WHEN a shop girl was out sick from work at Power’s store in Crosshaven for a few days many years ago, her malaise proved a good omen for North Cork farmer’s daughter Marie Power.
“I drifted in here to help out when Sheila got sick and she had to take time off to get better,” says Marie. And she has been trading on the Lower Road in Crosshaven for 45 years!
Marie is sharing her kind hospitality with me in her cosy kitchen behind the shop.
“I came to Power’s store to help out,” she recalls.
Marie found herself smitten by the picturesque village with ancient maritime ties.
“I loved it from day one,” she says.
Marie made her mark behind the counter and behind the scenes — finding something special that money can’t buy.
“I had a really nice mother-in-law who showed me the ropes and who was kind enough to promote me,” says Marie, who is originally from Boherbue but who is now a well-known and well-loved staple in the village of Crosshaven.
“Louise was the nicest mother in-law possible that you could imagine,” says Marie, who is well used to forming unique relationships with old and young, after trading now in Power’s shop for half a lifetime.
“Louise’s husband Nicolas was a Garda while Louise ran the shop.”
The two women, forming a close bond, took to working together like ducks to water.
Billy Power wasn’t a bad catch either.
“Billy was an engineer,” says Marie, speaking about her late husband.
“We met at a dance years ago and we never lost touch, which is how I came to work here and got involved in the shop.
“Billy and I were a good match. We got married on September 3, 1960,” adds Marie, showing me her wedding photo. I tell Marie that she was a beautiful bride. Her beautiful skin is still glowing to this day.
Relations were always good in Power’s shop, and business was always good.
“Louise knew the drapery business well,” says Marie.
“She would introduce me to the customers,” adds the shop owner, who knows all her regular customers on a first-name basis.
“She’d say; ‘this is Billy’s wife, Marie’.”
Marie didn’t shy away from the customers, who came to buy a range of goods ranging from candles, to needles, to oil for primus stoves, to feathers and weights for fish boxes, to home-made jam, to nails, to matches, to fresh bread and butter. And even more.
“I loved meeting people and I loved the shop, which was a general store and which still is to this day,” says Marie.
“I have lovely neighbours and lovely customers.”
What other things did Power’s general store sell back in the day?
“We sold shoes, socks, ties, needles, wool, hair ribbons, and green ribbons for St Patrick’s Day.
“Holiday-makers bought post-cards to send to their friends and neighbours. They were the nicest people. Everyone was in a happy mood,” adds Marie.
Listening to the forest of yacht masts flapping and halyards clanking happily together in the gentle wind as young dinghy sailors laugh and joke in the nearby boatyard, puts us all in happy mode.
“The Ocean to City Harbour Festival was a flagship event here in Crosshaven over the years. It brought a huge influx of people from all over,” says Marie.
“The Ocean to City boat race caused great excitement and there was a great buzz around the village.”
Business was brisk.
“Summers were always busy. We loved all the activity and meeting everyone coming in and out of the shop to get their shopping and supplies for the day.”
People made merry.
“The Merries came to town and both kids and adults had a great time.”
They often got more than they bargained for in Power’s store.
“People always had time to have a friendly chat,” says Marie, who is a people-lover and who still firmly believes in that nice code of conduct with her customers and with the welcome tourists who come to Crosshaven.
Marie has had hoards of visitors to Power’s down the decades.
“After mass on Sunday, there used to be a rush into the shop for paraffin oil for the primus stoves,” she recalls.
“Often people rushed in before mass to get the oil so they could get the Sunday roast cooking after mass.”
The Sabbath day wasn’t a day of rest of the Powers.
“The shop would be full on a Sunday!” recalls Marie.
They were happy days.
“The kids used to head off fishing and they might need fishing tackle or a bucket to hold the bait.
“Housewives came in for freshly baked ham and home-made crusty soda bread for the cold-meat salad supper in the evening.”
More visitors arrived at Power’s shop in the evening.
“Kids came to the front door with fresh mackerel,” says Marie.
“There was fish everywhere”!
Bartering was rife.
“The kids sold the mackerel to neighbours to get money for sweets. They had great fun.”
Billy took a familiar back seat where the shop was concerned.
“He wasn’t a businessman,” says Marie.
But he was a handy commodity to have around though.
“He was a good tradesman and he helped improved the shop,” says Marie. “And he knew the shop inside out.”
He helped out too when help was called for.
“One day he had to help an elderly lady inside the front door.”
Was the lady having trouble with her legs?
“No. She said her elastic was gone! I couldn’t keep a straight face and started giggling.”
Billy kept a straight face too.
“The lady asked him to guide her to the counter, and asked him was it far away?”
No doubt the elderly lady left another satisfied customer?
“I think she did,” says Marie, smiling at the memory.
Powers was, and is, a powerhouse on the main street, providing all manner of goods and services.
“We have three deliveries of hand-made bread a day,” says Marie.
As business boomed, Powers was never closed for business.
“We were open all hours,” says Marie. “There was no such thing as closing.”
And there was no such thing as being stuck for anything when you shopped at her general store.
“We stocked gas and gas appliances, which often came in handy for people with boats,” says Marie.
“Yacht-owners were regular customers. They knew we had what they needed.”
Power’s floated their boat.
“The skippers knew we stocked everything they required. They didn’t even have to ask. They could just come in and see for themselves.”
Marie was at home with yacht owners and with dog owners.
“Often the people sailing here asked me to stand in for a photograph with them as a souvenir,” says Marie, who is still as photogenic as the day she married her first and only love, Billy.
“People stopped by walking their dogs and we’d chat and often take a photograph together.”
Marie was always obliging.
“Once or twice a dog wet the shop floor and I’d have to mop it out!”
Marie ,who was as happy as Larry with Billy, (who sadly passed away 17 years ago), and with the shop, says she is still happy out.
“The shop gave me a new lease of life,” says Marie.
“I had never been so happy and I’m so happy to be still trading here and living here.”
Marie caters for the living people, and in the past, she catered for the dead too.
“We stocked habits used to lay people out after they had died,” says Marie. “I remember the habits were blue for the women and brown for the men.”
Death could come knocking on the door any time.
“There were no funeral homes in those days,” says Marie.
“We’d often get a knock on the door in the middle of the night with someone looking for a habit to wake a loved-one at home.”
Did Marie and Billy get a rude awakening?
“It was often a scary experience to hear a shout in the dead of night,” says Marie. “The habits were kept in a flat box. Sometimes I was so shaken, I could hardly open it.”
How much did a habit cost?
“Two pounds,” says Marie.
“After Mrs Power Snr passed away, we threw out the habits. Funeral homes had begun to open up by then.”
Marie embraces every day, and she embraces the people who know her so well in the village she knows so well.
“I just love it here,” says Marie. “The neighbourhood, the walks, the scenery, the sea, the neighbours; everything is lovely.”
Marie is never short of company.
“People call in all the time to see if I ever need anything. They are so kind.”
Marie is so kind too. I need a bottle opener because my son stole my one. Can I buy one while I’m here?
“Here you are,” says Marie, reaching behind the counter. “Take this bottle opener as a souvenir. And a pot of home-made jam too.”
She is too kind.
“That’s what makes the world go around,” says Marie.
Next week: Sheila Murphy, owner of Murphys’ shop on Pearse Street, Kinsale.
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