The Times We Lived In: The wonder of a new shopping centre in 1960s Dublin
Published: December 11th, 1967. Photograph: Dermot Barry
Stillorgan Shopping Centre in 1967. Photograph : Dermot Barry.
In December 1967 Dublin was a much smaller city, and Stillorgan a village straggling up the hill from an unremarkable road.
But something new had landed on Stillorgan’s socio-cultural horizon: a shopping centre. As it celebrated its first birthday, the Irish Times feature writer Eileen O’Brien sallied forth to the outer suburbs to take a look at this baffling new phenomenon.
Her article makes it sound very, very large and very, very far away – like the Andromeda Galaxy. The headline, “The Supermarket World”, added to the spacey vibe, while Dermot Barry’s photograph gives a stern, even claustrophobic impression. Merciless horizontal lines plunge into the heart of the picture, dwarfing the shoppers, with the exception of the rather stylish lady in the foreground.
It’s ironic, given that Stillorgan’s retail village has always been famous – or infamous – for having no roof. Most of the internal space is open to the sky, and thus – for better or worse – the vagaries of the weather. The photographer placed himself and his unforgiving lens beneath an overhang, presenting the reader with a sort of optical illusion.
If you visit today you can recreate the angle, for despite the ongoing upgrades which have added height and bling to the external facade, and the addition of olive trees in huge, shiny red pots, the centre doesn’t really look all that different.
Back in 1967, O’Brien wasn’t convinced.
On offer at Stillorgan, she declared, were “supermarkets, hairdressers, high-class delicatessens, television sets” and “a satiety of things one does not need: plastic bows to tie on Christmas presents, for instance, for 1s 9d each….”
Local ladies, meanwhile, were of the opinion that the phenomenon wouldn’t last.
“I hate supermarkets,” one told O’Brien. “I would not go to one. Even if they are cheaper – and I wonder about that – my time and peace of mind are infinitely more precious to me . . .”
Jeepers. Good job they didn’t know what was coming down the retail road. A supermarket world into which we’re all firmly boxed with no sign of an exit, anywhere.
You can buy this photograph and other Irish Times images from irishtimes.com/photosales