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‘Great meat and great fun’

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SERVICE WITH A SMILE Ray and Eddie Curry have been part of the fabric of the Ballina business community for decades. They have worked in the O’Rahilly Street butchers for a combined total of 75 years. Pic: Corinne Beattie

Currys’ Butchers in Ballina closes after more than a century in business

Michael Gallagher

On Saturday evening, Eddie and Ray Curry turned the key in the door of their butcher shop in Ballina for the last time. The famous shop on the corner of O’Rahilly Street had been in operation for 102 years, but an ambition to spend time with family and the hardship of running an independent business persuaded the Currys to pull down the shutters and move to a different phase of life.
“Don’t tell anyone, but we won the lotto and we’re heading for Barbados,” Ray joked with The Mayo News last Friday evening. The Currys are known for their wit and good humour.
The business was founded by John and Delia Curry in 1919 and carried on by their son, Paddy, and his wife, Evelyn. Ray and Eddie then stepped into the breach almost 40 years ago and brought their own brand of business and humour to the shop, beside the town’s post office.
“Everything came through the door – happiness, sadness, stories of births, deaths, marriages, celebrations and tragedies,” Eddie explained. “We heard it all here. We saw people on their best days and their worst; we saw people come in here as kids and later as grandparents. We’ll miss this place but we’re looking forward to retirement too.”

Two fine men
Some of their final customers, George O’Grady and Ollie Kilgannon, had called in to wish the brothers farewell. George had also been a butcher, but he also closed his business in Ballycastle in recent years.
“The supermarkets took over, but I don’t blame people at all,” he says. “That’s the way things are. Times change and we have to move with them. Ray and Eddie are two fine men who have served their customers brilliantly over the years. They deserve every happiness in the years to come, and they’ll have the good wishes of the whole town and the surrounding areas.”
Ollie was equally forthcoming about the brothers. “There was always great meat and great fun here. It was a tonic to come through the door. I know the lads will have the best of times in their well-deserved retirement.”
Behind the counter, Ray was busily preparing meat for the stream of customers coming to deliver cards, flowers and good wishes, while Eddie was explaining the history of the business.
“Our parents and our grandparents worked here, got sick and died. They never really left; they never got the chance to retire. Ray and myself are the first ones to leave.
“We’ll miss the craic and the people in and out to us and seeing people every day. We’ll miss it, but some of the locals will too. This was somewhere for them to come and have the craic while they were waiting for their bit of meat.
“There were days when they might even come in and not have cash on them, but that was no problem, we knew they’d be back again as soon as they had it. The people of Ballina have been very decent to us over the years. This is a great town, full of great people.”

Changing times
After working in the shop for a combined total of 75 years, the brothers have no direct plans for retirement. However, they’ve already been booked for some very important tasks, according to Eddie.
“We’re not planning a round-the-world trip or anything, but we’ve been lined up for more important things like babysitting and going for walks and going to matches and family gatherings. We never really had time for any of that properly before now.
“My grandson was playing for Ardnaree last night in Castlebar and it was the first time I could go to a match without worrying about work. When there were family gatherings being arranged everyone else had to work around us, but now that will change with the help of God.”
The lure of the supermarkets and the changing buying patterns of today’s society has also had an impact on the Currys, but they weren’t complaining. Ballina has been very good to the family and given them the greatest of days. However, life will be a little different now that the laughter and banter echoing off the walls of the shop will be no more.
“Things are changing. People go into supermarkets. They go in one door and do every bit of shopping for the week; groceries, meat – everything and go out another door and they mightn’t have said a single word to another person. Here, it was different. There was always something happening – always something to talk about and always something to raise the spirits,” Eddie concluded.
“Make sure you don’t tell anyone about us winning the lotto,” Ray added.