Tuesday 21 January 2020

Cheers to 127 years of history as iconic Smithfield market closes

The last day on the Joseph Duffy flower stand
The last day on the Joseph Duffy flower stand

It was the end of an era for Dublin's Victorian fruit and vegetable market as the 127-year-old institution closed its doors for the final time in its current state.

Wholesale traders in Smithfield spent yesterday morning fondly recalling the memories and characters that have passed through the historic market down the years.

Many of the early risers who loyally stood by their stands from 6am each day shared a glass of wine with their colleagues and customers before closing up for the last time until 2021.

It is expected that the Victorian building will be renovated as a retail market, much like the English Market in Cork.However, some traders believe that the premises will lose its historic charm in the process. Others fear it will fall into a state of disrepair, similar to the Iveagh Market in Dublin's Liberties.

Joseph Duffy, a third-generation trader known for his flowers, told the Herald that his first memories of the market were the smells.

"Back in the day, once you walked into the market the smell of all the fruit, vegetables and flowers hit you at once. It was like perfume," he said.

"Another very early memory I have was being absolutely freezing here during Christmas, but as long as you kept yourself busy you never felt the cold."

Mr Duffy added that 40 years ago, men wouldn't be caught dead walking out with a bouquet of flowers.

"I remember a fellow bought a bunch of flowers off my father and asked for a potato sack to go along with them. He stuck the flowers in it and threw the sack over his shoulder just to avoid the abuse he'd get by being seen with them."

Back in the market's heyday, money wasn't the only method of transaction.

According to wholesaler Tony O'Connor, he became lifelong friends with a man who traded him two bottles of Guinness for a bouquet of flowers.

"This man was in a rush to get to the Rotunda where his wife had just given birth to a baby boy. He was desperate to buy her some flowers, but didn't have any money," he said.


"Thankfully, he worked for Guinness's and offered me two large bottles of stout as an alternative for cash, which I happily accepted.

"We became great friends and years later I even organised the flowers for his son's wedding day.

"It's very sad to lose this place. Although, they say it will be refurbished, I know we'll never see the likes of it again.

"This is the real Dublin and another dagger in the heart of the city."

Moore Street fruit and flower seller Joan Barrett (72) said she had been in floods of tears over the closure.

"I've been coming to this market for over 50 years, as well as my mother and her mother before," she said.

"I'm standing here in this great open space and all I can see and hear are the old ghosts of the women I once knew."

Dublin City Council, which owns the building, said traders who opted for temporary accommodation will have an option to relocate to the redeveloped market at Smithfield.

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