call to go out to Rosscarbery as some Dutch holidaymakers complained about the caravan rocking in the wind all through the night. After some investigation, it transpired that the tourists had not untackled the horse, and it had been walking around the field for most of the night!
Where the road running up to the Community College is now was a yard and a store belonging to Bateman’s bakery. “They used to keep the horses and the straw and coal to keep the ovens going here,” explains Donie. Across the road from the bakery (where the tourist office is today) was O’Brien’s, a shop with a big toy section. Up from that on Ashe Street was Joe Mulcahy’s Bicycle Shop. Next to that was another little huxter shop and hackney, Joe Callnan’s and then a pub belonging to Mrs Barry Nyhan (it’s a hairdressers now). Where Kerr’s Bookshop is today was Nugent’s Draper Shop. Where Rowena’s Jewellers was up until it recently closed, was another draper shop called Wren’s. “The lady that ran Wren’s also had a store across the road and would run across if someone needed a pair of tights,” says Donie.
After Dinny Regan’s sweet shop was O’Neill’s. “Mrs O’Neill used to dress candles for communion’s and confirmations,” says Donie. Ciss O’Neill used to sell Rudge bicycles. Mrs Murphy (where McCarthy Solicitors is now) had a little grocery shop and her husband ran a haulage business. Eddie Sheehy’s Draper Shop (the biggest one in town) was where Jagged Edge Hairdressing Salon is now. “It was a big shop with two counters framing a stairs to upstairs.”
There was pub run by a Mrs White where the traditional sweet shop is now. Deegan’s (who own the Imperial Hotel) took it over after her.
Next to that was a homeware shop. “I think it was called Ronan’s,” says Donie. Master Sheehy, the schoolteacher, had a grocery shop up from Ronan’s. There was a big grocery shop after that and then O’Donovan’s grocery. “Twas pencil and book in all the shops in those days,” says Donie. “Everything was written down and you paid for it later.”
Connie Moloney had the grocery shop on the corner where Harrington’s Pharmacy is now. “This was a great place for ice-cream in wafers and you could sit down inside to eat it,” recalls Donie. “There was a woollen mill in Reenascreena that made thread (twas like rope) and they sold this in the shop. The shop window displayed the thread and little dinkie toys. He was a man who never gave you back new money in your change.”
On the other side, at the bottom of Strand road, where the The Imperial is today, was known as Mag Hurley’s hotel, later Michael Donovan’s. “That’s where I started drinking!” Donie says with a smile.
Strand Road Motorworks was located where SuperValu is now and across the road, Mary Barrett had a little shop (where the little yellow shed is now). “The roof was low enough that you could climb up on it and block the chimney,” recalls Donie laughing.
Lowney’s had a coach building yard where Clonakilty Townhouse is now, Lowney’s Dance Hall and the cinema was where Clonakilty Hotel stands now, Mary Jacko’s pub (and known as The Cinema bar) was where An Sugan is and the corner was a pub known as Beamish’s (where O’Neill’s Sports Shop is now).
Across the road (where OTT is today) was Bateman’s Bakery and shop. The building had big double doors with the shop on the left as you walked in. Mostly white bread and bracks were baked with a loaf costing six pence in those days. Charlie Chambers, Son Hunt and an O’Regan man baked the bread. Dan Whelton was the head stoker and delivered the bread by pony and cart until the bakery invested in a motor van. “It was delivered to the well-off people who lived on Kennedy Square, recalls Donie. “Although Dan was so black from stoking the coal…if you saw him, you wouldn’t take a loaf off him!”
Next to Bateman’s was a pawn shop owned by Johnny the Va. “Monday morning, you’d drop something in to get your few bob for a few pints or whatever you were short for and you’d go back to pick it up when you had a few bob again, explains Donie. Then you had Crowley’s, a haulage and taxi business run by Timothy George and Frankie.
A few doors up, was Georgie Crudge, the butcher shop. After that, Andy Rourke, the barber. “You’d get a hair cut for a penny that time,” says Donie. When the barbers closed, Donie recalls that his wife opened a chip shop. There was a store next to that (where Kerr’s Auctioneers is now). Up further, Dan Warren fixed bicycles. There was no other way of getting around in those days. A butcher shop, McLoughlin’s, which in time turned in to a Saddlery owned by Willie Foley was up from that (where Rock’s chipper is now). There was another harness maker, O’Regan’s, across the road. Where Aladdin’s Cave is now was O’Sullivan’s (known as Drakes) a huxter shop, “great for the potatoes”. Then another grocer shop owned by McCarthys’s; “most of that family worked in the West Cork Railway,” says Donie. Miss Barry’s Habberdashery was up from that. There was another sweet shop where Wishes is now.
