Goodbye to the Hill? Street traders resolve to resist any bid to oust them
Dublin locals buying and selling everything at Cumberland St market for generations
Another part of what once was Dublin City in the rare old times could be about to disappear – but traders manning stalls at a street market in the shadow of the Spire have resolved to resist any moves to move them on.
Cumberland Street North is its name on maps, but locals who have been buying and selling clothes, furniture, toys, bric-a-brac and electronics at the street’s Saturday market for generations have always called this spot something different.
Sometimes the street – which runs parallel to O’Connell Street – is called the Cobbles, although the stones which gave it that name have long since been pulled up. It is also known as the Tuggers, even though the tugs-of-war over sought-after garments which gave it that name are no more. But most of the traders and the locals who shop on the street simply call it the Hill.
There are few who know the Hill as well as 86-year-old Teresa Carroll, and as she wheeled her wheelbarrow full of unsold stock to her nearby home on Saturday morning she marvelled at the fact she has been selling clothes on the Hill for 59 years.
She might not make it to 60 though if a plan to revoke the stallholders’ trading licences currently under consideration by Dublin City Council gets the green light.
‘I had to earn a few bob’
“I first came down here when my son was only two weeks old, so that’s how I know how long I have been here,” she said. “I had to get out to take care of the children. My husband was only earning a small amount and it wouldn’t feed us. I’d never sold in my life but I had to earn a few bob.
“I had to dress the children for communions and confirmations and there were toys for Christmas. I had to provide the money for to look after them. There was time when I’d be selling at 8 o’clock in the morning and then pushing my cart up the hill at 6 o’clock at night. I’d go home and wash six children ahead of Sunday morning Mass.”
She used to get stock at jumble sales and auctions close to the fruit market off Capel Street. “There’d be about 50 of us and we would all be bidding against one another. You couldn’t scratch your nose or nothing at the auctions or they’d be taking your money.”
There are no auctions now, and she gets her stock from her family and friends. Her customer numbers have dwindled too. “There was great people from Sean McDermott Street and all the tenements who would buy off me but they were all moved out of the area.”
Even though she only sells a fraction of what she used to sell, she wants to keep the market alive. “I’d miss coming out of a Saturday. All the pulling and the dragging of the cart keeps me alive. Work keeps you alive. They better not shut it down.”
Eleanor Larkin has been trading on the Hill for 36 years and sells clothes, toys, DVDs and electronics – whatever she can get from friends and neighbours, as well as the odd auction.
Immigrants and homeless
“I have different customers now - there are immigrants and the homeless,” she says. “But the youth of today, they don’t take after their mothers or fathers and they don’t want second-hand stuff. I’d be sad to see it go.”
John Hanney would be sad to see it go too after being “born and reared on the Hill”. His mother had a stall for almost 70 years and his family still sell on it every Saturday – weather permitting.
He “had the best of times on the street”, he said. “But now they are trying to get rid of old Dublin – this is part of old Dublin. The people here are not doing any harm. Everyone is just trying to earn a crust, that’s all.”
Independent councillor and north inner city native Christy Burke was at the market in solidarity with the stall holders which, he said, were part of the fabric of Dublin society.
Community, city, culture
“This is a vital part of our community, of our city and of our culture. It is part of all of us from the north inner-city,” he said. “I remember me own mother coming here getting me a pair of football boots when I was seven. I remember family members coming down getting runners.
“It has helped people in the area, people who couldn’t afford to go out and buy in the big stores. Instead they can come here and get things at a nice and easy price. This market has supported this community for many years and it continues to matter.”
Gary Leeper was selling a complete (ish) set of golf clubs including a bag for €25 and various pieces of furniture, including wardrobes, chairs and flat screen televisions. “The stalls are for people who are starting off and for people who have very little,” he said.
“And look, they come all the way from Africa, ” he continued, as he good naturedly punched the arm of a man browsing his stall. Laughing, the man asked about one of the televisions for sale. Leeper gave him a price of €50, but it quickly fell to €30. When asked – by The Irish Times – if it works, he was commendably straight. “I don’t know. I haven’t plugged it in. I doubt it works but I’d say there’s only something small wrong with it.”
Despite the fact that the TV most likely did not work, an unlikely deal was done. Then the buyer realised he had no money . He asked if he could pay next week. Leeper agreed. “It’s what we do here,” he said. “We look after people. We always have.”