16 – Shop in Curraheen

My grandmother, Johanna Mary Kelleher was evicted as a child and grew up in Carriganimma. She returned to Ballinora, married and having that entrepreneurial spirit in her decided to open a grocery shop. The big Laurel hedge is still there today. It is on your left as you go west for the Ballincollig bypass, and if it could speak it would tell a fascinating story, involving a glass of water, the old IRA, my grandmother and a very narrow escape.

Back in the time of British Occupation of Our Native Land, when Ballincollig Barracks was full of Crown Forces, when the Black and Tans had full permission to do whatever they liked in relation to the Irish people, a young British soldier was on duty between the forge in Curraheen and Logan’s farm, now owned by the Hobbs family. His duty was to march up and down from the forge to the farm. It was a very very hot July day. The soldier was dressed in full marching uniform, buttoned up to the neck, rifle on his shoulder and full heavy kit on his back. Up and down he had to march. Hours passed. The sweat ran down his forehead, but up and down the road he had to keep walking. Apparently he could be no more than eighteen years of age or thereabouts, maybe from London, Yorkshire, Manchester or Canterbury, and it is possible his parents or grandparents could be from Dublin or Donegal. Johanna Mary took pity on the young man as he was perspiring profusely, almost to the point of faint, as he marched up and down the road, on point duty in the heat. Her soft nature got the better of her, and she put history to one side, placed a glass of cold water into the middle of the Laurel Hedge, waited until he was passing, made a soft hissing sound, to attract his attention as he marched by. Then she waited on her own side of the Laurel Hedge. He marched up and down two more times, stopped opposite the glass of water, quickly put in his hand, grabbed the glass, and drank it down like a man dying of thirst. In those brief few seconds, wasn’t he seen, and it was reported that Johanna Mary had cooperated and assisted the ENEMY. Were it not for the fact that Johanna Mary had ‘’connections’’, the incident itself was regarded as trivial enough and her family background had shown great loyalty to the Land League cause, Johanna Mary would have been in deep trouble with the local Kangaroo court system in session during those dangerous troubled times. The incident itself did not affect her business The shop was old style, with timber counter and small open fire. My mother took it over when Johanna Mary died, and along came the second world war. My mother became known as Maggie the shop. The shop sold everything and anything. You name it, Maggie the shop had it – be it coal, meal for the hens, cigarettes, chocolates and sweets, and during the second world war she had a tea contract from Hosfords in the North Main Street in Cork City. People came from far and near with their coupon books to get some tea that was seriously rationed during war time. Hosford’s never reneged on their contract, and everybody considered themselves very lucky and more than very happy to collect their tea at the shop. In the 1960s Bishopstown expanded, supermarkets arrived with bulk buying and Maggie the shop could no longer compete. She knew the game was over when she found herself buying goods cheaper in DUNNES STORES than she herself could buy them at a wholesale price from her Suppliers. It closed in 1969.