There were three potato shops in town, Humphrey Duggan’s, Drakes and Tom Brien’s (this side of Bennett’s gateway (where CiCi is now). Tom Brien had a little restaurant in the shop. “You could buy your spuds and have a cuppa tea at the same time,” says Donie. “Betty Brosnan’s, still there today, was the other restaurant, the place to go, especially if you were coming in to town from the country. You’d maybe have a cup of tea or your dinner.”
There was a restaurant in the corner building by the monument before Derry McCarthy’s (who came from Dunmanway to manage Cashes and then opened his own drapery shop). The monument bar was next door to it. The Monument Bar, The Quay House (Fiddler’s Green) and Mary Ellen’s were owned by the one person — Nyhan’s who also owned Hoskins Chemist Shop (Gallwey’s today). The Lucky House Jeweller’s, owned by the late Maureen Harte-Fitzpatrick has always been on the square.
Where Tom Sheehy’s is now was an electrical shop, with a cobbler shop over it.
Where Tully’s bookmakers is today used to be the back of JP O’Mahony’s Draper Shop.
Where Nuala’s Corner is now was Frankie Bateman’s, a big grocers shop. It was known as Bateman’s Corner. He employed a gardener and used to grow his own tomatoes and veg to sell in the shop.
After Bateman’s was JP O’Mahony’s Draper shop and then Atkins (where Tom Sheehy’s is now) — the biggest shop in town at the time. It was a big grocery shop and hardware shop with two counters. The yard was called the iron store containing iron bars, parts of ploughs, steel and so on. Where Atkins is now was where the timber yard and grinding mill was (grinding feed for animals).
After Atkins was Joe Murray’s pub (Bernie’s Bar today). Next to that was a clothes shop, owned by Bernard Sheehy. Next to that, there was a Social Welfare office for a while. Then, where Collins Brooks is now was a closed shop. Then came Cleary’s, which sold animal meal and groceries. Michael Moloney’s shoe shop was next and Cleary’s had another shop selling parts for Singer sewing machines. O’Donovan Rick’s Haulage were on the bridge (haulage and buying scrap metal). There was a barbershop in the front room of this business.
Where For Fir Barber Shop is now, was a bacon shop. “Pig’s heads came in wooden barrels…twas a great meal after coming from the pub,” says Donie. “There was a house in town and there was always a boiled pig’s head up on top of the dresser looking down at you ready to eat. The tongue is the nicest part of it. You’d get a pig’s head for half a crown, although you’d be poisoned by the salt!”
Then there was grocers shop owned by Tommy Hennessey. “He was known as Tommy ‘Duck’ becasue he was always swimming,” recalls Donie. Then was Paul Bluett’s Draper Shop (where West Cork Travel is now).
“You couldn’t get to Cork in those days. If there was something you couldn’t get at home, you did without it,” says Donie.
Mrs Dolen’s pub followed on from that. Then was Fitzpatrick’s pub known as the Blackbird. “You’d buy the country butter there,” says Donie. Dickie Nagle, the cobbler was next to that and then Scannell’s Pub (still called that today).
Mrs Harte’s shop is next. “They owned the field where the Deasy’s Bottling Store was built and had cows and sold milk.” They were also water diviners (a business that’s still going today).
O’Donovan ‘Swift’s’ bicycle shop for repairs and new bikes followed. Shanley’s pub was the next business (there since 1904). “There were only bottles of stout sold there in those days.”
Morgan Sheehy’s bakery and coal store was where Houlihan’s Bakery (closed) is now. “Boats used to come in to Ring with coal. Atkins brought in the last coal boat about 1963.”
Across from Houlihan’s Bakery, on Casement Street was Farm Products, which bought fowl and rabbits and eggs and wild fowl from the farmers. “They’d ship them off to the headquarters in Cork. They had a hatchery there too for hatching the chickens. The chickens would be still coming out of the shells after they’d been dumped, people would go down to the dump and take chickens home with them,” recalls Donie.
Behind Farm Products was Deasy’s Bottling Store. The courthouse is still in the same place. “A man who went about town boasting about his new bike was sorry he had bragged when the bike was stolen one night and found hanging from the top of the Courthouse flagpole!”
Down from the courthouse, across the road from Shanley’s, was a grocery shop owned by Humphrey Duggan, another spud man for this side of the town.
“The Coughlan brothers had a pub that was closed in my time. There was a grinding mill at the back of it. You’d get a bag of oats or barley ground there for feeding the animals.”
