Liptons in Shop Street

Our first image today is a beautiful study of part of Shop Street c1900. It is one of a number of Galway city photographs that are in an old album belonging to Norman Healy whom we thank for sharing it with us. The two women in the foreground are in their working clothes, plain black shawls and práiscíns which were heavy canvas working aprons used to carry vegetables or maybe fish in, or wear when they were washing clothes. One is carrying a basket which probably contained product she had to sell, possibly eggs, country butter or vegetables. The other lady may have had a basket strapped to her back. The gentleman behind is wearing an impressive white báinín jacket.

The gaslight in front, and the one on the corner are both elegant structures which must have, when lit up, created an interesting atmosphere on the street, probably poor lighting by today’s standards but a vast improvement on the times when there was no street lighting. The tramlines can be seen on the street. The building on the corner (Powell’s today ) was known as Maggie Murphy’s pub and tearooms. The building on the near corner was occupied by The River Plate Frozen Meat Company, and next door was Liptons which, the very large signage on the imposing façade tells us, was “The Largest Tea Dealer”.

Thomas Lipton was a Glaswegian who used his savings to open his first shop in 1871. Ten years later, he had about 200 shops. He realised there was a lot of potential growth in the market for tea, which was very expensive at the time, so he bought a tea plantation in Ceylon and sold the product at low prices in one pound, half pound and quarter pound packets. He had probably just opened his Galway branch when this photograph was taken, an upmarket grocery shop and delicatessen. They had a trade entrance on Abbeygate Street, an arched double door beside the pro-cathedral which led into the back of the shop.

Liptons advertised heavily — “Treat Your Lips to a Cup of Lipton’s Peko Tips Tea, only two Shillings and Eight Pence a Pound” or, “Direct from the Tea Gardens to the Teapot” — and quickly became popular. They were the first company in Ireland to have their own brand names …. Lipton’s teas, Lipton’s jams, Lipton’s whiskey which sold for four shillings and nine pence (around 30 cent today ) a quart. The sign on the left of the name board advertises Lipton’s Hams and Bacon, which, judging from the number of sides of bacon hanging outside, they obviously did very well. The sign to the right of the name board advertises Lipton’s homemade cakes.

Liptons were very good employers and all of their staff were well turned out and well-trained. Many of them eventually left to set up their own businesses. Mr Carr was their manager in 1923, he was followed in that role by Charlie Byrne, then Mr O’Connor, Mr Burke and Mr F Colohan.

Our second photograph was taken in 1928 and shows Charlie Byrne with some of his well turned out staff. They are, from left: Gussie Madden, a scoutmaster who once went down the Cliffs of Moher to retrieve a body; Larry O’Donnell from Waterside; Michael Murray from Mayo; Michael King from College Road; Bob Mulveagh; Kathleen Conaire; Charlie Byrne; Kathleen Lally; Margaret Curran from Henry Street; Willy Silke; Jack Burke, Quay Street; Donie McDermott; Tommy Pierce from Bowling Green; Bill McDonagh, who was the son of a policeman; and Johnny Stokes.

Many of those who remember Lipton’s in Galway would identify them with Jimmy Mulvoy who worked with the company for more than 50 years.

In later years, they put the word supermarket over the door. The company eventually closed its Galway branch in 1976.


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