herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Couple who first met at Clerys in 1985 now face Christmas out of work

Closure

Anthony and Caroline Murphy Photo: www.doug.ie
Anthony and Caroline Murphy Photo: www.doug.ie

This Dublin couple met in Clerys, their first date was under the famous clock, and they worked in the store all their adult lives.

However, the year has ended on a sad note for Caroline (49) and Anthony Murphy (59), as the iconic store shut its doors suddenly in June after it was sold by its US owners.

The couple met for the first time in Clerys and began dating when Caroline was 19, and Anthony was 28, and they celebrated 25 happy years together in September.

"We had our first date under Clerys clock on August 3, 1985," Caroline recalled.

Magical

"We went to the Carlton cinema at the time on O'Connell Street to see one of the Police Academy movies," she said.

Caroline worked as an administrator in Clerys for 30 years.

"Coming up to Christmas, it hits you more," she told the Herald.

Anthony was the departmental manager in the gifts section, and worked there 42 years.

"We enjoyed our work. We did our best. We served the customer to the best of our ability," he said.

Anthony added that the Christmas trade was always very important to the store, and Caroline said that she has "magical" memories from the festive season in the shop.

"I have great memories of Christmas in Clerys. It was a happy atmosphere. Santa Claus being in the store and the toy shop was magical. It was really busy.

"The busiest day of the year was December 27, because that was the first day of the sale. The first 100 customers would get free breakfast up in the restaurant," she said.

The couple got married on September 11, 1990, and have a teenage son, Jonathan (18).

Nowadays, Caroline has a part-time job in Boots in Santry for the busy Christmas period, and is doing a course in Baldoyle Training Centre.

However, the events of June are still fresh in their memories.

Anthony had been out sick, so he wasn't there on the day that the store shut down, but his wife was.

"At lunchtime, Anthony rang me to say Clerys had been sold. It had been on the 1 o'clock news. We didn't think that we were going to lose our jobs," Caroline recalled.

However, later that evening, staff learned the shocking news that the store was closing, and their jobs were gone.

"Everybody was in shock. I had to ring Anthony to tell him," said Caroline.

She said that it all happened very quickly. Caroline had to hand her badge back on her way out the door.

"It takes a while to get over the shock," said Caroline. "It has taken a few months."

The way it was handled, without notice or prior warning, really hit the workers hard, they say.

"Apart from that, after all your years, not to get a redundancy package. Obviously, we got statutory, but everybody gets that under the law," Caroline pointed out.

Stressful

"It has been a tough and stressful year to be honest.

"It has been a major change, because you don't have the income coming in that you had, and then ... after you get over the shock, you are thinking, 'Oh what am I going to do next?'" she said.

"The friends we met in Clerys will always be friends for life. We are like a big, happy family really. It was that type of set up in Clerys.

"For a lot of people, Clerys was their family," she added.

Since its closure, many of the workers have been protesting for a change in the law.

They have called for employers to enter a 30-day period of consultation with workers before redundancies can occur.

Clerys was sold by Boston-based Gordon Brothers to Natrium Ltd, which says it plans to invest in the rejuvenation of the Dublin 1 property, creating 1,700 jobs.

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