A Ramble around Athenry in the 40s Jimmy Somers 1996: Northgate Street

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This part of the story covers Northgate Street and, as before, I’m speaking from memory and if there are any mistakes I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about them.

The first shop in Northgate Street was Daly’s Drapery – a big shop – where Martin Burke’s is now. It was owned by Chris Daly, his sister Ida, and two brothers Eugene and Alo. Willy Scally, John Curran, Aggie Coffey (now Mrs Kilkelly, Galway) and Mary Duffy (now Mrs Kindregan, Mountpelier) worked there. As far as I know the ladies were called “milliners” in drapery shops at that time.

Next door lived the “Miss Dohertys, The Gables” Annie and Aggie Jo. They sold sweets and had an ice cream parlour which was a great meeting place for us young lads at that time. You got a bowl of ice cream and a raspberry for sixpence plus the attraction of nice staff. Margaret Clancy, Margaret Monaghan and Nora Joyce worked there. After that came Mattie Cunniffe the cobbler. He had four sons and one daughter called Lolo.

The Gables, The Cobblers and Nolans (Stone-faced building) and Fahys Centra

Next came “Basty” Nolans, a pub and big shop. I remember fletches of bacon hanging from the ceiling there. He also sold “salted ling” which was specially in stock for the season of Lent. Nora Cahallan worked there. She is now living somewhere in the “States”. Next came Jim Fahy’s shop. He was the father of Tom and Seamus who now own the Centra Supermarket there. He had a nice grocery shop and was also famous for selling bicycles. Rita Gannon (now Mrs Greaney), Mary Dolan (now Mrs. Johnny Whelan) and Catherine Burke (now Mrs. Somers) worked there.

James Walshe’s pub is now Dan’s Bar and is run by Ann and Juno Barrett. James had one son who became a priest. He was called Bobby after Bobby Beggs a “Dub”, who was a good footballer and played for Galway. He always wore knickerbocker pants at school.

Mrs Ryan had a sweet shop next door and always displayed her goods in the window. On a sunny day the cat came out and lay in the window. Where Gerry Burke has now recently reopened there was a pub owned by Mrs Fallon. Afterwards it was run by the Houlihan family. Jackie was a great character.

Next was James Ruane’s. He sold Ferguson Tractors, threshing machines, ploughs and agricultural goods. It was a big shop with a huge yard. As far as I know he generated electricity for the town long before the ESB was heard of. I think he also had a mineral water factory. One of his clerks was a Mr Farrell, who had some connection with Pakie Dooley, Boyhill. Miss Brannelly also worked in the office. She still lives in Athenry. Jimmy Kerins also worked there. Next was Martin Glynn’s pub now run by his daughter, Rita. Martin came from Cappataggle.

Then came Corbetts, a large shop and yard. This was a branch of “Corbetts of Galway”. In the grocery department worked Jimmy Kilgarrif, Vincent Feeney, Jim Kelly and Paddy Callanan. In the hardware section were Willie Kenny, John Lohan, Gerry Bradley, Ita McGrath and Frank Kilkelly. In the office were Mrs Curley, Ger. Browne, Jim Doherty and Paddy Regan. John Corbett was a manager. He lived in Park. Even though the shop was officially closed he stood at the gate every Sunday morning to serve people. I recall the story of the lad (the editor of this journal) who asked him for a few rabbit snares and was delighted when he got sheep spancils by mistake. John wondered why the boy bought the lot instead of the few he had asked for. But then snares cost a few pence and spancils were worth half a crown and easily sold to local farmers. Tommy Reilly worked in the yard in charge of the potato section. Jimmy McCormack also worked there. Jimmy Burke and Willie Caulfield drove lorries.

Next came Hession’s butcher shop and grocery. They also bought wool and oats. It was a great countryman’s shop and old Mike Hession’s advice was sought far and wide. His sons Paddy, Owen and “Francheen” helped with the shop and farm. Paddy, a very popular man, was the butcher for years and it was only recently that his wife Meg (Curran) retired from business.

Frank O’Rourke had the house next door. He was a guard. Dominic and Patricia Parr live there now. John Donoghue came next. He had a shop and sold sweets and toys. There was a ladies’ hairdressers run by Kathleen Blade in this house also. Next came Mrs Reilly where Tommy Cheevers is now. She was a relative of Tommy Cheevers’ mother.

Pat Duffy had a pub and shop at the arch. His wife, who came from Crossmolina, owned The Railway Hotel. Pat was a well known figure in Athenry. After this came a butcher shop owned by a man called Eely Connors. Across the road was Pat Duffy’s store where P.J. Greaney’s supermarket was. Barbara and Gabriel Duffy have just taken over there now as well as the next shop which was Doherty’s. They sold sweets and ice cream. The Waldron family lived in the house beside them. This had a railing outside. I think Ned was born there.

Then there was Corbett’s coal yard and a yard owned by Hessions. Next lived Peter Scahill and Mick Goode in two small houses across from Corbett’s gate. Behind these houses was the Protestant Church. This is to be “converted” into a Heritage Centre. Josie Curran then lived where Tommy Coppinger owns a shop now beside Fitzsimmon’s drapery shop. Eddie Somers worked there and later married Rhoda their daughter. Jane Kilkelly, Joy McGuiness, Gerry McNamara and Bridie Bane worked there.

Across the lane was Annie Kelly’s pub. You went down steps to the bar. She had three sons, Michael, Timmy and John. One of them was a great handballer. After that came a saddler and a tailor. The tailor, I think, was Willie Curtain and the saddler’s name, as far as I know, was Bane. Next came Bradley’s shop where John Staunton lived until recently. Then there was the “famous” Joey McCabe, a well known character in the town. All these buildings have changed since then. After that is the present “Paper Shop” now owned by the Neary family, who also own “The Shopping Basket” in Church Street. This shop was owned by Willie Higgins, Prospect, for years.

Feature Photo: Corbett’s shop on the left with Glynn’s pub in the corner!

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About this record

Written by Jimmy Somers

Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published April 1996

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