Manorhamilton businessman Arthur Bredin, whose family ran Bredin's Newsagents on Manorhamilton's Main Street has given his take on the difficulties facing businesses in rural Ireland which ultimately led to the closure of his shop on Saturday last. Arthur has written the article below, outlining some of the factors which led to the closure of the shop, meaning there is now no business operating on the town's Main Street as a place for the people of the town to purchase groceries and shopping.
Last Saturday evening August 19 the door of Bredin’s Newsagents closed for the last time.
The Bredin’s have had the shop for the last thirteen years, but a shop stood on that site for many decades. It goes without saying that it was a sad day for Eileen, Kitty and Carmel. But it was also a sad day for the Main Street of Manorhamilton. It was the last shop on the Main Street, and indeed the last shop of its kind in the town.
This was a shop where you could stand and chat about current affairs, farming, or indeed whatever was the hot topic of the day.
Times have changed, but have they changed for the better? Back in the 70s the Main Street was alive and buzzing with activity. There were drapers, shops, pubs and much more. There was even a bus stop smack in the middle of the Main Street. Wednesday was a half day when the businesses all closed after lunch, but even then the town still had life. And why one might ask? Times were different. All businesses had families living overhead. The McKennas, Gilbrides, Sheridans, McMorrows, Kellys, McGoldricks, Sheehans, Gurns, Loughlins, Goldens, Geaneys, Hughes, and even the two banks on Main Street had families living overhead.
This was a small population in itself, and it in part kept the core of the town alive. Now there are only a few living on Main Street, with the majority of dwelling spaces empty.
However, we cannot say that this was the final nail in the Newsagent’s coffin. Shopping trends have changed. Fewer people buy papers anymore, especially young people. You can’t compete with cheaper online shopping, social media means no-one sends cards or invitations anymore, and of course the parking situation in the town has a lot to answer for.
A van from a multi-national retailer is regularly seen in town delivering groceries door to door. It’s not long ago that the Murphy family offered the same service, another shop closed. Online shopping is here to stay like it or not, as is social media, and trends will continue to change.
But if we all turn away from the small local shop, our towns will become ghost towns, and the shop that offered more than was on its shelves will become a distant memory.
Leitrim County Council make decisions on white lines, yellow lines, bollards, and curbing, and I wonder do they ever look at the impact that this has on small towns like ours.
On a weekly basis, you will see a few bollards damaged and for every damaged bollard there is a matching damaged car. What was wrong with putting in a kerb? Why is the white line on the Main Street in Manorhamilton ten foot from the bollards, while the one in Carrick-on-Shannon is only eight?
The last time the Main Street was closed the footpath was increased in width on both sides, the parking space was widened to give enough room to park a truck and a double yellow line was put on the left.
No-one can stop now to pop into a shop unless there is parking on the right-hand side of the street and that is a rare occurrence.
The Council was offered a perfect site for parking with pedestrian access to the Main Street last December. It was looked at by council staff and by a local representative, but it was deemed to be too expensive. It cost much, much less than the traffic light.
The title on this article is from a book written by the late John Healy in 1968 about the death of a small town. It is so apt when we look at all our small towns now and see what so called progress has done for them. A recent example, there was a time when one couldn’t even buy a litre of milk in Leitrim Village.
I feel our local representatives have no power or voice, even if they have the best of intentions. I wonder if they shout stop will they be listened to?
We’re still waiting for someone to shout stop, but who will?