Since its first days Oliver Plunkett Street was a centre of shopping and services. Indeed it was the retailers of the street who grouped together in the early 1920s and gave Oliver Plunkett Street its name. Previously known as George’s Street after King George I of England, these business people decided to rename the street in honour of the martyred Archbishop of Armagh, St Oliver Plunkett (Evening Echo, 6 December 1962, p. 7).
As Cork’s economy prospered during the 1700s George’s Street and its vicinity attracted the professional classes and the upper echelons of Cork society. Richard Lucas’s Cork Directory for 1787 reflects this increased prosperity with the presence of silk dyers, perfumers, attorneys and a number of merchants on the street. However George’s Street also hosted practical traders such as coopers, haberdashers, and grocers.
That early Cork business directory recorded the varied nature of the business component of George’s Street, a feature of the street which survives to this day. The following sections look at a selection of businesses on Oliver Plunkett Street, and on some advertisements for businesses on Oliver Plunkett Street or George’s Street, from Cork business directories dating from the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
Old businesses on Oliver Plunkett Street
Laing’s Mercantile Directory for 1863, shows the presence of a variety of businesses on the street including the Cork Printing Hall, a vet, a tobacconist and a man who offered an umbrella repair service:
In the early twentieth century there were many public houses on the street, Conway’s Yard provided a stables for those travelling to the city by horse, and the GPO made Oliver Plunkett Street the communication centre for Cork city and county.
Over the last century the types of businesses operating in the city centre also changed. Oliver Plunkett Street was home to among other businesses cabinet makers, motor showrooms and engineers. Nowadays such business no longer reside in the city centre. One such business was Pulvertaft & Sons which had a presence on the street from the nineteenth century and well into the 1960s. This business offered a variety of services including plumbing, gas fitting, water supply works, engineering work, and a motor garage. This business occupied numbers 119 to 121 on Oliver Plunkett Street. The ‘Brass Foundry’ and ‘Copper Works’ relief lettering on the upper part of the façade of 120 is a visible reminder the building's past. Today this building is occupied by Maher's Sports while Household Linens occupy number 119.
Modern-day retailing on Oliver Plunkett Street
Oliver Plunkett Street's intimate surrounds and long, straight thoroughfare make it an ideal street for shoppers. But it is not only the physical surrounds that set Oliver Plunkett Street apart. This street is not dominated by the high-street retail names which are present in other cities in Ireland or Britain. It is the local and family-run businesses that form the core of Oliver Plunkett Street’s retail community. These businesses are native to Cork and retain a personal touch, which is often absent in many of today’s larger outlets. This attention to customer service was commented on as far back as 1962 in an Evening Echo Christmas shopping article on Oliver Plunkett Street:
There is not always such time for personal attention, such infinite patience, such friendly dealings in the big emporiums, but you will always get it in Oliver Plunkett St. This friendly, comfortable feeling of security and reliability ... induces the customer to come back again and again. This is the secret in the retail business, a secret that is well-known to the shop-keepers of Oliver Plunkett Street (Evening Echo, 6 December 1962, p. 9).
These words were written over fifty years ago and they have as much relevance today as they did in 1962. This Web section will focus on some of the longest established retailers on Oliver Plunkett Street. Some of the businesses present today have been a feature of Oliver Plunkett Street for well over fifty years. Many of the shop names are familiar to generations of Cork shoppers and they are at the core of what makes Oliver Plunkett Street so special.
Select retailers from the menu on the left or photo gallery beow for further information.