Sadness as the Final Days of J.P. Griffin & Sons Beckon

Time for Tea: Liz McCarthy (third from left) and Áine Kelly (centre) announcing details of their annual tea day at Griffin’s on a Sunday morning in 2008. Included are from left: Breda Brooks, Anthony Cronin, Adele McCarthy, Maurice Hartnett and Joe McCarthy. ©Photograph: John Reidy 27-4-2008
Proprietor, Don Sweeney (right) pictured with neighbours, Gerard and Vincent Murphy and poet and writer, Gabriel Fitzmaurice editor of the Best Loved Poems book at its launch at JP Griffin and Sons. ©Photograph: John Reidy 7-12-2016

J.P. Griffin & Sons, or ‘Davy’s’ as it is still known locally, is in the final, sad days of its clearance sale.

It is open today until the Angelus bells rings along the River Maine and up along historic Barrack Street as many the evening before.

For generations it was everything a corner shop was supposed to be in its pivotal position in the Con Houlihan imagined Latin Quarter.

Last November, when the first signs of closure came with the ending of the newsagent side of the business, a local man described it thus: ‘You could gwine there out of the world’ – and people did.

There were spare chairs there and the neighbours in Barrack Street occupied them more often than not.

I remember being sent in from the Tralee Road for the Ireland’s Own and Our Boys and the Cork Holly-bough at Christmas and The Irish Independent every day for my grandfather in particular for the racing coverage and for his daily dose of the long running shenanigans of Curly Wee and Gussie Goose.

On Sunday the Irish Independent carried a series of photographs like contact prints of horse races at the time.

This particular feature was called See How They Ran and you should see how he scanned that page.

He would have heard the race the previous day but seeing how they ran was still important to him. He was a blacksmith and had a life long interest in anything to do with horses.

I don’t know why he got the Irish Independent as he was a staunch Fianna Fail supporter and I recently found a certificate of his little shareholding from the time of the founding of The Irish Press.

We got the Independent in the morning and The Evening Press – long before Con Houlihan’s tenure on the back page began.

So Griffin’s Newsagents was a twice daily pilgrimage for me and I remember the public house part of the old premises.

There is a sadness about the closure and especially for those neighbours in the immediate vicinity as it was very much a focal point and a meeting place for generations of them.

My own outstanding memories of the place are of the weeks and days leading up to the first Sonny Liston V Cassius Clay world heavyweight fight in the early spring of 1964.

And of having a good read of the papers in the shop before taking them home.

I can look at the door of Griffin’s shop today and know that it was there, as a child, I first read about Cassius Clay and saw the newspaper photographs of the assassination of John F Kennedy and of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King and of Che Guevara’s bullet riddled body and his gloating captors.

Last November, proprietors, Don Sweeney issued the following statement from Griffin’s:

“Due to continuous decline in readership and sales of newspapers and magazines over the past number of years, internationally, nationally and locally, and other factors affecting the sale of traditional newsagent products, we have decided that we will no longer be operating our news-agency from 24th November 2018.

This means we will no longer be selling newspapers, magazines, Lotto, Payzone products – phone and electricity top-ups after that date.

We would like to express our deepest thanks to all our loyal news-agency customers over the years, and to emphasise that this decision has not been taken lightly.

Good luck to Don and Geraldine and to the fine and historic old house itself and its future.