The Limerick Milk Market

 I remember the size of his enormous hands as he snapped the neck of the Turkey.   ‘God you drive a hard bargain missus’ he said, as my mother looked on with satisfaction.

She later recounted her story to anyone who cared to listen. She boasted about ‘getting the best Bird in the Market for half nothing’ and ‘He even killed and plucked it as part of the deal’ she said with pride.

I remember the weight of that Turkey as I struggled to carry it home for my mam. It was as big as myself. My arms ached as I did everything in my power to lift it high enough, trying to ensure that its head didn’t bounce along the ground. It seemed to have doubled in weight, as I got closer to home. I remember a man on a bike shouting ‘what did that poor Turkey ever do to you Son’ as I struggled in vain to keep my mothers prize from falling into the muddy puddles that formed after a recent shower. My father greeted me with laughter when he saw the state of the ‘best bird in the market’.  ‘That Turkey looks as if it’s gone fifteen rounds with Cassius Clay’ he joked, as he went on to reassure me that he would have it sorted before my mother got home.

This was my first memory of the Limerick Milk Market.

The noise of Turkeys, feathers flying, as they met their end at the hands of their executioners. The Carol singing, the bargain hunters, the laughter, the buzz of Christmas as my mother reminded me that it was “ only two more sleeps before Santa came”. The Market was a magic place to be at festive time. As a seven year old, I could not imagine a more exciting place in the world then Limerick’s Milk Market. I was hooked!

From boy to man, the annual excursion to that special place became a feature of all my Christmases. Years later I set out to capture the ‘magic’ of the Market with my Camera. I quickly realised that it was the people who made it unique and I learned a lot from studying them. My father called it the ‘University of Life’. The owned very little but money couldn’t buy what they possessed in abundance. They were people with character and principles. Honesty and integrity and a profound decency were common features in those days. They were eager and willing to share what little they had with those less fortunate then themselves. These were the Grandchildren of people born during the Famine and they knew what real hardship was.

Now, as I look at those images from the 70s, the memories come flooding back. I can close my eyes and hear the sounds of Christmas and I remember the Magic of the Limerick Milk Market and the special people that I was privileged to meet there.

It’s all changed now. A canvas canopy protects the traders and shoppers from Limericks notorious rain. The scene is one of affluence and worlds apart from the Market of my youth. The buzz is there, the laughter the same, but the sounds are punctuated by people speaking languages and selling products that were unimaginable in the 70s.

And I can’t help thinking – What would Old Moll make of all this?

Exhibition now open – National Photographic Archive, Temple Bar

71 replies
  1. Ann Nolan
    Ann Nolan says:

    Loved what i saw on Capital D Gerry, I am from Limerick and am wondering if you have put a book together on the photo’s I saw in the Milk Market , they were very special , I have a love for this beautiful city and am very proud of it.
    Well done and please keep up the good work . What an eye and a talent you have. Ann

    Reply
    • elizabeth alwaked
      elizabeth alwaked says:

      the photo in the limerick leader of patrick dunne .i live in london and was at home on holiday at the time of print .you captured my dad so well just as i remember him .a good kind soul .thanks for that .best of luck .god bless .

      .Elizabeth alwaked .

      Reply
  2. Ann Nolan
    Ann Nolan says:

    Thank God there a people like you who had the mind to take those shots when you did, they are fantastic .
    Looking forward to seeing some more, thanks for sharing them.The guy with the bag over his shoulder and hen in his hand, (Market A Edit ) is still around , I can get his name if you want it ?, you can let me know. Ann Nolan

    Reply
  3. Michael Forde
    Michael Forde says:

    Absolutely brilliant , tough times, yet some brought a smile to my face, great memories of the ‘good ‘old days, thanks

    Reply
  4. Kathleen O Shaughnessy
    Kathleen O Shaughnessy says:

    Hi Gerry, I just saw your photographs which were in the Limerick Leader and thought that they were absolutely wonderful. every picture definalely told a story. I can’t wait for you to publish a book of photographs on Limerick. Well done. Kathleen

    Reply
  5. Vincent Lahiff
    Vincent Lahiff says:

    Hi Gerry,

    My family was delighted to see your picture on the Limerick leader of 9/7/’11 entitled ‘A man carries a wheelbarrow at Mount St Lawrence cemetery.’

    This man is my late Grandfather Christopher Lahiff.

    Vin Lahiff.

