Iconic Cork music shop to cease trading after 90 years

Crowley's Music Centre which has  closed after 90 years of trading. Picture: Dan Linehan
Crowley's Music Centre which has closed after 90 years of trading. Picture: Dan Linehan

An iconic music shop where rock legend Rory Gallagher bought his first guitar has closed after almost 90 years of trading.

Online trading is believed to have helped trigger the closure of Crowley’s Music Centre in Cork.

Sheena Crowley, who has been managing the famed MacCurtain St store since her father Michael’s death in 2010, yesterday posted the news on the shop’s Facebook page.

She posted: “Thank you everybody for your kind words. It is overwhelm- ingly sad of course and it is a terrible reflection of the crisis on our island.”

Ms Crowley said she did not want to point a finger of blame at anyone.

“I want to say that, for me, it’s not about blame, if the culture is changing then it’s changing. I did my best...”

Crowley’s, she said yesterday, had always been passionate about encouraging musicians to play — regardless of their circumstances.

“Be it loaning gear to bands who were unable to afford it or offering them a space to perform.”

Ms Crowley said she tried to carry on her father’s way of incentivising music playing, striving to be “a musician’s club”.

“We have so much talent in this country and Cork is a beautiful centre of music. I just think it’s in the bones of every one of us. I don’t know if ‘joe public’ understands how much musical talent is among them.

“Somebody who doesn’t play an instrument or go to gigs doesn’t realise the talent around them and I wanted as many people to know as possible.”

Donal Healy, chief executive of the Cork Business Association, said it was impossible to put a figure on the number of businesses which are struggling. But he said: “An awful lot are.”

He said one of the factors was the lack of consumer spending in the current economic climate: “That’s the big difficulty really, as we see it. It’s very hard to put numbers on anything like that at the moment but the reality is that we’re losing iconic, family-run businesses and that’s very sad.”

Founded in 1926 by piper and pipe maker Tadhg Ó Crualaoí and his brother Denis, the business moved from their Blackpool home to No 10 Merchant’s Quay in 1933. After his father’s death in 1955, a young Michael Crowley began working in the shop, taking over the business at the tender age of 14.

The shop moved to the McCurtain St premises in 1974 and it was from here that it was to become a cultural hub, inspiring local and national artists, most notably Rory Gallagher who had bought his famous Fender Stratocaster from Michael in 1963.

Speaking yesterday, Cork-based singer- songwriter John Spillane said: “I’m very sorry to see Crowley’s closing. It’s been a big part of the musical life of Cork for many, many years. I’ve been hanging around there since I was at school. We were always allowed to jam on the guitars there. I bought my Fender Precision bass there in 1980, and a Marshall Stack. My band Bootlace bought our PA system there on hire purchase. It’s sad to see it go.”

Ms Crowley said the increase in online traders is pushing local music shops out and she feels people need to band together to protect smaller enterprises: “I understand completely why someone looks for the cheapest buy but I think it’s so important to support your own. Everything begins at your back door. You need to look after your own community.

“You’ll never recapture Crowley’s — we were unique, it was special, we had enthusiasm coming out of our ears and so much love of the music and musicians.”




FACEBOOK REACTIONS:

Áine Whelan: Sheena, I bought my first Yamaha acoustic from your dad with my confirmation money! We are very sorry to hear you are closing, but Crowley’s will always be lovingly remembered and spoken about for years to come, every good wish to you for the future. Áine&Johnny

Clár Ní Cheocháin: I am so sad to hear this Cork tradition is no more. I bought my first violin from you many years ago and have stuck with you since. Have always recommended Crowley’s to my students. I am so sorry to see you go. There is nowhere now with that lovely personal touch — from repairs, purchases, or just to hang out! I am so sad to hear the recession has taken you down. !!

Billy Bennis: First, Sam Benson . . . and now the daddy of all instrument shops outside of Dublin! I used to get the train and bus up to Cork from Limerick in my band days because Crowley’s had it all . . . And treated you so well, even when you were a silly young one . . . The best of luck to you all . . .

Andrias Ó Ceallaigh: Sad news. Thanks very much for the memories..used 2 go up there after school on wednesday (half days) to look at the guitars for a couple of years..bought a lovely Tanglewood from ye for my 18th a few years ago.Will cherish it. End of an era! !

Darren Johnston: You all made me into the music mad person I am today. If Noel hadn’t belted out his best blues licks on a Fender strat in the shop when I was 11, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the guitar. Ye rescued us all at one point from many a sticky situation when we were stuck for equipment. I’m gonna miss all you guys.

Colm O’Sullivan: Sheena, I am genuinely heartbroken to hear the news, and I can only sincerely thank you and your staff for all your kindness and professionalism whenever we came into Crowley’s. God Bless and take care of yourself.

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