ON Saturday morning, Jimmy Guinnane will leave his home at Toonagh around 5.30am and travel to Annacotty to pick up hundreds of loaves of Brennan’s bread, before spending the next 13 hours or so distributing them around Ennis and West Clare.
He has spent thousands of days doing the same routine but Saturday will be the last time, as he finishes a job he has really enjoyed since beginning it 32 years ago. “I was working for Michael O’Sullivan before that in Corofin. I used to do a run up in North Clare and I did a run in Galway for him for six months with Kiely’s Bread. Then I started in West Clare in 1987 with Brennan’s bread.”
He says he is very grateful to all the customers and the friends he has made on the route over the years. “I love meeting the people, meeting so many people every day. You’d have the craic with everybody. When I started first, you’d love the driving but I do about 330km a day, doing that six days-a-week is a lot of road over the years.”
Each day he sees a lot of County Clare. “I go into Annacotty every morning to collect the bread. Then I come to Ennis, I start off at Tom Liddy’s in Roslevan, that’s my first call. Then I go to the Mill Road, out to Coote’s on the Kilrush Road and I hit out for Sheedy’s in Darragh, Talty’s, back into Kilrush. Then I do Knockerra, onto Kilmihil, I go back then down to Ballynacally. I hit from Ballynacally to Kildysart and on to Labasheeda.”“I used to do Murphy’s by the Hilltop there but that shop is closed for 10 years. I go to Kilmurry McMahon, I go up to Kilkee, back to Pat Foley’s in Cross. I hit from there to Doonbeg, onto Cree, onto Quilty and into Miltown Malbay, which is the last call.”
Back in 1987, there was no Aldi or Lidl in the country and even Dunnes Stores hadn’t yet come to Clare.
Patterns of spending have changed since then and he has seen rural shopping decline, as small villages have continued to lose their services.
“A lot of shops have come and gone over the last 32 years. Out the countryside, a lot of small shops have gone, the big ones have ploughed into their business. Its a pity, the shops, the post offices, the banks that were in villages are gone. I think it’s an awful shame, the small village is being hit the whole time.”
The smaller shops are a huge loss to their communities, he believes. “The country shops were so good to people, they had their own customers, they helped out people over the years”.
“There have been big changes and probably more to come in time. It’s a pity, in the country, a person will stand up and talk to you. Go into town and it’s a different story, everyone is running inside in town, the country people would have time for everyone,”Jimmy continued.
He worked five and a half days every week, while he also farms part-time, meaning that usually he began his working day at 5.30am and finished around 8.30pm.
Only 54-years-old now, he says he will probably take up another job after a period of time. “I’ll go back at something again. I’ll take a break for six months or a year and if something came up again, I’d do three days a week or something.”
Most weeks saw him giving 60 hours or more to the role, so it really is the beginning of a new era from this weekend. “It’ll be a big change, it’ll take a while to get used to. I have the farm to keep me going for the time being and I suppose I can do things I never did before.
“I know the first couple of weeks will be tough but once I get into my routine of doing things the way I want to do them, it’ll be grand.”
He is passing on the route to Wayne Carmody from Kilmurry McMahon, who will become a familiar face to many in the near future.