FAMILY TIES The Flanagans closed their family shop in Kilmaine on Christmas Eve, from left: Malachy (Jnr), Tracey, Geraldine, Malachy (Snr), Karen and Lisa.
Local shop an institution in south Mayo
It was Christmas Eve in downtown Kilmaine and eager eyes were scanning the sky for any indication that six reindeer, a sleigh and a man in a big red suit were headed for South Mayo. In Flanagan’s Shop at one end of the village, all eyes were scanning the shelves and the walls and the little nooks, taking in the view one last time before the doors closed and life changed forever in the village where St Patrick once strode.
The Flanagan family opened the doors in 1951 and ever since the shop has echoed with the symphony of local life. Births, marriages, deaths - happiness, sadness and everything in between bounced off the walls for 70 years as anything from a needle to an anchor was bought and sold.
On the shop’s final day - the family had gathered as friends, neighbours, colleagues and valued customers came from far and near to reminisce and spend one last moment on the floor where thousands had stood before them.
“It’s a sad day in one way,” the man of the house, Malachy told The Mayo News. “My parents Tom and Lena opened the shop in 1951 and it has been central to the life of the family ever since. We cannot express how thankful we are to everyone who supported us over the years and made every day so enjoyable.”
Malachy’s words were backed up by his wife, Geraldine, who welcomed everyone into her home and shop like they were long-lost friends. Tea, coffee, mulled wine and whatever you’re having yourself was on offer as the Ballinrobe native put words on the everyday life of a shopkeeper in rural Ireland.
“We got married and took over the shop from Malachy’s parents in 1975 and it has been an amazing journey. No day was ever the same and we were blessed to have the finest of people come through our doors time and time again. We saw children grow to have children and grandchildren of their own and we saw the best of times and the worst of times here in the village. We have been truly blessed.
“The support we got over the years can never be repaid and it helped mould our kids, Karen, Lisa, Malachy (Jnr) and Tracey into the great people they are today. They worked here as soon as they got their feet under them and it was the best grounding one could ever get,” Geraldine explained before her daughter Lisa took up the baton.
“Mam is right. It was some education. There were times when it was a bit like Fr Ted. When we were kids we might be killing each other here in the kitchen and then we’d hear the bell go in the shop as someone came through the door. Immediately, we’d put on the face and get behind the counter and say ‘How are ya? Great to see ya.’ It showed us that business had to be done no matter what was happening.”
Lisa’s twin sister Karen, was also on hand to tell some secrets to The Mayo News.
“There were odd times when Mam and Dad might go away for the weekend and we’d be here minding the shop. We might be out on a Saturday night and not in the best of shape the day after. We’d be minding ourselves here in the sitting room and taking turns to deal with the shop, so there was often a lot of bargaining between us, begging one another to cover the counter.”
The other siblings Malachy (Jnr) and Tracey were soon unleashing their tales of life in the shop in the famous South Mayo village.
“I remember when Dad was piercing ears here at the counter. There are a lot of stories I could tell about those times,” Tracey divulged with a smile.
“He had a sign up ‘Ears pierced while you wait.’ I thought it was the maddest/best sign ever - as if you could leave your ears here to be pierced and come back to collect them later,” Malachy (Jnr) explained as laughter rang around the famous shop on the edge of Kilmaine.
“It was a big decision to shut the doors, but we want to spend more time with our family and enjoy them. We’ve had an amazing time behind the counter and we’ll miss it hugely, but some people say there’s more to life. We’ll have to see if they’re right,” Malachy Snr concluded.
The Flanagans would like it to be known that Flanagan Funeral Director, Kilmaine, will remain open for business as usual.