Community takes ownership with first of its kind shop

Billy Murphy

Posted on: 8th February, 2016

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Pictured above: Chrissie and Billy Murphy with their daughter Jane remember when there were many grocery shops in Courtmacsherry. They are looking forward to a shop opening again in the village.

“Twas like going to America,” says Billy Murphy smiling, as he recalls cycling down the road from Abbeymahon to the thriving coastal village of Courtmacsherry, which in Billy’s youth boasted nearly more shops than people!

This is the first time in the history of the village since the 1800s that Courtmacsherry has been without a convenience shop, but if the fortitude of the local community has anything to do with it, this won’t be the case for long. With the last shop closing in the village in August 2015, a determined group of local residents put a lot of effort into researching what was involved in opening a community-run shop.

The initiative, which from the start received overwhelming support from local residents, has now obtained approval from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society.

With the continued support of the local community, who are being offered the opportunity to buy shares, the shop is set to open this summer.

The first of its kind in West Cork, this initiative is a shining example of how a small rural community can come together to achieve something extraordinary.

Campaign spokesman Dara Gannon stresses the importance of public support once the shares go on offer. “We are asking anyone who has an interest in Courtmacsherry, not just locals, to purchase shares and help make this project happen. A shop is a vital part of the village, particularly during the summer months when there is an influx of tourists.

“There is no limit to the amount of shares an individual can buy and when you buy shares in the co-operative, you can cast your vote at the AGM to elect the board and officers,” says Dara.

A public meeting will be held in late February to provide information about the proposed shop, which will also serve as a tourist information point, and to offer the shares in blocks of €50.

As well as convenience items, it is planned that the shop will sell produce from local producers and fishermen.

The shop will be housed in a temporary structure on the pier until a permanent location is found.

Billy Murphy, 92, and his wife Chrissie, 84, who have lived in Courtmacsherry since they married in 1959, really miss the convenience of having a shop in the village. “When we were growing up,” says Chrissie, whose homeplace of Ballyhutch was only over the road “Courtmacsherry had so many shops. There was Con Regan’s, Michael John Donovan’s, which was a grocery shop and a dairy (I remember he used to deliver cans of milk outside the doors of the houses), Pat Joe Deasy, the butcher shop…”

“…and John O’Donovan had a shop selling parts for bicycles,” Billy joins in, “and Mrs O’Mahony ran the local post office.”

“Tina Love had a shop and her brother used to sell potatoes,” recalls Chrissie. “Tina used to sell loose flour in big white bags.”

“There was a garage in the village that repaired cars and sold petrol. We had three dance halls, Ruddock’s, Holland’s and the hotel,” recalls Billy nostalgically. “We used to cycle down to the dances when we were young and the Regatta was always a big day out for us.”

“I remember O’Neill’s of Kinsale had a horse drawn van that used to deliver bread to the village.”

“Don’t forget Hodnett’s grocery shop,” says Chrissie.

“During the summer months, people used to come to the village on holidays lock, stock and barrel and rent out a house for a month. Sometimes the people who owned the house were still there; they had their own quarters and rented out the rest.

“And every Sunday visitors arrived on the train from Cork at 12pm, catching the last one back at eight that evening. I used to curse the train when our children were small,” recalls Chrissie “it used to wake them up.”

“There were quite a few coal stores in the village,” says Billy. “The coal was brought in on the boats.”

“Madge Barry used to sell paraffin oil,” remembers Chrissie. “At the time it was rationed so she used to give us crude oil for boats, which we were glad of, but it blackened the house.”

“There were a few pubs too,” says Billy smiling. “Parkers was where Pier House is now and John Murphy, who was in the navy, had a pub where The Lifeboat Inn is now.”

From the 1850s to the 1960s, stone and later slate was also quarried in the village.

Billy and Chrissie’s daughter Jane recalls that there was a golf links at one time in the village. “We also had a couple of tennis courts,” Born in 1960, the eldest of three, Jane remembers there were seven shops in the village when she was growing up. “On a Saturday, we’d always take a list and the shopping bag down to Annie Driscoll’s and then go and pay for the week’s milk at Michael John’s (twas always a rough estimate, as he never kept count of the pints). The kids were always sent down during the week with the empty can and Michael John always poured the measure and an extra pint in on top.”

Billy Murphy, with the support of his wife Chrissie, developed a successful insurance business from his home in Courtmacsherry, for many years travelling by bicycle to collect the weekly insurance premiums in the surrounding parishes. He also put his energy into developing Courtmacsherry and was involved in many local organisations and projects, namely the Courtmacsherry Sea Angling Club, which he was instrumental in setting up, the Courtmacsherry Development and Festival Association and many other worthwhile initiatives including the Community Centre. He was also the Deputy Launching Authority for the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat for many years.

In 2015, his friend and neighbour Diarmuid Begley recorded Billy’s life story and his many memories in a book entitled ‘I Remember, I Remember – The Billy Murphy Story’.

Billy and Chrissie are very proud of the next generation in the village taking on this community initiative and very much look forward to having a shop again in Courtmacsherry.

The date for the public meeting in February will be announced on the Courtmacsherry Community Shop facebook page.

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