Liam Ruiséal Bookshop

Liam Ruiséal 1974
               Liam Ruiséal serving a customer in his shop in January 1974 (Picture courtesy Irish Examiner)

At 49-50 Oliver Plunkett Street is the oldest bookshop in Cork, Liam Ruiséal. This well known business started at 68-69 Grand Parade in 1916 and was initially called The Fountain Bookshop. The founder Liam Ruiséal was a life-long Irish republican and Irish language enthusiast.

In 1907 Liam Ruiséal started an apprenticeship with Cornelius O'Keefe in his city-centre bookshop. At this time 'he also joined the South branch of the Gaelic League, where he immersed himself in Irish drama and literature. He was one of the founding members of the Irish Volunteers in Cork and, writing in the Evening Echo in 1965, he recalled memories of his activities with the new organisation in 1915. In that article he recalls escorting Pádraic Pearse from an Irish Volunteer rally in Millstreet to Cork city, public speeches by fellow officers Daithí de Barra and Con Collins to Mass goers in Minane Bridge and Nohoval, and smuggling guns from Dublin to Cork with fellow Volunteers following the 1915 All-Ireland hurling final between Cork and Laois (Evening Echo, 5 February 1965, p. 9).

In 1916 Liam Ruiséal opened the The Fountain Bookshop, a business frequently raided by the RIC during the turbulent years of the independence struggle. Later in 1929 he moved his business to its current premises at 49-50 Oliver Plunkett Street.

The Liam Ruiseál shop has a distinctly Cork — and Irish — flavour, and current manager Bríd Hughes says throughout the years Liam Ruiseál has tried to distinguish itself from the high ‌Liam Ruiséal Bookshop‌street and transnational names: "We are different to the bigger shops, we have remained independent and also try to differentiate ourselves with our stock as well. We specialise in Irish history books, books on local history, Irish language publications and school books." This focus on Irish language material gives a link to a passion of the shop's founder.

Bríd Hughes is also complimentary of the retail environment in Oliver Plunkett Street: "There is a great sense of community among all the retailers on the street. We all try to look out for one another in times of flooding and, if a customer enquires about a product or service, we always recommend someone on Oliver Plunkett Street.

There have been major changes in the book trade since the shop opened in 1916. Liam Ruiséal died on 26 October 1978, but, through the Liam Ruiséal bookshop, his name continues to be one of the best known in Cork retail circles. 

 

Postscript

Lord Mayor Mary Shields launching Oliver Plunkett Street section of Cork Past anOn 30 October 2014, in the Liam Ruiséal bookshop and among traders invited from the Oliver Plunkett Street area, Lord Mayor Councillor Mary Shields formally launched the section of the CorkPastAndPresent.ie website dealing with Oliver Plunkett Street. She thanked Cork City Libraries for raising the profile of this historic street, and acknowledged JobBridge intern James Reynolds for his research and drafting of these new webpages.
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