The Martello Tower Shop

Above: Gabrielle Jones in the doorway of the Martello Tower Shop in its heyday.

Above: Gabrielle Jones in the doorway of the Martello Tower Shop in its heyday.

The Tower Shop, which was located on Sandymount Strand directly next to the Martello Tower, will probably be viewed as a not-so-distant memory to many locals.

NewsFour spoke to David Dooley, whose grandmother Gabrielle Jones was a long-time worker in the shop, about the shop’s historical significance and the many good years that Gabrielle spent working there.

In the past, the Martello Towers were built as forts, as part of a coastal defence network comprising of 50 towers erected in the 19th century by the British government to repel a potential invasion by Napoleon during the British-French Wars between 1803 and 1815.

The Tower Shop itself was classed as a newsagents, that sold everyday groceries as well as fruits, vegetables, newspapers and confectionery.

“During those warm summer days, queues for an ice cream from the Tower Shop used to stretch for miles,” Dooley says. “However, no matter how long the queue of customers would be, the first customer was always treated the same as the last, no matter how long it took to do so!”

The Tower Shop shut its doors to the public in 1987 and has unfortunately remained closed ever since. When its lease ended nobody wished to renew it. The most likely reason for this is probably the recessionary environment that Ireland found itself in the late 1980’s.

As providence would have it, soon after the shop closed for good, the garage located opposite the Tower Shop began to sell grocery and confectionery items despite previously only selling petrol and diesel, only serving to hit home how much of a loss the shop’s closure was to the community at large.

Above: Gabrielle in later years.

Above: Gabrielle in later years.

Gabrielle Jones was originally from Salthill, Galway and moved to Londonbridge Road as a lodger in her late teens. She married her husband Fred and had two children, Paul and Christine, who is Dooley’s mother. He points out that Gabrielle was a very hard worker who was well known to locals in the area.

Gabrielle Jones began working in the Tower Shop in late 1976 and immediately became manageress shortly after. Her friend Mrs Edgely began working alongside her the following year. Early mornings and late nights became a routine of their daily working lives.

“My nanna loved her job, and her hundreds of daily customers loved her, both young and old. Her friendly smile and caring personality added to the popularity of the Tower Shop,” Dooley added.

Gabrielle left the Tower Shop when it closed its doors permanently in 1987. From then on, Gabrielle spent her retirement years socialising and having endless laughs with her family, many friends and neighbours on Ringsend Road, before sadly passing away after a long illness in 2009.

David Dooley did not grow up with any particular connection to the Tower Shop himself, but was made aware of his family’s rooted history with the establishment as time went on. His mother Christine had worked in the Tower Shop part-time, starting in the summer of 1977 and remaining until 1982. Like her mother, she was a dedicated worker too, taking in weekdays, weekends and most of the summer holidays. “It is great to have a family connection to an important and well-remembered piece of Dublin history,” Dooley says.

It would probably be fair to say that stories like that of the Tower Shop represent a deeply-rooted nostalgia that many of us in Ireland now feel when we harken back to the good old days.

People in the modern era are more likely to be glued to their iPhones and their iPads as opposed to messing about in the park. We all remember those kinds of places from our youth, and we also remember the characters that made those places so special.

NewsFour asked Dooley to comment on why it is so important for people in the community to be reminded of the Tower Shop.

“I feel it was seen as the daily routine for people, especially the locals,” he says. “Local residents would call into the shop on a daily basis, sometimes even twice or three times a day. The beach on Sandymount itself was a huge benefit to the Tower Shop. People who came from far and near for a walk on the beach, would 95% of the time always pop in for an ice cream, a bag of sweets or a soft drink. The Tower Shop was well known, and is well remembered by many people all over.”

By Craig Kinsella