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Lockdowns were final straw for country market

December 13th, 2021 10:30 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Margaret McCarthy and Moira Kingston are two of the original members of Skibbereen’s Country Market, which was formed 42 years ao. Missing from the photograph is Betty Casey who joined the organisation a mere four weeks after it began

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AFTER a long and proud tradition serving the community, Skibbereen’s country market is to close on Friday December 17th.

The country market first opened its doors at the CYMS Hall in Market Street in April 1979, and quickly became a vibrant market with well over 40 producers offering a wide range of vegetables, baked goods, eggs, honey, jams and chutneys, as well as plants and cut flowers.

Long queues, waiting for the doors to open, were a regular feature of peoples’ Friday morning trips to town to stock up for the week ahead.

Even when the market relocated to the Scouts Hall in the Old Mart Yard the queues continued to be a feature of what was the traditional shopping day in town. About 30 years ago, the market moved into Abbeystrewry Hall, off the Old Mart Yard, and that seemed to be its perfect home.

The well-worn timber floors of Abbeystrewry Hall, the masses of tables covered with colourful oil cloths topped with delicious smelling home baking and big, beautiful bouquets of homegrown flowers was a sight to behold.

Over the 42 years, Edith Deane, the vice-chairperson of the organisation explained, the market has had many producers.

Today, there are just two of the very first members involved – Margaret McCarthy and Moira Kingston – but another current member, Betty Casey, joined a mere four weeks later.

In fact, there is one truly life-long member, Karen Fitzpatrick, the daughter of Moira, who has been working at the country market for as long as she can remember.

The market changed over the years from being a market mainly for baking, vegetables and plants to a market stocked with a wide range of arts and crafts as well.

‘The market has always been a place that had a great social aspect too for both the producers and their customers,’ according to Sharon O’Driscoll.

‘It was a great place to enjoy a cuppa, a cake and a chat,’ said Sharon who has been a member for the last 13 years.

Sharon, who is originally from Wales, relocated to West Cork more than 30 years ago, but joining the Country Market was, she said, one of the best things she ever did.

‘It was a great way to get to know people in the community. I bake and I do crafts and this was somewhere I could bring those skills and make a bit of money too.

‘Those of use still remaining have become very close over the years and I will be sad to see it go,’ she added. ‘It has been a big part of our week for many years. I don’t know what we will do now on Fridays.’

The country market has had its ups and downs over the years. When the livestock mart moved to its present location at Marsh Road, the footfall reduced dramatically and then, when the Farmers’ Market opened about 20 years ago, things became quieter still.

The members said they have tried many things over the last few years to revive the market but the final straw came with the Covid-19 lockdowns when the hall was unavailable for long periods of time.

The market members say they have come to the sad conclusion that they must close the doors forever on Friday December 17th next.

They said they would like to most sincerely thank all those who have supported the country market over the past 42 years.

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