Sunday 22 July 2018

Ten things you may not know about Clerys

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

1 The history of Clerys dates back to May 1853 when McSwiney, Delany and Co opened the 'Palatial Mart' or 'New Mart' on what was then Lower Sackville Street. Housed in a purpose-built building, the five-storey department store was designed to eclipse European outlets of the time.

2 The shop was renamed 30 years later when it was taken over by MJ Clery of Limerick. From 1883 to the present day, Clery and Co has hung over the doors.

3 The great agitator James Larkin, whose statue stands outside in O'Connell Street, was arrested in 1913 as he addressed a crowd from a Clerys' balcony, urging Dubliners to join in a class war against their big bosses.

4 Clerys was completely destroyed during the Easter Rising of 1916. The current building was finished in 1922. "I had the extraordinary experience of seeing the plate-glass windows of Clerys run molten into the channel from the terrific heat," rebel Oscar Traynor wrote about seeing the store in flames.

5 Denis Guiney, a small farmer's son from Killorglin, Co Kerry, bought Clerys in 1941. Legend had it that he paid just £20,000 for the shop - however this was just a partial payment. The true figure was £250,000 and on the board room of the store hangs a cheque for £230,000, dated 1941, which completed the purchase of the store.

6 Although originally marketed towards the upper-echelons of Irish society, Guiney relaunched the store and pitched it resolutely at Middle Ireland.

7 At one point, Guiney came up with the idea of offering to refund shoppers their train fare if they spent more than five pounds in the store - the idea proved a massive success.

8 The famous Clerys clock has long been a meeting place for Dubliners, but its current incarnation dates from 1990. It was erected to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Denis Guiney takeover of the store.

9 Denis Guiney died in 1967 but his second wife, Mary, preserved her husband's family tradition. During his 46 years in business, he had provided employment for over 6,000 people.

10 In 1956 the Clerys ballroom was the launch venue for Sean Lemass's new economic development plan. It was a significant milestone in Irish history and the move away from Eamon De Valera's ideas of Irish self-sufficiency.

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