REMEMBERING MRS COLLINS’S SHOP
by Eileen Keady (Lane)
Mrs Mary Collins (nee Murphy from Donoughmore) was widowed in 1955. She needed a home and a way of living. She decided to set up a shop and a site was made available to her at Berrings Cross. A one storey timber-frame building with a corrugated iron finish was built for her by Noonan builders from Aghabullogue. She called the shop "St. Senan's Stores" in honour of the patron saint of Inniscarra. In fact it was generally known as Mrs Collins's shop.

Berring’s crossroads then had the school, the church, the post office/pub and the new shop. It turned out to be a wonderful location for the new business. Within a very short time the shop became a very busy part of the community. In it was sold not only general groceries including bread, fruit and milk, but also such items as newspapers, cigarettes, sweets, birthday cards, puncture-repair kits for bikes and gripe water for babies. Mrs Collins sold paraffin oil /kerosene and a little later on she signed an agreement with ESSO to have petrol pumps installed. Selling petrol became a major aspect of the business.

Mrs Collins took delivery of the daily newspapers every morning at about 7.30. From then on the shop was a hive of activity. Bread vans delivered fresh bread and cakes. Depending on the day, there were fruit and vegetable vans, meat vans and milk lorries arriving at the shop with fresh produce. Butter was ordered from the local creamery as needed. Frequent trips to Musgrave's Cash and Carry were made to stock up the shop. The range of goods available for sale in the shop grew continually. Sugar used to be delivered in hundred weight sacks. This had to be shovelled into strong brown paper bags and weighed. As children we used to help very inexpertly with this task. I can still remember the crunch of spilt sugar as we walked on the concrete floor of the shop.  Each Saturday, a huge amount of bread was parcelled up ready for the rush of customers that would come in after mass on Sunday.

As well as running an extremely busy shop, Mrs Collins was the local chapel woman. With the able assistance of Eileen Linehan and her sister Mary, she kept the church spotlessly clean and re-ordered such items as candles, altar wine and altar breads as required. The church bell had to be rung every day at both 12 midday and 6pm for the angelus and was also rung at funerals. Once a year, Mrs Collins left the shop to lead a group of pilgrims to Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock, County Mayo. Her shop was usually left in the care of four or five young people with an adult in charge. 

Mrs Collins had a coin operated phone with the number Berrings 22. This phone became an essential communications centre for a mostly phoneless hinterland. Dates were made, vets were sent for, messages were delivered and emergencies dealt with on a regular basis.

For over 20 years, Mrs Collins and her shop played a huge part in the daily life of the townland of Berrings. The shop catered to the needs of people many of whom didn't yet own cars. Meetings and greetings, news and information were all exchanged in that little shop. A significant contribution to the community, both business and social, was lost when that little shop in Berrings closed down. Mrs Collins died in 1979. A plaque in her memory can still be seen on one of the lecterns in St.Mary's Church, Berrings. This independent woman saw out her days in service to her neighbours.