Renowned Ballaghaderreen shop to close after almost 200 years

‘You could say I married a place’ – Mary Gallagher

One of the oldest shops run by one of the best known people in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon is to close down.

Gallaghers on Main Street in the town has been trading for almost 200 years. It is now a drapery shop, selling mainly children’s and lady’s wear. It had been a bar and a butcher’s shop.

A family business and one of the best preserved premises in the town Mary Gallagher, her husband Micheál and their family returned there from London 46 years ago when Micheál's mother decided to retire.

Mary Gallagher came to national prominence last year when it was announced that Syrian refugees were to be housed in a former hotel in the town. Interviewed on RTÉ's Prime Time she commented "how could you say no?"

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She said "you see a child being picked up in Aleppo out of the clay . . . you think of the people fleeing, drowning, all the different things that happened these refugees, and you have to sort of make the right decision."

With other people in the town she went on to accept the Community Group of the Year for welcoming Syrian refugees at the Rehab People of the Year Awards in Dublin last April.

‘Getting on’

This evening she said “I am getting on and have worked all my life,” when asked about the closure of her shop.

“I had to order stock for next year or call a halt. Very painfully I’ve called a halt.”

Among its best known customers in the old days was Ireland's first president Douglas Hyde, who lived four miles out the road at Portahard.

“He used to get his paper here,” she said.

Hyde was so friendly with her mother-in-law, Mrs Gallagher, that he gave her and her husband a writing case as a wedding present back then.

"It came from Castle Hyde [now home to Michael Flatley in Co Cork]," she said. "She was widowed very young in her 30s and kept going. She turned it into a drapery shop."

Her son Michael, Mary’s husband, died last year.

“You could say I married a place,” she said. “I knew Michael all my life.”

They had been in London and returned to run the shop and rear their family in the early 1970s.

“I have no regrets, whatever,” she said. “Michael was low key and a very good companion.”

Asked that most impolite question, such as a gentleman would never ask, about her age, she responded: “I have no notion of answering that. Let’s say I am past my first youth.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times