    Reply
  6. Pat Forde
    Pat Forde says:

    Gerry just read the on-line version of the Leader, and was blown away with you Photographs. Memories of Limerick in the 1970’s came flodding back, your web site photographs of the Milk Market are a window into the past history of Limerick and its people. I also remember fondly our Days in the FCA , delighted to see all is positive for you now. I suggest that with your permission your Photographs of the Milk market be put on permanent display in the now award winning Milk Market as a historic pictorial record of the people of Limerick. Your Photographs of Limerick bring to life the History of Limerick as the late Jim Kemmy did in the print media.Wishing all the best for the future.

    Reply
  7. Paddy Madden
    Paddy Madden says:

    Wonderfull photos of days gone by. The geezer with the banjo 1673-Edit was located close to where I ran a stall selling books and LP’s in the Summer of ’78. Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  8. Aisling O' Donoghue
    Aisling O' Donoghue says:

    The photo of the old lady standing in a doorway is my great-gran-aunt, Hannie Mc Loughlin. It was taken at her house in Summer Street. Only for Gerry Andrews I would not know what she looked like. She was terribly poor. My mother remembers Auntie Hannie stuffing the spout of the teapot with newspaper to keep the tea warm.

    Reply
  9. patrick downey
    patrick downey says:

    HI GERRY THE CHAP IN PICTURE 39 IS WILLE COADY HE LIVED IN ST MARYS PARK HE WOULD HAVE BEEN A CLASS AHEAD OF ME IN ST. SENANS CBS ON THE ISLAND ROAD,ILL BE 47 THIS YEAR SO HE WOULD PROBABLY BE 48 0R 9.PICTURE 46 IM FARILY CERTAIN IS MAGGIE MOLONEY SHE LIVED IN THE OLD COTTAGES ON THE ISLAND ROAD. THERE IS NEW HOUSES BUILT ON THE SITE NOW, MAGGIE WOULD HAVE OWNED SOME OF THE LAND THAT LEE ESTATE IS BUILT ON.SHE USED TO GO ALL OVER ST MARYS PARISH COLLECTING PATATO SKINS AND WASTE FOOD FOR HER ANIMALS.SHE USED TO SELL VEGETABLES AND APPLES IN THE MARKET.

    Reply
  10. Jim Walshe
    Jim Walshe says:

    I read about these in the Limerick Leader, I am over here is Canada. I remember going to the market every weekend with my mum for the veg and fruit. How these brought back so many memories, how much more simple life was back then. We were poor but we never new it.

    Reply
  11. foncey stanners
    foncey stanners says:

    i remember that man making baskets i think darcy was him name his brother was sonny darcy horse riding place in ballincurra.and pearse duffy and her daughter marion..i remember those days well..nice photos kiddo.

    Reply
  12. Declan
    Declan says:

    Outstanding world class work both on an artisitic level and as a historical archive. This collection needs to be on permanent exhibition in St. John’s Castle, or the Hunt Museum, or better still the Milk Market (www.milkmarketlimerick.ie)

    Reply
  13. Daniel Clery
    Daniel Clery says:

    Gerry,

    What a marvellous archive of priceless images you have discovered. Thanks to article on Leader I ws able to source your web site and marvel at the slide show.

    Congratulations on the quality of the images and website itself.

    Dan Clery

    Reply
  14. Colm
    Colm says:

    These are wonderful photos. There is an overwhelming feeling of melancholy about them. Nobody smiling, many of them a portrait of very tough times in Ireland for some of our people.
    I remember going to the market on occasion in the ’70’s & 80’s without realising the depths of poverty some people were enduring. We have come along way !
    It would be interesting to know what became of many of these people, I’m sure they would have stories to tell.

    Reply
  15. Martin Byrne
    Martin Byrne says:

    Beautiful photos – beautiful people, yes even the old wrinkly bearded lady, they’re all beautiful.

    I see that there aren’t any fat people and that people look more worn – how times have changed. You need to be sure to pack your wide angle lens in these days of obesity.

    The memory of the famine is far far behind us.

    Thanks for sharing these photos.

    Reply
  16. martin walsh
    martin walsh says:

    Hi Gerry

    Im a refugee from Cork, only in Limerick 30 years, and I,ve just stumbled across this site. Your pictures of the Market are extraordinary. Have you been asked to exhibit them in Limerick or is it something you would be interested in?

    regards

    Martin Walsh

    Reply
  17. Jim Power
    Jim Power says:

    Really great photo’s. What a contrast with the market of today – not a Latté in sight back then! Make’s you think, is anyone that badly off compared to back then?

    Reply
  18. Johnnie Dono
    Johnnie Dono says:

    Wow I just spotted an old mate of mine from Sean Heuston Place,a famous limerick chracter as a young lad,Teddy Grey,,,gonna have a good look through them,,,,i should know many,,,amazing….

