Bridgie served Glencorrib well
TIME was when the village shop was the focal point of every rural village. The borderlines around Galway and Mayo up around the banks of the Black River were well served by such outlets. Varley’s shop and Post Office in Cloghan’s Hill, Burke’s of Kilshanvey, Egan’s of Cloonbar, Hughes’ of Killamonagh, Dooley’s of Brodella, O’Connor’s of Rosstaff, Hughes’ of Ballyhenry, O’Toole’s of Claran and Kearney’s of Houndswood were the business hubs of the local bailiwicks. Some continue to trade but most have been trampled on by the crushing wheels of progress. In Glencorrib they had two. Biggins’ Shop was pitched in the epicentre of the hamlet, across from the school and church, and on the gable of the community centre. For an epoch and more it was operated by Mick and Bridgie Biggins. As well as a grocery business Mick also had a joinery workshop next door. Further down the village street Jack and Mae Moran owned another shop. Moran’s doubled as the bus stop. Regularly CIE dropped off boxes of day-old chicks which chirped away gaily ‘til someone from Ballynalty or Ballisnahina called to collect them. Moran’s also sold the daily newspapers. You could gauge a family’s political leanings on the basis of whether they purchased the Irish Press or Irish Independent. Also, when a new priest arrived to take up ministry appointment in Glencorrib, parishioners would enquire as to which one he bought. You can tell a lot about a man of the cloth by the paper he reads. Moran’s had petrol pumps too. ‘Mex’ was Glencorrib’s motorists favoured fuel. Moran’s ceased trading in 1978 but Biggins’s continued for a few decades more. Bridgie Diskin came to Glencorrib from Dooras near Cornmona after she married Mick Biggins. Their shop catered for the market they pitched to. Plain loaves, loose tea, fletches of salty bacon, sides of ham and bags of plain flour. Blocks of ice cream they measured in three penny portions, or even a six penny, if your spending power could afford such a luxury. Potato crisps too. Perri and the cheese and onion variety the preferred because it was the only choice available to Glencorrib scholars when crisps were the greatest discovery since the wheel. They sold the other essentials like flash lamp batteries, candles, and metal pot mending discs. Their business premise was based loosely on the currency of bartering. They bought eggs and home-made butter from their customers in exchange for groceries. And long before the term became vogue they were a 24/7 outlet. If the shop was closed you just rattled a coin on a downpipe and Bridgie or one of the kids appeared to serve you. When the Shrule/Glencorrib Parish Newsletter took the publishing world by storm, Biggins’ Shop in Glencorrib became the main agents at the end of the borough. As well as a selling point it became a source of news gathering. Tidings of a new-born baby (was there ever an old-born baby?) in Glassvalley, an engagement in Mochora, yanks home from America, of all places, visiting relations in Woodpark or John Petty, Paddy Fitzgerald, Mattie Sheridan and the Glencorrib novelty act winning another Mayo Scór became grist to the printing mill for the following week’s pulping. Bridgie Biggins passed away last week. Another chapter closed on a rural Ireland that’s all but vanished without trace. Former customers posted little memories of visits to the shop alongside a photograph of her and Mick inside their counter on the Glencorrib/Kilroe website. There’s a picture of Moran’s shop and a young Ann Moran sitting on the wall outside on the same social bulletin. Friends and neighbours gathered to give Bridgie a good send-off. The only charge they could levy against her was a piseog about Mayo not winning an All-Ireland since she came to Glencorrib in 1951. Bridgie Biggins served the community almighty well, never leaving them wanting for anything regardless of the time of day or hour of night they called to her door.