Without doubt, it was my grandmother who first inspired me to set up shop. Her name was Kitty O Shea (not the Kitty O Shea I hasten to add but just as memorable!) and she was born in Macroom, County Cork in 1900. The daughter of a local greengrocer, she grew up amid the hustle and bustle of a busy Irish village corner shop. Across the road there was a drapery, owned by the O Leary family and they had a son, Harry.
It wasn’t long before Kitty caught Harry’s eye and they quickly became childhood sweethearts. When Harry finished school he went off to the bright lights of Dublin to follow his dream of becoming a vet. He did so with a heavy heart as he had to leave his beloved Kitty behind. But distance only strengthened their union. They were married in Dublin in 1920. By this time, Harry was a highly successful vet, specializing in the treatment of Irish racehorses and as a result of this work Harry and Kitty were welcomed into the upper echelons of Dublin high society.
It was expected that Kitty would settle into the traditional roles of wife and mother and although she had moved from her hometown in Cork to marry her true love in Dublin she had other ideas about how she would spend her days as Mrs. O Leary. Indeed, Kitty was something of a pioneer (She was one of the first women in Ireland to drive a car!) and despite the disapproving murmurs from certain ladies in certain quarters she opened her first shop on Dublin’s Merrion Row in the Georgian heart of the city in 1920.
The shop was called “Notions” and my fondest memories of childhood are being brought there every Saturday by my Mother to help Granny behind the counter. I will never forget the thrill of entering the shop with its impressive bay window, rows of shelves lined with old fashioned sweet jars and Granny standing behind the highly polished counter usually chatting with a customer or one of her suppliers to whom she was fiercely loyal. She strongly believed in supporting local producers. I would notice the same faces in the shop, week in week out. It was obvious that Granny was more than the woman who sold her customers their sweets, newspapers, eggs and bread. She was their friend and confidant. She also had a wicked sense of humor and never failed to raise a smile. Kitty went on to have six children and a long and happy marriage. She opened three more shops and remained in business for over 60 years, refusing to retire until she was 82! Those early days in Kitty’s shop inspired me to set up my own business in 1987 under the name of Interteddy which evolved into the award-winning Giftsdirect.com, now Ireland’s largest online gift Delivery Company providing an outstanding service worldwide. Through Giftsdirect.com, I established a loyal customer base in the USA and this gave me the idea to set up TheIrishStore.com where I could share my passion for all things Irish with our American cousins. A place where you can shop for well-known treasures from Ireland such as Tipperary and Waterford Crystal or traditional Celtic and Claddagh Irish Jewelry, but also discover hidden treasures from carefully selected Irish craftsmen and women such as Ogham Wishes and Foxford Woolen Mills Artisans using traditional methods passed down through generations to produce original and exciting giftware. Times have certainly changed. Kitty sold sweets and newspapers in a quaint corner shop while I sell giftware in cyberspace but for me, the secret of success remains the same; a passion for customer service combined with a commitment to supporting and promoting local suppliers. What’s especially exciting for me is the opportunity to showcase the unique talents of local artists and craftsmen as well as presenting top quality Irish brands to the USA and beyond. I’ve only been in business for 22 years so I have a little catching up to do with Granny but I like to think she’s always there keeping an eye on things.
Where We Are
We are situated three kilometers north of Dublin City center on the banks of the river Tolka, in the townland of Glasnevin, a place steeped in Irish history. Indeed, it was on these very banks that the Battle of Clontarf took place in the year 1014 where the legendary Irish High King, Brian Boru led the Irish in defeating the Vikings. It is believed that Glasnevin was founded as a monastery by Saint Mobhi in the fifth or sixth century. The monastery continued to be used for many years afterwards. St. Colman is recorded as having paid homage to its founder when he returned from abroad to visit Ireland a century after St Mobhi's death in 544. St. Columba of Iona is thought to have studied under St. Mobhi, and Glasnevin's longest street, Iona Road is named in his honor. It was home to Dean Swift, the world famous author of Gulliver’s Travels and it is widely held that Robert Emmet, the leader of the Irish Rebellion in 1803 is buried in St. Mobhi’s Protestant church. Glasnevin is probably best known for its cemetery, a mixture of Père La Chaise in Paris, and Arlington National Cemetery in the United States. On approaching the cemetery one is met with high walls of best Dublin calp around the old cemetery perimeter, interspersed at intervals with tall, battlemented towers. These were built in the early years of the cemetery to guard against body snatchers!
The largest cemetery in Ireland, it first opened its gates in 1832 after a series of events prompted Daniel O'Connell to establish a place where people of all religions could bury their dead with dignity. It was initially named Prospect Cemetery and was consecrated by Monsignor Yore in September 1831. Five months later, Michael Carey of Francis Street in Dublin was the first person to be buried there. Glasnevin Cemetery, as we know it now, has grown from its original nine to over one hundred and twenty acres. Over one million men and women are laid to rest there including such luminaries as the writers Brendan Behan and Christy Brown and politicians and revolutionaries including Daniel O Connell, Charles Stuart Parnell, Countess Constance Markievicz, Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. Glasnevin is also home to Dublin’s magnificent Botanic Gardens. In 1790 the house and lands of the poet Thomas Tickell were sold and given to the Royal Dublin Society who established the gardens. The great Dublin ironmaster, Richard Turner designed the glasshouses which were magnificently restored in 1995 for the gardens bicentenary. The gardens were the first location in Ireland where the infection responsible for the 1845 to 1847 potato famine was identified by the then curator, David Moore. He predicted that the impact on the potato crop would lead to famine in Ireland and narrowly missed finding a remedy. He was succeeded by his son Frederick who went on to establish the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin as one of the leading gardens of the world. The gardens came into state care in 1878 and are currently administered by the Office of Public Works. They remain one of Dublin’s most popular tourist attractions.
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