A ‘magical’ treasure trove of books farms in the village of Cork Gaeltacht


A popular second-hand Gaeltacht bookstore has closed as its founder and owner decided to retire due to mobility issues stemming from his worsening multiple sclerosis.

adaí Dubh Books was opened six years ago in Baile Mhic Íre on the main Cork-Killarney road by conservationist and book lover Conor Kelliher. The stuffed animals were exclusively roadkill animals that Conor picked up on his travels and took them to a taxidermist in Killarney and displayed the results in the store.

The announcement of the store’s closure was posted on social media on Tuesday. “After six enjoyable years, Gadaí Dubh Books is now closed,” he wrote. “However, the decision to close the bookstore is not exactly mine, it was made by my ubiquitous companion of 29 years, this harridan: Mrs Multiple Sclerosis, whom I had the displeasure of knowing for half of my life. “

The announcement was met with universal sadness and disappointment, mixed with good wishes to Conor for his welcoming presence in the shop and his unfailing hospitality.

Speaking to The Corkman, Conor said his biggest challenge was collecting books from attics and sheds and bringing them to his shop in the center of Baile Mhic Íre village.

The historic premises once hosted Pádraig Mac Piarais when he visited the village as a guest of Dr Domhnal Ó Loingsigh, a pioneering powerhouse in the parish over a hundred years ago. It then became a drapery store, run by another Con Kelleher, selling everything from gasoline to rubber boots, shirts and socks, and many other products.

Con passed away and the owner of the property was keen to occupy it, but didn’t fancy another supermarket or anything that didn’t fit the traditional nature of the premises until then.

Conor, from Baile Mhic Íre, was traveling through the village on his way to Killarney when he saw the premises empty and thought it was an opportunity to get out of the rat race. The idea took hold – and soon after Conor spoke to the owner of the property. Then, in June 2016, the shop opened under the name “Gadaí Dubh Books”, sporting a traditional style, on the facade of the shop.

Conor, a do-it-yourself carpenter and general craftsman, has completely renovated the interior of the historic premises, transforming it into a man’s cave of books on a wide variety of subjects, many on local, national and world history.

The ‘Gadaí Dubh/Black Thief’ refers to a sculpture located on the gable end of the ruins of St Gobnait’s Church in the nearby shrine. Local legend has it that the head belongs to a disgruntled workman who ran away at night with the tools of his colleagues only for the saint’s prayers forcing his horse to drive him in circles all night before being discovered and translated into summary justice. in the morning.

In reality, as Conor explained, the sculpted head is that of the ancient deity, Crom, worshiped before Christianity in Muskerry, and installed in the church to maintain a link with the pagan past when the local community moved away. is converted to Christianity. The more recent history of the Revolutionary War is also to be seen in the shop. There are bullet holes in the back of the building, dating back to the Civil War. Conor’s great-grandfather was shot by the British and his great-grandmother buried his rifle; it was in the store, along with grenades, bayonets, bits of black and tan uniforms, they’re all there for people to look at.

“I grew up in these areas and was away from here in England for many years,” Conor said of reminiscing about making the decision to move to his hometown.

“When times got tough at work with stress and everything I was always saying, Janey, I wish I could retire, open a bookstore and relax.

“I’ve always been surrounded by books because I’ve had thousands of them at home and they’ve always been friends and I’ve been very reluctant to part with any of them, which is such a hardship. you will open A Bookstore.”

Conor overcame his reluctance to part with his friends is that he began to acquire many more books. The shelves are doubly full of books and there are many more in the sheds and rooms of his house.

The shop became more than a place to buy books as it hosted French lessons, a Ciorcal Comhrá for learners of Irish, poetry readings by Dámhscoil Mhúscraí Uí Fhloinn, a meeting point for locals and visitors. It was a kind of social center as much as a place of business and commerce and all the more beloved for that.

Gadaí Dubh Books served as a refuge from electronic devices without wifi and toys such as a wooden set of x’s and o’s and a mechanical pinball machine among the toys to entertain young visitors. Classical music via Lyric FM was the constant background music and, before the Covid hit, coffee, tea and herbal teas were provided for customers who could come in to buy or browse or just hang out away from the rush outside. At Christmas and Halloween, the shop was festively decorated, creating a pleasant atmosphere in the locality.

The announcement of the closure was sudden as Conor wanted to avoid a lengthy process and closure of the sale which would add to the gloom of Christmas. But he has pledged to leave the store as is for now in the hopes that someone can come forward and commit to taking on the task of keeping it open for the next few years. There remains that glimmer of hope that this treasure trove of books and the local Mecca will be available for future generations.

“And now, as custodian of Gadaí Dubh Books, I bid you farewell and would like to thank each and every one of you for your support, custom and companionship over the past six years,” he wrote. in his farewell note. “It was kind of magical and I only wish I was physically able to carry on in my unique little bookstore but, alas, life threw me a nasty curveball and I swung and missed for the third time.”

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