End of an era as Dono­van’s closes its doors

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - NEWS - By SINEAD KELLE­HER

THERE are few shops that can lay claim to a his­tory of more than 150 years, but Dono­van’s shop in Ken­mare town will this week bow out with over a cen­tury of his­tory be­hind it.

The shop has been in the fam­ily since the 1860s and was passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. Olive Dono­van is the last gen­er­a­tion to stand be­hind the counter fol­low­ing the tra­di­tion of her great-great-grand­mother, great-grand­mother and grand­mother.

The shop was, in its early days, known lo­cally as Stokes’s shop af­ter its owner, Leti­tia Stokes, but it changed names as it was handed down the fam­ily tree.

Olive’s grand­mother, Mathilda, ran it as a gen­eral gro­cers with fresh bread, news­pa­pers and house­hold items, as well as a shop for re­li­gious mem­o­ra­bilia and Dres­den China.

She was mar­ried to Michael Dono­van, who worked as a man­ager next door in O’Brien Cork­ery’s, which was then a gen­eral builders’ yard and un­der­tak­ers.

Olive’s mother, Mairead, then took it over, and in an­other tra­di­tion, her hus­band, Der­mot, also worked in O’Brien Cork­ery’s next door to the shop. In fact three gen­er­a­tions of Dono­van’s were man­agers next door while their wives ran Dono­van’s shop.

Over the years more ad­di­tions were made to the shop, and Olive’s mother, Mairead, branched into sil­ver­ware, jew­ellery and china, as well as the gro­ceries and con­fec­tionery.

The shop was ex­tended and the fam­ily’s din­ing room be­came a new ad­di­tion to the shop. Dono­van’s was well-known down through the years for its con­fec­tionery, and even to­day that is one of the last re­main­ing items in the shop.

Dono­van’s was one of the first shops to have a BBQ chicken oven, now long gone as con­ve­nience stores took over, and it also had one of the town’s first ice-cream cone ma­chines.

Olive can re­call the queues out the door, par­tic­u­larly af­ter matches.

“It was the bane of our lives as it had to be cleaned ev­ery day, and of­ten it wouldn’t work as the ice-cream couldn’t freeze fast enough. There would be queues out the door,” says Olive.

Olive and her brother and sis­ter, Mike and Gemma, grew in the shop. Mike now runs Café Mocha in the Square, which was where his grand­fa­ther came from. Gemma is a teacher in Castle­gre­gory.

Olive trained as a weaver and ran her own weav­ing busi­ness in the town.

All three spent much of their child­hood be­hind the counter. Back in those days the shop was open from morn­ing un­til night and only closed its doors on Christ­mas day and St Stephen’s day.

When O’Brien Cork­ery’s closed in 1984, Olive’s fa­ther, Der­mot, went be­hind the counter in Dono­van’s, and he was a fa­mil­iar face there un­til his death al­most two years ago. Any­one call­ing to the shop would see Der­mot bent over while read­ing the na­tional news­pa­pers as he waited for cus­tomers.

School chil­dren in the town were his reg­u­lar cus­tomers and, dur­ing school lunch times, the shop would be full to the brim with teenagers – some of them even help­ing him out.

More re­cently, gro­ceries be­came a thing of the past with the fo­cus more on con­fec­tionery, and re­li­gious me­men­tos in­clud­ing rosary beads and Mass cards from the local par­ish priest.

Af­ter Olive’s fa­ther passed away, Olive took over in the in­terim, but now the day has come to close the shop for­ever.

“It is hard to close, but it is time,” she said. “The cost of busi­ness is too high and the foot­fall in the street is not there... I will miss it hugely – although maybe not the hours,” she added.

Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

Olive Dono­van of Dono­van’s, Ken­mare, tak­ing up a typ­i­cal pose of her Dad’s, read­ing the daily pa­per on the shop counter. Dono­van’s is clos­ing shortly.

Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

The front of Dono­van’s on Main Street, Ken­mare, one of the last tra­di­tional stores in the town, which is clos­ing in the com­ing days.

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