End of an era for a Killarney generation

The late Michael Sheehan pictured behind the counter of his landmark business premises on Main Street, Killarney.
Picture: Valerie O’Sullivan

HE was the softly spoken, charming man who will be remembered by a whole generation of wide-eyed children as the smiling face behind the counter of a magical, colourful emporium of sweets and treats in the heart of Killarney town.

Michael Sheehan, who owned and operated the landmark Reidy’s sweetshop on Main Street for many years, has passed away, peacefully, at St Joseph’s Nursing Home in Kenmare.

Featured for decades on postcards and tourist brochures, photographed tens of thousands of times and captured on video by so many for posterity, the JM Reidy’s premises is a standout feature on the Killarney streetscape.

Dating back to 1870, the terraced three-storey premises was previously a thriving bakery before it was developed into a souvenir store, grocery and sweetshop with a small bar and off-licence to the rear.

Michael enjoying a bit of fun with visiting cowboys during the Killarney 4th July Festival

Michael had been selling jars of old-fashioned boiled sweets by the quarter from his licensed premises since the 1960s but, unknown to most visitors, there was a pub – full of character and characters – at the rear. Unusually, it didn’t sell draught but there was no shortage of cans of stout and beer and, of course, wines and spirits.

The premises, known locally as The Sweetshop, also specialised in what could be termed “fancy goods” with ornate figurines, unique paintings and prints, crockery and delph, porcelain and ornate clocks in the section of the building that used to house the bakery.

From the 1920s, Reidy’s Bakery was a hive of activity on a daily basis when grain was delivered by a team of people on horse and carts from the bustling four-storey St John’s Mill in Dunloe which closed soon after World War II.

The landmark JM Reidy’s building on Main Street

The building, which is a protected structure, features decorative consoles, inscribed lettering to the glazed fascia and moulded cornices.

Since his retirement, the premises has been leased and it is now a hugely successful bar and restaurant.

When not behind the counter, which was seldom, Michael loved nothing more than a game of 31 with friends or pitch and putt and he was a long-time member of the Gleneagle club.

Michael, who was predeceased by his parents, Cal and Delia and sisters Nora and Marie, is survived by his nephew David, nieces Dorothy and Felicity, relatives and many friends.

Reposing at O’Shea’s Funeral Home on Monday evening from 6.00pm to 7.00pm, Requiem Mass will be celebrated in St Mary’s Cathedral at 10.30am on Tuesday followed by burial in Aghadoe Cemetery, Killarney. The Mass will be live streamed on https://www.churchservices.tv/killarneycathedral.