Drogheda Independent

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'We've missed two days in 45 years. We are going nowhere'

Drogheda's traditional Saturday market has been under pressure for years. But Hubert Murphy finds it is needed more than ever as a place for people to meet and live some kind of normal life

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William and Patrick Boshell at their vegetable stall in Drogheda Market in Bolton Square. Photo:Colin Bell/pressphotos.ie

William and Patrick Boshell at their vegetable stall in Drogheda Market in Bolton Square. Photo:Colin Bell/pressphotos.ie

Pressphotos.ie

William and Patrick Boshell at their vegetable stall in Drogheda Market in Bolton Square. Photo:Colin Bell/pressphotos.ie

It's just past 9am on Saturday and Drogheda's weekly market is up and running. It has endured some very difficult years and the outbreak of Covid-19 will hardly help. But market stall owners are made of hard stuff. They have seen lean times and gone to the well too often to throw the towel in now. And what's more , in the face of such adversity and at times fear, the chance for familiar faces to meet old friends in the open air could well prove a turning point.

Willie and Patrick Boshell have been running a stall for four decades and a bit more.

As Willie remarks, 'We have missed one or two days in 45 years. We are going nowhere,' he insists.

In a week when panic buying became a norm, there was no such panic this Saturday, with loads of spuds, carrots and whatever else you desired ready and waiting.

Willie had just gotten a call to say that there were about 100 people waiting outside a major local supermarket - ready for a huge dash inside to get whatever they could. Blind panic.

'That's not the way to do it,' he stated, relying on his years of trading experience.

'We go from day to day. Farmers can only wash so many spuds, so they send out what they have one day and then there's more to come the next.

'We could take a ton of spuds each day, but why. That will lead to a shortage for everybody.

'The thing is, there are no shortages in this country. There is plenty to go round.'

He said potatoes and veg have been the big sellers last week as people revert to the traditional.

'They know that when you have spuds and veg, you can make a stew or whatever and that's grand.'

But what the mass buying has also seen is a return - ultimately - to the local corner shop, a place that has been the backbone of communities for many decades.

While some 'big players' have come into the marketplace in recent years, at times like this, the simple purchases are what's needed.

'Why wait in a queue for two hours when you can pick up the same thing in your local shop.

'I would urge people to think local and take the pressure off everywhere else.'

In his own shop in Bettystown, he has enough variety to make '100 dinners'.

He feels there is no shortage or food or money at present but one of his main concerns is his staff.

'Keeping them healthy is a key to all of this,' he states.

In terms of the market, he can't see a problem with supply, even in the next six weeks, as there is a reserve of products out there.

'It is a time of desperate measures and people just need to do their little bit for everyone. For us, as retailers, it's about delivering the service to the people,' Patrick Boshell adds.

Last week, Willie headed to Musgraves and purchased the likes of Calpol and Uniflu, but just enough to keep his shop stocked.

'Last week, it was mad for three days and then we'll get four dead days, like Christmas, and then it will be mad again. I would urge people to just shop as you always shop.

'Grabbing 12 or 14 of something means that others who need it might not be able to get one of them.'

He also adds that despite the rush on fruit and veg, the prices did not go up. 'They are not scarce,' he explained.

Across the way from the Boshell stall is 'the eggman' - Gerry Meegan.

He is so busy, he can hardly find time to talk.

Gerry has always been popular, so a steady crowd is nothing new, but he says there has been a change.

'I have been here since 1974 and I have never seen anything like it. It is usually a lot more peaceful!'

He operates Annagh's Poultry Farm in Knockbridge so the eggs are basically his own.

And as well as hens eggs, he has duck eggs too.

As he busily hands out trays of eggs to customers, many of course regulars, one man walks up wearing a face mask. A sign of the times perhaps.

At the entrance to Bolton Street, a number of flower sellers are operating.

They too are feeling the pinch.

With mass gatherings not being recommended, the likes of Blessing of the Graves in Stamullen will not be going ahead this week. It impacts badly.

Mother's Day is on the horizon and it's hoped people will venture down on Saturday and help keep the businesses going.

Mickey Clinton has a lifetime of experience in the market and knows that later in the day people venture out.

'When I started, there were 110 stalls here,' he states,as he looks around the nine or so presently operating.

The summer will bring more out, but for the moment they have to battle on.

But still there's something for everyone - toilet rolls by the bundle, plants, perfume, cushions, make up, the lot.

They hope that people don't forget about them at this moment.

The big thing one can see walking around the market is the community feel, especially within the older community who have walked these streets and met up and chatted for decades with old friends.

The Saturday market is as vital as any outlet at this moment.

One older gentleman, after a chat with the 'eggman' - took his shopping experience in his stride - 'sure the Saturday after the Battle of the Boyne the market was full too!

Drogheda Independent