Caillin, my late father, started Conefrey’s Pharmacy on Pearse Street in 1955. Across the road in no 70, his younger brother Joseph ‘Joe’ opened a hardware shop. Joe and my Father were the two youngest of their family of 14: 7 boys and 7 girls.
When they first arrived in the big smoke, they shared digs in Vavasour Square near Lansdowne Road. Over time, their nephews chose Dublin for college, and much to their mothers delight, they stayed with Caillin and Joe.
When the brothers purchased their homes, they bought houses two doors away from each other. It always seemed that where my Dad was, Joe wasn’t too far away and vice-versa. We grew up as constant fixtures in Joe’s house, and if we weren’t there, Joe’s children were at our kitchen table.
Joe’s hardware shop was legendary. To this day, people still talk about it, and remember Joe fondly. He seemed to stock everything and my memories are of wooden cabinets and counters. If he didn’t have what you were looking for, he could get it for you. The shop was a real treasure trove, and was a real hub of the community.
Joe had regulars in his shop, who would drop in and stay a while, and, they were all characters. Joe’s friend Freddie always stuck in my mind. He used to sit in the back of the shop all day and do crosswords. In his later years he grew a goatee beard after Joe had retired and I remember telling Joe about it. He said it sounded like he was turning into the Count of Monte Cristo.
Poor Freddie went into a care home about eight years ago and shortly after, he passed away. I attended his funeral in place of Joe. There were 10 people at it: 6 from the home, 3 who were old neighbours of Freddie’s and me. It really saddened me. I had never attended such a small funeral before.
Joe hung up his hardware boots in 1999 and sold his shop. Over the next few years the building changed hands, and identity. It started as a Gallery, then an office for web developers, now it is home to a nursing agency.
To us, it will always be my Uncles- We still call it ‘Joes’ when we talk about it. Joe often called into the pharmacy after he moved down the country and I was amazed how many people remembered him and asked after him. He would often ask after people from the area. Joe passed away last year on March 24th after a short illness, but he will never be forgotten.
Growing up, Pearse Street was our lives and with Joe’s connection with the hardware shop only strengthened it. It is our community and our home. Like Joe and my Father, I would like to think I have made a difference working there, by enshrining the sense of community spirit that was so important to them. They were gentlemen, and wonderful role models. They left a great legacy behind. Hopefully in time, I can leave my own.