herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Where's the call to arms to save northside ahead of 1916 events?

Clerys has also closed its doors for the final time (INM)
Clerys has also closed its doors for the final time (INM)

This Sunday the shutters will finally come down on Boyers department store after over 100 years in business, heralding the loss of 83 jobs.

Some workers would have been there for over 40 long years and were on first-name terms with their customers. It's been a long goodbye for the North Earl Street department store, given that its closure was announced last September.

Thankfully, its workers were shown more respect than those of Clerys. But while its loyal customers have been bracing themselves for its closure, it does little to take the sting out of saying a sad goodbye to the area's last flagship department store.

Destroyed

There was a Boyers on the site, 22 North Earl Street and 4 Cathedral Street, dating back to 1908.

It was one of the first sites to be destroyed during the 1916 Rising, along with Clerys. It was also looted during the Civil War, but was set up as a limited company called Boyers & Co in 1929 and continued trading for the rest of the century.

Surviving countless recessions and economic dips, its owners, Fitzwilliam Finance Partners, decided to pull the plug last year, despite efforts to save the store.

Now, along with Guiney's on Talbot Street and of course, Clerys, Boyers is set to become just another shuttered shop on what was once one of the northside's busiest shopping streets.

I remember getting my first pair of school shoes in Boyers. I don't know why there was such excitement putting your foot into that contraption that was like a vice, but it was always a thrill (they use an iPad now).

Then fighting with your mum as you wanted to get the shiny patent shoes but she wanted the sensible, dull leather option.

Just like the first visit to Santa Claus was in Clerys and my first date was (cringe!) under Clery's clock.

In those pre-Tinder days, if either party didn't show up chances are you would never see a whisper of them again.

Boyers was once a part of every northsider's childhood memory.

But just what is happening to Dublin's north inner city? While Henry Street and its environs appear to be thriving amid the recovery, North Earl Street and Talbot Street have become down-at-heel and forgotten.

Passers-by hurry along it now, past the bargain stores and mobile phone shops.

There's no dawdling for them, nothing to entice them to spend a little longer on the street. They're all in a hurry to get somewhere prettier, somewhere more appealing where they can shop at their leisure or meet friends for coffee in trendier venues.

When I was walking along it for this feature, counting no less than six shops closing down, one elderly gentleman told me to "watch my handbag".

High rents and the lure of suburban shopping centres with their endless free parking are among the reasons cited for the street's demise.

Not to mention the scourge of drug addiction and crime that has blighted the north inner city in recent years, among other areas.

Yet in a few months' time, we'll see an explosion of events and ceremonies to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising, at an expense to hundreds of thousands of euro to the taxpayer.

Heart

But where's the call to arms to preserve one of the most historic areas of north Dublin, on which sits the GPO?

There's no outrage, no public meetings and no declarations of support to organise a much needed-boost for it.

The bronzed statue of James Joyce at the top of North Earl Street looks incongruously out of place now as he appears to gaze in despair at his shabby surroundings.

It's a sad state of affairs for an area that while not the most chic, always had a certain inimitable charm.

The phrase "end of an era" is casually bandied around now with an ease that belies its true meaning. But it's one that is truly apt when Boyers closes this weekend.

As one local said: "This area used to be swinging, but the heart of the city is gone now."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News