Guest speaker at the recent Coleraine Probus meeting waved a magic wand of words, as Pearl Hutchinson took the club back time to see the world from “Behind the Wooden Counter” of her father’s country shop.
Pearl’s family home and shop has its roots in Meenagrave, Co. Donegal - a few country miles from Ballybofey.
Pearl painted a scene of almost forgotten, nostalgic age, as she gave a vivid account of the country shop which in 1942 had been passed down to her father, Charles Kee by his uncle Thomas Kee.
The shop, attached to the dwelling house, was divided into two sections, grocery and hardware, with all the goods displayed behind the wooden counter. Customers were not allowed behind the counter. This was the shopkeeper’s territory and he was there to serve. Often customers would walk five miles with their black shawl, basket and note. For them the shop was the centre of the community where they could rest, perhaps take a cup of tea and share the latest gossip, while being served.
The shop would open at nine o’clock in the morning and close at nine in the evening, or when the last customer had gone. Always closed on a Sunday the shop would convert to a Sunday School.
More memories were jogged when Pearl listed the produce for sale. In the medicine cabinet there was Germolene, which worked wonders and Milk of Magnesia, so soothing so safe. Then there were necessities like Mansion Polish; Uno hard gloss paint; sweeties in glass jars; Chiver’s jelly; Lifebuoy soap; Camp Coffee; OXO, the list could go on. Everything from horse shoes to fine china was sold in this shop.
In 1968 Pearl’s father left the shop and moved to Coleraine. Back in Meenagrave, the shop is now owned by Ann and Francy McGlynn. It is still the centre of the community, but it is now a mini supermarket.
For Probus members, Pearl’s memories of the wooden counter were fond, shared memories, where personal service and local gossip seemed a more civilised way of getting the weekly shopping.