    Reply
  19. Johnnie Dono
    Johnnie Dono says:

    God above the MARKET A edit photograph is a lovely pic of ole Thady, he actually only passed away a few months ago, god love him..

    Reply
  20. Meave O'Halloran Quigley
    Meave O'Halloran Quigley says:

    Hi, I cannot tell you how wonderful I think your pictures are – all of them – the ones in the Milk Market are fantastic. We would always have gone to the Market on Saturday with my Mom and Dad for fruit and veg. I wonder if the man weaving the basket in photograph 9/60 is the same man that had a stall/shop on Gerald Griffin Street. I was always fascinated by the shop when I was a child. Thank you so much for sharing them.

    Reply
  21. John Mac Namara
    John Mac Namara says:

    What memories! I remember going to the market on Saturday mornings with my mother in the 1960s. It strikes me we didn’t really realise the level of poverty that existed then – puts today’s economic situation in context quite a bit.

    It’s a fantastic collection, a super historical collection and of amazing quality. You are to be complimented!

    Reply
  22. Dominic Taylor
    Dominic Taylor says:

    Hi Gerry,

    Remember your double page spread in the Limerick People newspaper of the Milk Market with editorial by Limerick poet John Liddy early 1980’s…great memories!
    Dominic Taylor

    Reply
  23. Ann O'Connell
    Ann O'Connell says:

    You have taken me down memory lane, and as a photographer myself I really appreciate your work! Just for a few minuets I was a young girl again, waiting for my mother to come back from the Saturday market with shoes for me. GREAT WORK!!!! I took some photos last Autumn in the market, and yes it has changed so much, this time there were Smiles, not sad faces…..Once again FANTASTIC. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  24. Michael Delahunty
    Michael Delahunty says:

    Gerry Brilliant, the Limerick Market pictures are on a par if not better than the great late Bill Doyle. Well done.

    Reply
  25. D. Clohessy
    D. Clohessy says:

    Thank you very much for publishing the milk market pictures.

    My late father worked there during the run up to Christmas and was responsible for the demise of many a turkey!
    Thank you again for bringing back the memory of a more honest era.

    Reply
  26. kathleen obrien
    kathleen obrien says:

    Thank you so much for evoking so many happy memories of the Milk Market. I hope you’ll have the published in book form. the expressions on the faces you captured so well, e.g. the girl with the dogs, the blind fiddler etc. etc.

    Reply
  27. Rose Peterson
    Rose Peterson says:

    You’ve given me a wonderful trip down memory lane! I remember going to the milk market with my mother & dragging home bags of goodies. Your photos of Ireland in the 70s are outstanding and evoke fond memories of simpler times. I hope you find more photos to publish … thank you.

    Reply
  28. Ger Mccloskey
    Ger Mccloskey says:

    Gerry,excellent photos,I remember John Maloney and my self from wolfe tone street going to the market to make a few bob killing and plucking turkeys,its easy money some one said!!!!The first woman we saw buying a turkey,we asked if she wanted it killed and plucked,she said she did but if we tore the skin we would get nothing,guess what we got nothing.good memorys.

    Reply
  29. Lily
    Lily says:

    Really lovely photos. B&W leads us to dive deeper into expressions, I think, too.

    I’m not a city girl but your story of toting the turkey sounds like daily life in the Ozark Mountains. There’s always more work than hands and little ones have to do often more than grownups.

    Reply
  30. Tony Fleming
    Tony Fleming says:

    Hi Gerry, Thank you so much for the memories.Im retired here in Turkey & it was great to look at those photographs.Im not great on computers but I will try to save this .Once again thank you. Kind regards, Tony Fleming.

    Reply
  31. James O Brien
    James O Brien says:

    I have identified people in 4 photographs of limerick in the 70s, counting from left to right picture 14 is tinker called Lally Donoghue, picture 15 is the famous basket maker John Delaney, picture 40 is Mrs Duffy From weston and her family still have a stall in the market every saturday, and picture 45 is John Coady.

    Hope this helps you.

    James

    Reply
  32. Richard Horan
    Richard Horan says:

    Hello the photo Number 52 ( Woman with a pram ) is a lady called Maggie that lived on the Island Road in a cottage across from the convent entrance. Houses built on the site of her cottage now. She collected potato and vegetable skins and food waist in that pram for her chickens to eat. I remember her calling to my mother twice a week when I was a child.

    Reply
  33. Sharon Slater
    Sharon Slater says:

    Absolutely Fascinating, it is amazing how much we have changed as a city, I remember the 80s being not much different, all in all, the city is a lot cleaner/richer now, though the cries of recession are in the air, we are a lot better off than we were.

