IN the 1,000 days since Covid, Kieran Cotter took just 10 days away from his Gala Store in Baltimore, but come Sunday he’ll be a ‘free’ man.
For more than four decades, Kieran and his wife Brigid have been the face of retail trade in Baltimore, ever since Kieran returned from two years fishing, and two years in the merchant navy, to buy the old marine store with its old, corrugated iron roof.
Then a 22-year-old, he was undaunted by the challenge, or indeed the challenges he faced as a member of the lifeboat crew over the same 45-year period, 31 of which were as coxswain.
He knocked down the old building and put in its place a three-storey building with a grocery store on the ground floor, and living accommodation in the two storeys overhead.
The good news is that Kieran is leasing the business to Ivan Camier and Christina Coakley, who will run it in addition to their Gala Store in Ballydehob.
It was two-and-a-half years ago that Kieran resolved to be out of the grocery business before the busy season started in 2023.
He will, however, continue to sell coal and oil to the many loyal customers he has built up over the years.
Kieran thanked all of his staff throughout his tenure, including Michael Mitchell, who has been there for 11 years, as well as their part-time assistant Jane Gilson.
‘We’ve been blessed too,’ he said, ‘with our customers over the last 45 years, so I’d like to thank them too.’
Kieran said he liked the work, claiming it was hardly work at all, given that it was ‘in no way difficult’. But he does admit to doing long hours, seven days a week.
‘It was easy,’ he said, ‘because there was always a bit of chatting at the wall, or a trip down to the pier.’
Kieran’s lifeboat buddies threw him and his family, including his children Dearbhail, Cillian and Ciarán, a party at The Waterfront between Christmas and New Year’s.
But Kieran plans to celebrate this latest life-changing event by sailing to Madeira at the end of June.
The sailing trip is being organised by the Irish Cruising Club and it will commemorate the beginning of the ‘round the world trip by Conor O’Brien in his boat Saoirse.
Kieran says he’ll only be away 12 days and that he will come back.
He is philosophical about retirement. ‘There’s a time for everything,’ he said, ‘starting your life, the work of your life, and then there’s time for the chaise longue.’