Sandymount of 60 Years Ago

Pictured Above: Findlater's Grocers.

Pictured Above: Findlater’s Grocers.

Sandymount village has been a hub of commerce for centuries now. However, those who shop in the village can’t help but notice the frequent turnover of shops in the area. Hardly a year seems to pass by without a shopfront closing; it often takes months or years for a new shop to replace it.

Michael McAuliffe has been a lifelong resident of Sandymount and has seen many shops come and go. McAuliffe’s father began running a pharmacy in Sandymount in 1934, which eventually went on to become McAuliffe’s Pharmacy, still in Sandymount village today. Michael was the pharmacist there from 1964 to 2000.

The village of 60 or 70 years ago as McAuliffe remembers it would be practically unrecognisable to today’s residents. Instead of a central supermarket, it had multiple groceries, confectioneries and bakers shops. There were also dairies and butchers, which had the freshest of local produce, since they had milking cows and slaughterhouses out back.

At a time when foreign travel was still a rarity, Sandymount village and its beach were popular destinations for a day out. Droves of people arrived from the inner city to use the beach and the baths, which brought in an influx of shoppers to the village.

Pharmacies were centres of villages in those days. Not only was there McAuliffe’s, but there was also Batt’s Pharmacy, which had been in Sandymount since the 1800s.

McAuliffe points out there were good reasons why people tended to flock to the pharmacy: “Pharmacy’s in those days sold everything, from paint to cigarettes, and wine of course, which did a great trade on a Saturday.”

Sandymount was also famous for its grocers such as Findlater’s (above) and Leverett and Frye, which were high-class establishments for the elite of Dublin. However, it wasn’t a matter of making a quick trip down to the shops.

“A messenger boy used to come to the back door with his little notebook and get whatever groceries you wanted,” McAuliffe remembers. “Women with any sort of status in those days rarely went to the shops themselves, they either sent the maid or the messenger boy came round and took the order.”

“The first supermarket to open was H. Williams, located where Tesco is now. The appearance of the supermarket had a knock-on effect on a wide variety of businesses in the village, such as grocers, pharmacies and hardware shops. With multiple grocers competing for a small population, under half of what it is now, the supermarket eventually saw the demise of the grocers.

“They had the ability to undersell and the food was prepackaged, but there was no personal touch,” says McAuliffe.

Many of these shops had been around for decades, or had passed from generation to generation. Lately, shops do not seem to stay around Sandymount for long. Several of the shopfronts are currently empty and many of the residents of the village have recently been affected by the closure of the Post Office, an important part of any village.

A lot has changed in the last 70 years in the village – a cow on Sandymount Road would certainly get some strange looks nowadays – but one thing that has remained consistent is the significant contribution the familiar village shops and shopkeepers make to the community. It would certainly be a pity to lose that.

By Alanna O’Shea