Oldest family-owned music shop in Ireland closes after 150 years

Closing down sale sees queues with musicians playing music : ‘It was like a session’

 Geraldine Byrne, (left) daughter and Maria Byrne, wife of Charlie Byrne, prepares a violin for sale while waiting for the last customers before the closure of the family owned music shop after 150 years in business. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Geraldine Byrne, (left) daughter and Maria Byrne, wife of Charlie Byrne, prepares a violin for sale while waiting for the last customers before the closure of the family owned music shop after 150 years in business. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

What is believed to be the oldest family owned musical instruments shop in Ireland closed its doors on Saturday after over 150 years in business.

Owner Maria Byrne (89) has run the Charlie Byrne shop, located on Stephen Street in Dublin, alongside her husband, Charlie (90), for almost 60 years.

Their daughter Geraldine stepped in 30 years ago to help with the running of the shop.

Mrs Byrne cherishes memories of all the happy conversations she has had with customers over the years.

Many regular customers called in to say farewell in the final days “and to say how sorry they are that we are closing”, she noted.

“I have lots of fond memories. We have met such a range of different people from all over the world. They became friends more than customers.

Maria Byrne checks a violin for one of her final customers. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Maria Byrne checks a violin for one of her final customers. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

“We also had a lot of tourists. We had people coming from Canada who would come in every two or three years to see us.”

Mrs Byrne was particularly touched the previous Saturday when an older gentleman came in and recalled buying his first instrument in the shop.

“He was very elderly - and I am 89, putting it that way. He was an elderly gentleman, older than me,” and he said he had bought his first violin there 80 years ago. “Isn’t that something? He came in especially to talk to us.”

She is proud they have managed to keep the business family-owned from when the first Charlie Byrne opened the premises in 1870.

They decided to close due to the ill health of her husband.

“We have to mind him so we put family first. We can’t do both. I am nearly 60 years working here.

“It is an emotional time but we know we are doing the right thing. My daughter Geraldine and her husband have two little boys and we all live together. Family has to come first.”

Mrs Byrne said on the first day of their closing down sale they had queues down the street with musicians playing instruments and creating a festive mood outside the premises. “It was manic. It was like a session.”

Mrs Byrne and Charlie were married in 1963 and “we worked alongside each other until the Covid [pandemic] hit,” she said. “We have always worked well together. Before that I was in fishing and shooting.”

Maria Byrne plays a violin while waiting for one of her last customers. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Maria Byrne plays a violin while waiting for one of her last customers. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

She laughs when she recalls that “Charlie took up fishing and I caught him. I moved from selling fishing tackle to music.”

“A lot has happened. We had a fire in 1992 and our daughter Geraldine came in to help us run it then. She knew the business,” Mrs Byrne told The Irish Times on Saturday morning.

“I better go now because I need to put the lights on to start the business for the day. We have had great years.”