LEIFCE BEHIND TH OUNTER
BEN DUNNE SPENT A LIFETIME WORKING IN THE FAMILY STORE AND REVEALS TO MARTIN BOLAND THE MANY CHANGES HE HAS SEEN THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
BEN Dunne is a shopkeeper from the picturesque Co. Carlow village of Clonegal who has the same name as a very famous former retailer and has spent his whole life working in his family run village store.
Ben left school at 13 as there was no boys' secondary school in the area.
He began working in his family run grocery, hardware, newsagent and solid fuel supply shop in June 1951 having spent three years as an apprentice at nearby McCreadys.
This was post war Ireland and because of rations all supplies had to be measured.
Job opportunities were scarce andBen explained: 'Most young males went to England and few returned.'
During his lifetime Ben has seen many changes. He recalls fondly that as a child the family had a bakery behind the shop which met all demands of the area.
His late father had a thriving wool business then and that too is long gone. When Ben began working in the shop up to 15 bread vans could arrive daily to meet demand, now just three a week call.
Another unique aspect of Ben's work is the weekly trip around the area selling groceries. In the past they would go out five days a week in a horse drawn cart on dirt-track roads selling to those who had no transport.
In the early 50s the horse was replaced by a van. Now they only go out on deliveries three evenings a week. Rural electrification arrived in the mid-fifties and brought the biggest changes in Ben's working life. It's unimaginable now to think of life without electricity.
In the 1970's the family acquired the post office which brought added welcome custom with pension day Friday being the busiest day of the week. Another major change which has occurred is the influx of supermarket chains such as Tesco,Lidl and Aldi.
Ben said: 'People can now go to the towns for special deals and it's hard for us to stay competitive.'
When asked about pursuing a different career Ben revealed: 'I did think about other careers but the opportunity never arose.'
However despite these tough economic times, Ben still retains the same passion for the job as when he started all those years ago.
While the shop which has been in the family for 300 years, it also remains strong supplying a vital service to the people of Clonegal every day of the week from 7.30am to 10pm in a friendly family atmosphere.