An Bearna

In 1928, Galway Urban Council prosecuted a Mr James McHugh from Bohermore for failing to comply with a notice requiring him to remove his butcher’s stall at Kingshill, Salthill, on the grounds that he had built it without authority, beyond the alignment of the adjacent houses. In fact, Mr McHugh had already sent the council a letter requesting permission to build the stall but those on the council were not yet aware of their powers at the time, and their solicitors had advised them that they, the council, did not have any control over the erection of such structures. Though they did not approve of the stall, they had failed to notify Mr McHugh. The case went in and out of court but the stall stayed where it was.

After McHugh, the butcher stall was run by a man called Keavy who lived in the house behind. He eventually leased it to Major Greenwood who had set up Barna Gardens after the war. At the time he took over, the building that would become the Galway Bay Hotel was under construction across the road on Kingshill. It was being built as a nursing home and Major Greenwood saw an opportunity to open the stall as a depot and a selling location for his flowers, and so he opened a flower shop there. The nursing home did not work out, the building was converted into a hotel and so Major Greenwood left.

In 1953, James and Maura Codd opened a sweet shop and grocery here which they called An Bearna. They ran it as a summer shop only for the first few years, but Salthill was expanding and eventually they opened all the year around. They were real entrepreneurs, they sold newspapers and almost everything in the line of foodstuffs. It was hard to believe they could fit so much into such a small space. James commissioned Fahys the coachbuilders to make a two-wheeled moveable stall so that he could sell vegetables at the market, especially cabbage. At the time one could only get cabbage at certain times of the year, but James imported Savoy cabbage in the off season and sold it from his stall. He was one of the first people selling ice cream on the prom during the summer using the same stall.

Maura and her sister Kathleen, who also worked there, were real traditionalists when it came to totting up the bill … they did it all through their school tables in Irish — cúig agus trí sin a h-ocht, ocht agus dó sin a deich, etc — and sometimes they had a bit of chalk to do their sums on the wooden countertop. Thelma Nielsen worked there for years and later Deirdre Heneghan, Marie Burke, and Maura and Barbara Houlihan all served behind the counter.

There was a little shed at the side, and from here the Codds started a bicycle rental business starting with six bikes. They later expanded this business and moved it to a premises beside the Arcade, and later again to a shed which was between Ashe’s house and the Bal. When they moved the bikes from here, they used the shed to sell fuel.

It was a wonderful local shop but it was becoming more and more difficult for small enterprises like this to survive, so on December 30, 1998, they closed down the business. When they removed the tins of peas, etc, they found hooks on the back wall which were originally used by the butcher on which to hang meat.

 

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