Speaker for 13th November 2018

President Des Moore greets Pearl Hutchinson, with club members Mike Turner (R) and Derick Woods (L)

Coleraine Probus take a step back in time

Guest speaker at the recent Coleraine Probus meeting waved a magic wand of words, as Pearl Hutchinson took the club back time to see the world from “Behind the Wooden Counter” of her father's country shop.

Pearl's family home and shop has it's roots in Meenagrave, Co. Donegal - a few country miles from Ballybofey. Pearl painted a scene of almost forgotten, nostalgic age, as she gave a vivid account of the country shop which in 1942 had been passed down to her father, Charles Kee by his uncle Thomas Kee.

The shop, attached to the dwelling house, was divided into two sections, grocery and hardware, with all the goods displayed behind the wooden counter. Customers were not allowed behind the counter. This was the shopkeeper’s territory and he was there to serve. Often customers would walk five miles with their black shawl, basket and note. For them the shop was the centre of the community where they could rest, perhaps take a cup of tea and share the latest gossip, while being served.

The shop would open at nine o’clock in the morning and close at nine in the evening, or when the last customer had gone. Always closed on a Sunday the shop would convert to a Sunday School.

More memories were jogged when Pearl listed the produce for sale. In the medicine cabinet there was Germolene, which worked wonders and Milk of Magnesia, so soothing so safe. Then there were necessities like Mansion Polish; Uno hard gloss paint; sweeties in glass jars; Chiver’s jelly; Lifebuoy soap; Camp Coffee; OXO, the list could go on. Everything from horse shoes to fine china was sold in this shop.

Pearl went on to tell the members about John Doherty, the travelling Tinsmith, making pots from a small sheet of tin purchased from the shop, as he sat by the riverside. When finished, john then sold the pot back to Pearl's father. It wasn't until years later that Pearl discovered that John also the leading fiddle player in Ireland.

In 1968 Pearl's father left the shop and moved to Coleraine. Back in Meenagrave the shop is now owned by Ann and Francy McGlynn. It is still the centre of the community, but it is now a Mini Supermarket with everything is pre-packaged and where self service prevails - such is the way of 'progress'! For Probus members, Pearl's memories of the wooden counter were fond, sheared memories, where personal service and local gossip seemed a more civilised way of getting the weekly shopping. If only we could step back in time more often in the real world!

(Many thanks to Graham for help with this report)

Pearl MAY have some copies of the second printing of her excellent book (send us an email if you want us to check), which is being sold the help raise some funds to aid Parkinson's disease research. Just 'Click' on the book cover below to find out more about Parkinson's - this will open in a new window.