'Shopping in Strabane in 1940s/50s was always in a proprietor driven shop'

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'Shopping in Strabane in 1940s/50s was always in a proprietor driven shop'


Billy Gallagher remembers shopping and the different types of shops in Strabane when he was a child.


Billy Gallagher


Trinity College Dublin




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Billy Gallagher

Is Part Of

Childhood and Early Life


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Strabane, Co. Tyrone

Temporal Coverage


Life Story Item Type Metadata


It was understood in a small country town that local shops gave credit without documentation. It was also assumed that the householder would pay, eventually when he took the notion. Never would it be alluded to other than an occasional (posted) statement. It was inconceivable that a shopkeeper would ask for money, no matter how stretched the account. Customers were scarce and had to be retained at all costs. Shopping in Strabane in 1940s/50s was always in a proprietor driven shop. Catholics went to Catholic shops and Protestants went to their own. Sinnamons was a Protestant draper on the main street and when they wanted a new member of staff would put a notice in the window 'Assistant wanted, Catholics need not apply'. There was little danger they would anyway. McBrearty's was the grocery store run by Paddy (a decent big man, his funeral had the biggest 'offerings' ever heard of in the town ( £106). To achieve over £100 was almost unheard of. Annie, his wife was more business like and had to be avoided where possible. You went to the shop counter with your list which he or she took and compiled calling it out as they went 'One bag o sugar, one pound o tea, one pound o bacon (had to cut it on the bacon slicer from a huge roll tied with string). The sugar and tea weighted out and put in blue paper bags as was flour. Butter cut from a slab and shaped by two wooden paddles. It was all 'charged up' and put in 'the book' which was kept in the shop. There would be a message boy to deliver on his bicycle with a huge iron frame on the front. A message boy's job was the worst paid ' 5 shillings a week and no prospect of promotion ever. Bobby Fulton delivered the milk in bottles and took away the empties (washed and laid out for him overnight) early every morning, including Sundays. He had a horse and cart until he got a lorry in the late 1940s. He also had buttermilk but nothing else. Cream was not available then but the top of the bottle had 2-3 inches of cream that floated to the top. The fish man came around with his cart on Fridays and had a 'yodel' to announce his coming. His yodel was 'fresh herring'. He would have had kippers, cod and whiting also but I never heard of prawns, scallops or mussels. Fish was obligatory on Fridays ( 'fast days' as they were called, not days of abstinence). Everyone hated fish for this reason and generations of us have never grown out of this. During lent 'fast days' proliferated. Russels bread van, commandeered by Archie Fletcher called to the house every day. He had an electric van that could do 10 miles an hour, except down the hills on Nancy's Lane where it once reached 25 mph. We were all in it most days as Archie liked company and was liberal with his buns. Pauline Breslin sold newspapers and her shop smelt of piss. She had a small shop and a piss pot behind a curtain at the back. She also sold the Beano and Dandy and somewhere in the late 40s 'The Eagle' emerged. This was mostly 'Dan Dare' and space travel. The illustrations from those comics bore a remarkable resemblance to the space ships and space shuttles which appeared 50 years later. I often wonder if they created space travel as a reality.




Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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