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Friday 22 August 2014

Gallery celebrates 160 years of ‘Grand Old Dame’ Clerys

Kirsty Blake Knox

Published 12/03/2014 | 01:22

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Senator David Norris holds a 130-year-old top hat at the launch of the Clerys Heritage Gallery. Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Senator David Norris holds a 130-year-old top hat at the launch of the Clerys Heritage Gallery. Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A 130-YEAR-old top hat, pneumatic cash systems, account books and weighted ledgers are some of the artefacts on display in the new Heritage Gallery in Clerys department store.

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The gallery, located on the second floor of the iconic shop, was officially launched by historian Pat Liddy and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan yesterday.

Mr Deenihan described the ‘Grand Old Dame of O'Connell Street' as the “newest old department store in the world” and an “Irish institution”.

The 160-year-old store has had a mixed past; the shop has been declared bankrupt numerous times, was demolished during the 1916 Rising and was the scene of Jim Larkin's arrest.

Most recently was forced to close when 500 gallons of water poured through the building following a 16-minute flash flood in July 2013.

The revamped shop reopened in November.

Shoppers can look at old posters, hand-written customers letters, receipts and yellowing photographs as part of the new exhibition.

“Clerys is more than a shop it's a living history,” Mr Deenihan said. 

With the 1916 centenary in sight, Mr Deenihan believes the new gallery is of particular relevance.

“It's coming up to the anniversary of 1916 and it’s important to celebrate that. We will have state of the art interpretive centre in the GPO and this exhibition in Clerys is a great example of paying tribute to our history,” Mr Deenihan said 

Senator David Norris also attended the launch and praised the building’s facade.

“There are very few truly beautiful buildings left on O'Connell Street but there is something palatial about Clerys,” he said.

“It is a landmark that has continued to rise from the ashes over the years. I am delighted the wonderful history of the building is being remembered and celebrated.”

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