Next to that was Ger ‘Stookie’ O’Donovan’s pub (where Casey’s pub is today). “He was a cattle tangler, buying and selling cattle for a living.”
Then Ahern’s draper and tailor shop. “I think that was the only shop in town that had a tailors.”
There was a dressmaking shop and a clothes shop up from Aherns.
Mary Regan’s grocery shop came next. Then Molly Santry’s pub, later Michael O’Brien’s and now Danno’s (closed). “There were no mad drinkers allowed in there; if you staggered in there, you were turned around and shown the door.”
There was a market house where the Fire Station is today. “There was a weigh bridge outside it where a lorry could be weighed. The flax market was held there.
Over the bridge (where Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce office is now) was Regan’s second hand furniture store. He travelled to auctions in Cork for his stock.
Then you had Maggie O’Shea’s pub. “Up from that, Lizzie Hawkins, had a counter where she sold eggs.”
Nyhan’s hats and feathers shop came next, followed by Dan Donovan’s shoe shop. Next to this was Wycherley’s pub.
Cashes Drapery was next. Then came Cunningham’s, a closed down shop. Then was Maud Fitzgerald’s shop. Her brother Herbert was a bill poster — a trade in itself that time,” recalls Donie. “All Maud had in the shop was cats, twas closed down.”
John McCarthy’s Newsagents is still on the corner (known today as Dave Mac’s). Mary Barrett’s Drapery used to be next to John McCarthy’s. All of the lads in town gathered outside this shop on a Saturday night. “Twas all honest fun in those days.” says Donie. Another story that many in Clon still recall is when a group on a Saturday evening made up ten shillings for a bet and dared one of the lads to go in to Mary to buy a pair of knickers. Although Mary refused point blank to sell him the item, he stood his ground and after an hour strutted out of the shop wearing the pair of knickers over his trousers, claiming his hard earned ten shillings!
Betty Brosnan’s grocery, cake shop and tearoom was next to the drapery. Murphy’s Shoe Shop (Bateman’s today) was next, followed by Timmy Barry’s pub and hackney (now DeBarra pub, owned by the same family). The next business was Shanahan’s Dentist (father of Barry Shanahan, Shanahan’s Nurseries). Next was Dick Hoskin, a chemist, which today is Gallwey’s Pharmacy. The ESB office and yard was located where Next Door Off-Licence is now. O’Donovan’s Hotel, just up from it, is still in the same family. This is where the crew of the American Bomber (T’Aint A Bird), which crash-landed during WWII, stayed. Next was Mrs Brophy’s paper shop, which is now Paddy Meade Newsagents. There was a pub next door, where the bus used to drop off parcels for people. Spiller’s had a large hardware store and a fishing tackle shop next door (where Xtravision and the closed down Discount Store are). Next we move on to the Bank of Ireland and the AIB bank, with Jimmy Hurley’s shop and hackney in-between (where the Vodafone shop is today).
Around the corner, over from the AIB, Spiller’s had a large timber yard, which is now Spiller’s Lane and the car park behind. The Post Office is still there today and across the road (where Hodnett and Forde Auctioneers is today) was the Munster and Leinster Bank. The Emmet Hotel is still there and next door was Dr Ned Barrett and Maydew the vet. Just across the square was Dr Neville.
Back down the main street on the other side, at the bottom of McCurtain Hill (Barrack Hill in those days), where Gooseberry is now, was a big grocery and hardware shop called Kelly’s. Then came Mick JC’s pub (now Roxy’s). Then The Railway Bar, where Con and Maura’s is now. “There was another pub across the street as far as I remember.”
There was a slaughterhouse up further, at the back of Magner’s butcher shop.
Where Bluett’s is now was Corcoron’s Chemist Shop. In those days there was nothing on display, you’d go for mostly tonics or cough mixtures that he’d make up for you there.”
Then Jim Hollands’ sweet and ice cream shop was a meeting place for the GAA crowd. “If a team was going to Bandon, it would congregate there to get taxis. He sold cone ice cream and sweets.”
Magner’s butcher shop was where Clon Tackle is now. “There was a woman in town, who was known to be fairly lighthanded,” says Donie “There was a butcher in Magner’s called Dave at the time and he knew her reputation. In those days the corned beef was put up on the counter on a big marble slab. There was nearly always a piece of beef missing after this woman left the shop. So one day Dave tied a long string on to three or four pieces of corned beef. This woman came in for a few chops and after Dave had served her, as she was going out the door, the string with the meat attached followed here. ‘Come back here’ Dave said ‘and I’ll put a piece of paper around that corned beef for you Mrs’.”