Ireland’s oldest tobacco shop to stub out cigarettes

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Eleanor Purcell, who runs Cahills in Wickham Street, pictured a number of years ago in the shop, the oldest tobacconist in Ireland
IRELAND’s oldest dedicated tobacco shop is to stop selling cigarettes from Monday, with its proprietor saying the move is necessary to remain in business.

IRELAND’s oldest dedicated tobacco shop is to stop selling cigarettes from Monday, with its proprietor saying the move is necessary to remain in business.

Eleanor Purcell, who runs Cahill’s on Wickham Street in Limerick city centre, says that with an upsurge in smuggled cigarettes, it no longer makes financial sense to keep them on.

Opened in 1870, Cahill’s sells more than 50 varieties of tobacco, snuff and cigarettes.

Since 1891 when Cahill’s starting selling cigarettes, Eleanor believes some 754m cigarettes have been traded.

When legislation came in outlawing the display of tobacco products, Cahill’s was one of only four shops in Ireland which secured a derogation to allow the display.

But in return, it meant Eleanor was unable to sell anything else apart from these.

However, she is now stubbing out cigarettes so she can return to selling “gentleman’s gifts” including Swiss army knives and hipflasks.

On top of this, coffee, tea and shaving equipment will be sold.

Tobacco and snuff will remain available to buy in store, as the derogation covers only the sale and display of cigarettes.

When the law first came in, Eleanor said she could not afford not to sell cigarettes. But this has changed.

“I have to do this to survive. In the six years which have passed since the change in the law, my cigarette sales have fallen through the floor. I attribute that to the fact that a very high proportion of cigarettes used in Limerick are smuggled. I have to say in defence of my customers, it is very hard to expect people to come in here and give me €10 for something they can buy at some locations for €4,” she said.

Eleanor said Monday will be a “very sad day”, and that she will really miss her cigarette customers.

“I had one man come into my last Saturday who had been coming to buy his cigarettes here for 70 years. It was sad to say goodbye to him,” she said.

Despite this, Eleanor is confident the business - which has passed through the generations - will survive.

“We are here for 145 years. We have survived a lot. We survived the First World War when our messenger boy went away and never came back. We survived in 1921 when the barricades came up and the bullets were flying. We have survived all manner and make, and I do hope we will survive this with the help of our loyal customers,” she said.

Eleanor also took the opportunity to thank the generations of Limerick people who visited Wickham Street to buy their packets of cigarettes through the years.