    Reply
  34. cepta Lyons
    cepta Lyons says:

    On a break in Limerick this week and saw your exhibition in the Hunt. Bought the calendar and love it but would love to have access to all the wonderful quotations which add so much to the overall atmosphere of the collection. Are they available anywhere?

    Reply
  35. Pat Ambrose
    Pat Ambrose says:

    Gerry, brilliant pics is all I can say, the one of the young boy with the dog in doorway looks like a painting, the lines are just beautiful, the lady with the hair growth on her chin used to live on Mulgrave St. near the old Shoe Factory I think.
    Fair play to you for bringing these to life again, and posting a history of Limerick as it used to be. I didn’t realise we were so poor.

    Reply
  36. Willie O' Shaughnessy
    Willie O' Shaughnessy says:

    What can I say. A totally different world but remember a lot of it myself. From Turkey plucking to selling. A wonderful collection. Thank God you took these photo’s , great memories. You had a photo there of my wife’s aunt ( Hannie McLoughlin ) and she was thrilled to have it on show. Again , Congrats on the exhibition. From The O’Shaughnessy’s ( you might know us better as Shann )

    Reply
  37. Annette Chambers
    Annette Chambers says:

    What a fantastic collection of photo’s, truely amazing. it looks like life was very hard for people at that time, but I’d say they were all very happy with their day out at the market.

    Its quiet possible we could be going down that road again.

    Congratulations and the very best of luck with all your future endevours.

    Great photography.

    Reply
  38. Mary Walshe
    Mary Walshe says:

    I grew up in Limerick, now resident in Kilkenny. My mother sold veg and duck eggs in the market for many years. I can still remember some of the faces in the photos, over 40 years later. Brings back so many memories. Great to see the old images saved for posterity.

    Reply
  39. cher deegan
    cher deegan says:

    my sister nessa was in the hunt museum today and spotted our grandfather John Finucane from cappamore in pic 39 dont know who the other two men are but my dad might, grandad sold eggs for years thanks for the pic

    Reply
  40. Robert McLoughlin
    Robert McLoughlin says:

    Hannie McLoughlin was my father’s aunt. I used to visit her on the way home from CBS Sexton street in the late Sixties. Though poor she was a proud woman. My first cousin recently told me the story about Auntie Hannie as my dad and I called her. I wish I could remember the stories she told me as a boy!

    Reply
  41. Eileen McElligott
    Eileen McElligott says:

    Hi Gerry,
    I am sitting here looking through your book “Shaped by History”
    and thoroughly enjoying it.
    As a proud Limerick lady, I just love it.
    Many thanks for a job well done.

    Reply
  42. John O' Grady
    John O' Grady says:

    Hi Gerry, beautiful pictures, wonderful memories. Living on Robert Street, “The Seven Stars” Bar, We played football, hurling, cowboys and Indians on the cobblestones in the old milk market. Christmas and the turkey plucking was always special.

    Reply
  43. Josephine Lee
    Josephine Lee says:

    Hi Gerry, Lovely to see a photo of my grandfather Patrick Dunne now my own kids have a photo of him from the book also. The book is brilliant. Thank you

    Reply
  44. tony meaney
    tony meaney says:

    Hi Gerry, The Garda with the raindrops dripping from his nose is John Ryle. He is alive and well and still living here in Limerick. Great photo.

    Reply
  45. PATRICK AMBROSE
    PATRICK AMBROSE says:

    The 2 ladies taking down the window shutter from their meat shop are the Howard sisters of Mungret street.
    Your book is beyond words Gerry, the pic of the boy in the doorway with dogs looks like a work of art, with heavy brush strokes, brilliant.

    Reply
  46. Michael Clancy
    Michael Clancy says:

    Hi Gerry,just listened to you with Sean Rocks and it transformed me into the days my dad Sean would meet you.I remember your interest in photography was encouraged and your Market was your home from home shooting constantly there.Well done on exhibition and best of luck with your health.I took up photography and was a cameraman for RTE unill recently.Best of luck with your project.
    Michael Clancy

    Reply
  47. George L Smyth
    George L Smyth says:

    In 2003 I planned to visit two photographic shows while in Madrid. Both were embarrassingly bad. I didn’t bother checking for my trip to Dublin and happened upon Gerry Andrews’ show. I admit that I was floored to see the imagery and text that accompanied some of the images. I immediately sent a link to this page to a number of my friends in the States. This is the type of work we, as photographers, should all be looking at and I truly hope that the book again becomes available so that I can show this work to more people. Gerry, thanks so much for making this available.

    Reply

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  1. […] way into the city to the Hunt Museum. They had a photographic exhibition by Gerry Andrews called Shaped by History downstairs. It featured locals in poverty during the 1970’s. There were moving quotes beneath […]

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